Just behind Jakarta’s Sudirman Central Business District, it seems like there’s always a new hot spot opening up along the leafy streets of the Senopati area. Here’s the cream of the latest crop.
Pao Pao Liquor Bar & Dim Sum
An instant hit when it opened late last year, Pao Pao is unlike any other restaurant in the city in terms of style (1950s Hong Kong) or fare (a coupling of fine drinks and traditional dim sum). Old Chinese paintings hang on the walls, waiters in pressed white shirts and clipped ties strut past low tables balancing high stacks of bamboo steamers, and there’s live jazz on Wednesdays. Behind the bar, red fluorescent lights in the shape of four Chinese characters advise patrons to “Drink to end your sorrow,” and the libations here are just the ticket for that. Cocktails—like the Hong Kong Sidecar of brandy, curaçao, peach, and lemon—change often to incorporate seasonal fruits, and in addition to the eight pages of bottles on the regular menu, there’s a separate list of vintage and rare spirits imported from around the world (Jl. Senopati No. 16; 62-21/2751-0698; no website).
One year ago, it was comical to imagine that the old metal-roofed Pasar Santa market would become one of the hippest places in Jakarta. The building had long sat mostly vacant aside from some vendors of bulk rice and faux leather goods, but when word of its cheap rents spread among young entrepreneurs, they snatched up spaces and turned them into the dream storefronts—vintage kiosks, barbershops, jamu stalls, comic book galleries—they never thought they’d be able to afford. There’s a coffee school called ABCD whose baristas-in-training serve their practice drinks at whatever price you care to pay; Post, with independently published books and a series of regular readings; Papricano Mexican Cantina with a getup like a beachside taco shack doling out cheesy quesadillas and glasses of horchata; and Laidback Blues Record Store, where owner and vinylphile Samson Pho spins rock-steady and disco tunes late into the evenings (Jl. Cisanggiri II; no telephone; no website).
A narrow residential road in South Jakarta may seem an odd place for a low-key Madrid tapas joint to open its second location, but Gastromaquia’s bright Senopati outpost feels perfectly at home. Upon leaving his banking career to pursue his long-time passion for food, owner and Jakarta native Allan Danuwidjaja decided that he wanted to replicate Gastromaquia, whose flavors and hospitable service had given him some of his most memorable meals during multiple trips to Madrid. He spent three weeks in the original’s kitchen learning the recipes from its founding chefs Hugo Ecolios Roldan and Ramon Figuls Palos, and most of the dishes on the menu here are deftly duplicated: Galician octopus, porcini croquettes, and seared pork shank with Spanish cheese, not to mention three types of sangria. The two-floor restaurant is sweetly colored in teal, browns, and white with light fixtures cheekily fashioned from cheese graters and bouquets of spoons, but the best place to dine is out on the second-floor terrace, shaded by the surrounding trees (Gastromaquia; Jl. Ciniru I No. 1; 62-021/2930-5091).
Amber Sky Lounge
Just in time for its 10th anniversary this year, Jakarta’s Mount Scopus group—whose enterprises include The Harvest bakery chain—unveiled its most conceptual venture yet, Amber. Each of its three floors is entirely different: the French-style Pastries Boutique as decadent as a scene from Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette on the first; shelves of art books filling comfort-fare restaurant Library on the second; and finally Amber Sky Lounge, a glass-encased rooftop bar with the city’s best view of the SCBD skyline. On weeknights, an after-work crowd comes to sip delicious chocolate martinis and stare out at the glistening skyscrapers, while on weekends, international DJs such as Ben La Desh and Tessela come to spin by the glowing marble bar (Amber Sky Lounge; Jl. Senopati No. 61; 62-21/2904-4412).
This article originally appeared in the August/September print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“Senopati, Spot-On”)