Le Quartier (French Restaurant)

 






Le Quartier ("The Neighbourhood" in French, pronounced like the jewelry brand "Cartier") is a new French Restaurant, opened in 2013 in Kebayoran Baru, near Senopati. I liked the building facade of the Restaurant as we feel like being in Europe. The inside decoration is also well done with chandeliers on the ceiling. It gives an impression of luxury and elegance.

The food was good also, with a fair choice of French meals and good bread. I liked the Steak Tartare, tasty and juicy. I had some good wine also, which is quite important for a French Restaurant. The desserts were OK and the service was friendly.

Overall: Since the decoration and the atmosphere is very nice and it feels romantic. I advise you to bring a date here, it will be a successful dinner.

For our selection on the Best French Restaurants in Jakarta, you can read this article: My Favourite French Restaurants.
 
Le Quartier
Jalan Gunawarman #34
Kebayoran Baru
South Jakarta

Phone: +62-21 7278 8001+62-21 7278 8001
Mail: Contact@lequartier.co.id

Opening Hours: Open From 07:00 - Onwards

Facebook: Le Quartier
Twitter: Le Quartier
Read more >>

Why Are Ojeks More Expensive Than Taxis?

 
I had an argument this morning with the ojek driver (moto taxis in Jakarta) who works outside of my residence.

I was planning to go to Pacific Place Mall, just one kilometer away. This normally takes about 5 minutes and with a taxi it costs less than 10,000rp.

The ojek's starting price was 30,000rp, which is crazy, and after much talking he gave me a last price of 20,000rp. I tried to bargain harder but I felt I didn't have the upper hand. I gave up and I took a taxi (for which I paid a sweet 8,000rp).

This experience made me wonder: How can a taxi be cheaper than an ojek? This is not the first time it happens. On average, I would say it is more expensive to go around with ojek or bajaj than by taxi in Jakarta.
At first glance, it seems that taxis should be more expensive: Their job requires more skills, they provide more comfort and safety to their customers and above all, they have more costs to bear.

A taxi driver usually gives back to his company more than half of his daily revenue. A Blue Bird driver told me that they must make a minimum of 500,000rp per day before they can start making money. Once they reach that target, they get 50% from any ride (another driver told me his minimum was 450,000rp and he received only a 30% cut). They must also deduct up to a third of their revenue to pay for gasoline.

In the end, a taxi driver may get a monthly salary of approximately 1,5M rp to 3M rp. That's only a small percentage of all the money he received from clients.
On the contrary, ojek drivers keep most of the money they make to themselves. Often, they are the owners of their motorbike (or they will be if they took a credit). They pay their gasoline too but it is much cheaper. To make 3M rp per month, an ojek driver only needs to do a few rides per day.

So why are ojeks more expensive?

The reason is that the bargaining power of ojek drivers is stronger.

Ojek driver can make their prices fluctuate according to the time of the day. During peak time, they can be strong with the pricing because they know they will get another customer soon. Taxi drivers cannot do that; they just take whoever stops them (except the taxis that don't put their meters on). This logic tends to make them wait for a big fish instead of taking small jobs.

The price given by an ojek driver can also change according to who is requesting a ride. They will not give the same price to an expatriate, to a maid, or to an executive working on Sudirman. Since I am a bule, I am not surprised I got a high price.

People who need ojeks are usually in a rush: They must go somewhere fast and they need to beat the traffic. They don't have much time to negotiate or to find cheaper alternative. They will tend to agree on any price, even if it is unreasonable.

Ojek drivers are also located in strategic areas: They do not compete directly with taxis but complement them. You will find them waiting for you where there are no taxis available. They have to wait longer for a client, but to compensate they charge him more.

At last, you would think that it is very easy for an ojek to go wherever he wants and to wait for a client. This is rarely true: A newcomer will probably be rejected as he is bringing more competition. This self-regulation of the ojek's industry certainly limits the options for the client, and therefore the price war.
Ojek drivers get more money than taxi drivers, and they work less. I guess the new question that would need to be answer is why taxi drivers don't change job and become ojek?

I asked this to a few of them, and their answer was that their status as a taxi driver was more prestigious. They are clean, they wear a uniform, they can stay inside their car and they belong to a corporation. All of this makes it worth having a lighter paycheck at the end of the month.
Read more >>

Eric Kayser Jakarta (Plaza Senayan)







Eric Kayser Indonesia is now opened in Plaza Senayan. Just like Paul Bakery and Patisserie, it is an international French Bakery chain, very famous in France and in some big international cities (New York City, Tokyo, Singapore). Now that Eric Kayser is in Jakarta, I can compare those 2, in order to know which one is the Best Bakery in Jakarta (and where to find the best baguette!).

Eric Kayser is upmarket: The decoration of the Plaza Senayan outlet is very unique and luxurious. For instance, they used marble to display the bread and pastries. Even if it's not the same decoration, it reminded me TWG Tea Boutique, because of the pastry display in the middle of the restaurant. 

Even though a lot of care has been put into the design of Eric Kayser, I'm not really thrilled with its overall aspect. I found it quite bland and cold.

I like their bread much more: Baguette, Healthy Breads, etc...The Bread corner is very well arranged, and you can help yourself with any kind of French Croissants, Raisins Rolls, or Chocolate Croissants. I tried the Croissant and the Chocolate Croissants and it was delicious. I was also pretty happy with the waiters and the service offered in Eric Kayser restaurant, as everybody seemed to know what they were doing.

Paul Bakery/Eric Kayser: What is the Best Bakery in Jakarta ?

The long awaited game between those two upscale bakeries can finally begin. Now we can compare, in order to make the best choice for our mouth...

First, regarding the location, there is no doubt about it, Paul Bakery has a better location, on the terrace of Pacific Place Mall. The kiosk style of the Bakery and the possibility to dine outside makes you feel a bit more like you are in Paris, and is much more pleasant. Eric Kayser Bakery has just a regular location in a fancy mall, and the place is much smaller than its competitor in Pacific Place.

Tastewise, I have to admit the pastries are more delicate and nice looking at Eric Kayser Bakery. I can't help but think that this Pistachio Eclair from Eric Kayser might be the best I ever had. It is a very sweet piece of Pastry. I also prefer the "Help Yourself" Bakery corner of Eric Kayser, which is definitely a trend in Indonesian-style bakeries.

Overall, service and atmosphere, I would rather choose Paul Bakery. Living in Jakarta makes you spend a lot of time in the malls. When you are going to a French Bakery, you want feel like you are in Paris, with a nice decoration, traditional outfits and maybe some French words written everywhere...

Winner of the Game: Paul Bakery
Eric Kayser Indonesia
Plaza Senayan, Fourth Floor
Jl. Asia Afrika, Senayan,
South Jakarta
Phone: +62-21 53660821
Email: comment@erickayser.co.id
Read more >>

Jakarta Nightlife 2014

 

Jakarta nightlife has changed quite a bit since my previous guides: "Jakarta Nightlife 2011", "Jakarta Nightlife 2012" and "Jakarta Nightlife Tips". Before you head out tonite, these are the latest trends in the Jakarta's partying scene:

The new center of Jakarta nightlife in 2014 is in SCBD (Sudirman Central Business District), in the ex-Bengkel area. In 2 years, many bars and clubs have opened there and they attract the wealthy, trendy youth of Jakarta:
To have a drink, try Lucy in the Sky, Potato Head Garage, Beer Garden, Canos in Foundry 8
For clubbing: Fable (Young crowd, Jakarta International School) or Empirica (Upper Class Indo Chinese). 
These places do not have too many tourists or expatriates yet.
Apart from that area, two new clubs worth trying have opened in 2013: Alibi on Rasuna Said (replacing JackRabbit) and the popular Exodus from the Stadium group.

Immigrant was still on top of the game when it closed down for renovation a few months ago. We can expect it will still be popular with a more mature crowd (25-45 years old) when it reopens.

Dragonfly, Red Square and X2 now attract mostly foreigners and girls looking for foreigners, with a varying proportion of working girls in each (high in Red Square, lower in X2 and Dragonfly). Equinox in X2 is always full on weekends but the crowd is not as upper class as it used to be.

The following bars/lounge/restaurants are usually always busy with expats on weekend nights: Loewy, Bluegrass, Aphrodite, Liquid Exchange, Social House, Cork & Screw, Union, Potato Head, Eastern Promise, De Hooi, Fez, Face Bar, Awan Lounge, Molly Malone's, Murphy's, Black Cat, Melly's, Vin +. Level 5 of Grand Indonesia is nice too with many new cafés like Warung Kopi Tinggi, H5, Ismaya Catering Co.

There are 3 popular rooftop bars in Jakarta: SKYE is the best one with regular events. It is a good place to start a party night and it is busy every day. Cloud is very similar. You also have Awan Lounge in Kosenda hotel but for a younger, cheaper crowd

Hard Rock Cafe has moved for a third time in 10 years. It is now in Pacific Place but it isn't really happening.

Blowfish has been renovated. It is smaller and has become more quiet. Domain as well has some good nights but it is mostly quiet.

Prices have increased. It is not uncommon to pay a 200,000rp entrance fee in the most popular clubs.

Jackrabbit, Luv's Bar and Tribeca have closed. Jaya Pub hasn't and it is still the oldest bar in Jakarta nightlife.

BATS, CJs, Blok M are pretty much the same as before: They have live music, expats and businessmen, and lots of working girls. You can go there pretty much any day of the week and it should be busy. Some other hotel bars are not really happening but they are ok for a drink: Burgundy (Hyatt), MO (Mandarin Oriental).
Tiga Puluh (Le Meridien) and Tempus (Ritz Carlton Mega Kuningan) have live music has well but aren't too crowded.

Bars in Jalan Jaksa change name regularly, but the atmosphere hasn't changed. It is a mix of young indonesians, working girls, professional girlfriends, backpackers, budget expatriates, gays and random people.

7/11 stores are becoming the new cheap bars in Jakarta. On Weekends, they will be full everywhere.

Off the beaten track but very popular too, De Leila is where Saudis go to party in Jakarta.

In Kemang, it is hard to keep track but Nu China, 365 and Triple Nine are still there and crowded. There is a new strip of bars on Jalan Taman Kemang with many recent openings: Umbra, Beer Brother, Parc 19, Liberica, Cowboys Saloon. Hipsters may want to check Treehouse or Cafe Mondo.

In North Jakarta, the music is changing: Techno Kota/ Techno Dangdut/ Funky House is slowly becoming a thing of the past. They don't have it anymore in Mille's and Millenium (but still in Crown, Exotis, Puja Sera). The popular places are still the same: Stadium and Crown are the busiest ones even during the week. Still packed as well are Club 36, Malio Club, Alexis, Mille's and Millenium. Sexy dancers and striptease (full naked or boobs only) is the norm in many places: Classic, Malioboro, Crown, Club 36, V2, Emporium, Sumo, etc etc... Even in Stadium during the week...

Prostitution and massage parlours are still operating freely in the capital of the largest Muslim country in the world (Travel Hotel, Classic, Fortune, Malioboro, Alexis, Emporium, Orchardz, etc... basically all the clubs outside of the city center). Drug use is also massive in North Jakarta even though the prices have tripled in a few years.

The only major new nightlife venue in North Jakarta, 1001 (Colosseum) is a surprising success. I consider it to be one of the most impressive nightclubs in the city. Great lighting, great music and good crowd. On the other hand, Illigals, even though it has some interesting events is still rather quiet.

There is also some nightlife that has emerged outside of Jakarta's city center: In particular, in Central Park Mall near Taman Anggrek and in Pantai Indah Kapuk, near Pluit. Those are Cafés/lounges, no real nightlclubs to my knowledge.

Closing hours for the night clubs is very unpredictable. Officially, it is 3am but it seems to change every week. Normally, clubs in the South close at 5am maximum, and clubs in Kota around 7am-9am. Clubs that can be used for afters are Mille's and Exotis. It is very common to rent a karaoke room to keep the party going in some clubs like Stadium, Millenium, Crown.

Since I cannot be everywhere all the time, please drop a comment if I missed something! Thanks a lot!

More pictures of Jakarta Nightlife's new venues (Empirica and Exodus):




Read more >>

The Top 10 Best Clubs, Bars and Restaurants in Jakarta 2014

These rankings of Jakarta's best bars, restaurants, lounges and clubs should be read with my article "Jakarta nightlife 2014" for more information.  I visited all the places listed below (and more), and I ranked them in the order by which I would recommend them to a friend.

I may have missed some great venues. Don't blame me, just add a comment and I'll revise if necessary:

Top 10 of the Best Nightclubs in Jakarta in 2014:

1) Empirica: From what I've seen, it is the most happening club in Jakarta at the moment. It is huge, attracts a beautiful/trendy crowd, and it is a really fun place to party. Easy number 1.

2) Immigrant: Still under renovation but we can expect great parties as soon as it reopens in June.

3) X2: Massive club, always packed but the music is very commercial and it is the same every week.

4) Colosseum (1001): The best lighting and nightclub design in Jakarta, but still missing the crowd.

5) Fable: Good crowd, a bit young for me though.

6) Potato Head Garage: Could be number one if they had events more often.

7) Dragonfly: Still crowded but not as happening as it used to be. Fewer special DJs.

8) Stadium: Used to be number 1. Maybe I'm getting too old for this now. The music is still great but the place could use a refurbishment as it is starting to look old.

9) Exodus: Middle size, new club. Good music and crowd but not full all the time.

10) Golden Crown: Most popular club in North Jakarta, it is not for everybody as there are many prostitutes and drugs. Full every night of the week.


Top 10 of the Best Bars, Lounges and Small Clubs in Jakarta 2014
Safehouse in Bellagio
1) Lucy in the Sky: Young and trendy crowd, good music, perfect place to chill before hitting the other clubs in SCBD.

2) SKYE: Highest bar in Jakarta, great view and crowd, happening events.

3) Awan Lounge: For hipsters, good music and unique atmosphere.

4) Safehouse: Bar with also a very good restaurant, young expat crowd, great music.

5) Cloud: Similar with Skye. Rooftop bar.

6) Cafe Mondo: Odd cafe owned by a Japanese in love with Indonesian music. Unique events and concept

7) 365: Same as Lucy and Awan Lounge but for Kemang.

8) Treehouse: Super-small bar with good music and crowd

9) Umbra: One of the newer bar/lounge/clubs in Kemang and the most active to organize events.

10) Red Square: Still super crowded, but more and more prostitutes and the music is a let down.


Top 10 of the Best Restaurants/Lounges to go to before Party in Jakarta in 2014: 
I considered mostly if the place is busy or not, and if the crowd is a partying crowd. I then considered the atmosphere (music and design). The food came in third. It is a blog about nightlife after all.

1) E&O: From the man behind Sarong and Mamasan in Bali, neat concept and design with a unique food experience.

2) Loewy: Good french food, with a busy bar area. Many Expats and girls. It is the best pre-clubbing pick-up place.

3) Luna Negra: Italian food with events organized regularly on weekends.

4) Bluegrass: They just had their renovation. Always busy and good food.

5) Cork & Screw: Wine shop with decent food. Less expatriates than the previous venues.

6) Social House: Ismaya's ever successful wine lounge in Grand Indonesia. Very popular with Indonesians. If the food was better, it could be on the top.

7) Union: Disappointing food and difficult to get a table, but it is the busiest restaurant in Senayan. Upmarket crowd.

8) Canos: Spanish Tapas restaurant closed to SCBD nightlife. Only busy on weekend nights.

9) Potato Head: It suffered from the openings of many competitors in Pacific Place so it is not as crowded as it used to be. They were the first ones to have an open-air restaurant area concept for lounges.

10) Vin+: Mostly a wine shop with tables, it is often busy on weekends but the food is only average.


Top 10 of the Best Sexy Bars and Sexy Clubs in Jakarta 2014
Inside King Cross Jakarta (thank you CZ for this picture taken at your life's risk)
1) King Cross: Wherever you live in Jakarta, if you are a guy, it is worth the ride up to Kelapa Gading... Sexy dancers on 2 floors and live music..

2) Malioboro: It has 2 areas, Malio Club and Malioboro Spa Lounge. Both worth having a look but very expensive. Only sexy dancers.

3) Club 36: The only (?) coyote bar in Jakarta. Still super popular. Sexy/Sensual dancers from Thailand and Indonesia.

4) Golden Crown Lounge: They have live music and sexy dancers every night. Always crowded.

5) Emporium: Upper class joint similar with Malioboro. Sexy dancers.

6) Illigals: One of the most luxurious spas in Jakarta but not happening. It has sexy dancers but not on a daily basis.

7) Classic Club: It has 2 areas: Classic Club (Sexy Dancers and Live Music, more expensive and fewer girls) and Terminal Classic (Sexy Dancers and Live Music, less expensive, more girls).

8) Alexis: The most expensive and probably overrated venue in Jakarta. But it's always impressive especially for new people in the city. No sexy dancers but the 7th floor is famous for featuring high class prostitutes from at least 7 countries.

9) Sumo Lounge. They have Sexy Dancers.

10) V2: Live Music and Sexy Dancers.

Note: In Jakarta dialect, Sexy Dancer means the dancers will get at least topless if not fully nude. If they do not get nude, they will be advertised as sensual dancers or fashion show.

Top 10 of the Best Expat and Traveller Bars in Jakarta 2014
Canadian band in BATS
1) Eastern Promise: Busy on week ends, good live music and food. Mixed crowd of younger and older expatriates, male and women, and always groups of Indonesian girls.

2) Molly Mallone's: Newest Irish Bar in Senayan Arcadia, close to Red Square and X2.

3) De Hooi: Busiest expat bar in Pondok Indah area.

4) Murphy's: First Irish bar in Jakarta, younger Expat crowd.

5) BATS: Mostly businessmen. Live music from foreign band and many prostitutes.

6) MO Bar: Not happening too much but nice design and music. Perfect for a quiet drink.

7) CJs: Similar with BATS but more expensive and even more prostitutes.

8) Tempus: Good live music and salsa events twice weekly.

9) Burgundy: Super quiet, but classy and with a nice view of Bunderan HI.

10) Jaya Pub: Oldest bar in Jakarta,  very friendly with regular live band

These rankings are completely independant and based on my own personal preferences. I did not accept any money nor invitations from  any of the bars, clubs or restaurants listed above. I am a male expat in my early 30s, so I imagine this  article will be particularly correct if you are also a male between 20 and 40. If you are a woman in your 40s, you will probably have to find another Jakarta nightlife blog.
Read more >>

Air Asia: Why it is the Worst Low-Cost Airline?


I am surprised that Air Asia can still get the title of "World's Best Low Cost Airlines" in 2013 considering it is by far the worst company and the one company I always try to avoid when flying in Asia.

It seems like AirAsia is so good with its marketing and advertising that people are brainwashed into thinking that they are receiving a 5-star service when flying with them. I hear people excited about taking AirAsia, when the truth is that they will pay more for sitting in a super tiny seat without any food or service and probably departing late.

AirAsia is more expensive than any other low cost airlines in Asia while it does not give back any thing to its customers. Obviously, they do cut on their services and operating costs but the money saved with this rationalizing is not used to decrease flight ticket prices, it is just more profit for the company. I applaud with both hands at how smart it is.

I would accept the level zero of service provided by AirAsia if they were more cheap than anybody else. This would be my reward for accepting such a shame service. But it is the contrary that happens.

My problems start with their website. It is the trickiest and most dishonest booking website that I have ever come across with.

If you use flight comparators such as skyscanner, you may have had this problem of clicking on an AirAsia flight because it seemed to be the cheaper options, and in the end realizing that when you add the taxes, the fuel surcharge, the luggages, the seats, the meal, the check in fee,  the payment fee, the priority seats, and the priority boarding, it ends up being more expensive than Singapore Airlines.

Avoiding to pay additional charges will require your full attention: For instance, if you don't want to have AirAsia Insurance, you have to refuse once, and then cancel your refusal. Tricky? Canceling your seats is so complicated as well that I booked them inadvertently at least 3 times... Same with the priority boarding that I forgot to un-tick...

Charging for additional fees is the specialty of AirAsia and its most lucrative business. They will find any possible way to make you pay additional fees. You want to add additional luggage weight to your booking at check in time? This will be charged beyond reasonable. You want a bottle of water on the plane? Take out your wallet. All other companies will give you something free even though they are cheaper: Lion Air for instance do not charge if you request a special seat and they allow 15 kilos of luggage for free. Sriwijaya will give you a free snack (very limited but still), Citilink lets you choose your seat for free, etc...  Within the price range of AirAsia, you can actually often fly with regular companies where the service is beyond any comparisons.

With AirAsia, no only do you get nothing free, you also get less for what you pay for (unless you pay more).

When you arrive at the airport, you will notice that AirAsia is the only company that forces you to check in with a machine instead of a human. If you do not check in online, you will have to pay an additional fee. The company would probably reply that it helps keeping its costs low and its prices lower, but the prices aren't lower. They are higher. It is an additional constraint on passengers that is increasing AirAsia's margin while not benefiting to the customers. Maybe one day Executives at AirAsia will find a way to make passengers clean the plane by themselves...

Let's talk about space now: I am a rather tall guy so I'm sensitive to the space between seats in an airplane. All low-cost companies are usually uncomfortable, but AirAsia beats all records. If you are more than 180cm and you didn't buy priority seats with extra leg space, your flight with AirAsia is a torture. You have to fold or squeeze your leg so that you will miraculously fit in the tiny space. If you are more than 190cm, I do not believe you can fly in those seats. If you are more than 190cm and you ever managed to fit in an AirAsia seat, please give me your testimony below.

AirAsia usually flies from and to second class airports, not the main ones. This is true in Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok. Those airports are low-cost with less comfort, less shops and restaurants, and more queuing and disorganization. If you have to connect to another flight, unless it is another AirAsia flight, you will lose precious time running from one part of a city to the other.

Air Asia is very very often late and it is not just a personal impression. Just have a look at flightstats.com. You will see that some routes like Denpasar-Jakarta are on time on average 29% of the time only... Try to get any kind of compensation or excuse from a delayed flight and you will understand what is the meaning of low-cost services...

At last, the flight attendant of AirAsia are obviously recruited on their generous looks and it makes for a pleasant flight if you are a male like me. In terms of skills and attitude, they are probably on average more snobbish and arrogant than with other low cost airlines. Comparing them with flights attendants from regular companies like Singapore Airlines is a blasphemy. In terms of skills, I am not so sure but you should probably wish that nothing goes wrong during the flight...

My conclusion:

Personally I always avoid AirAsia because I consider that they are priced as regular airlines while offering the lowest standard of low cost service.

Be smart when you book a flight and check what is the real final price you pay and what kind of service are offered.

I would say book with AirAsia only if you can get a real promo and if you are flying without luggage, and without any need for extra services. You may also be sensitive to the safety issue as the record of the company doesn't show any deadly accident (but you may want to read this article though: Accident with AirAsia).
Read more >>

Jakarta Restaurants: Why Are They So Bad?

I may have tried about 400 restaurants in Jakarta, and I would say only 25% of them taste good enough. Restaurants with Asian food are usually better, especially Indonesian, Chinese and Japanese ones.

For Western food, it is very rare to find a restaurant that serves good food unless a westerner is involved at some point (as a manager, chef, owner or consultant). My most common criticisms: Low-quality ingredients, over use of industrial cheese, sauces too salty or too greasy, no real butter, too much sugar, absence of taste, over or undercooking, etc...

Only when eating in the most expensive places (usually in 5-star hotels or reputed chains), the standards are satisfactory, though fast to deteriorate. Very few venues in Jakarta, to my knowledge, offer constant good western food at reasonable prices.

For Asian food, I consider that most restaurants serve street food quality at best. If you do not mind the hygiene and hot weather, you'll eat better sitting on a bench in Mangga Besar than in most restaurants in malls.
I believe the reasons for this problem comes from the following issues:

- Difficulty to hire trained staff and to maintain this staff within a restaurant on the long term

There are some fine schools to learn cooking in Indonesia (all the STPs, Sekolah Tinggi Pariwisata), but they produce few graduates. Basically almost 100% of a class will be hired by 5-star hotels or by the biggest restaurants chains. Most of them are also still young and it will take them many years to grow into fully developed chefs. Among those who reach a certain level, very few are opening their own restaurants.

Since the good staff is on such a high demand, the turnover for each places is quite high. New restaurants open weekly in Jakarta, so there is nothing easier than getting a higher salary for anyone a little ambitious. The lack of stability of the teams plus their relative lack of experience is the number one problem for restaurants in Jakarta.
- Difficulty to get a regular supply of quality ingredients at a reasonable price

The second problem is the quality of ingredients coming from Indonesia. I don't mean to offend anybody but until now, the agro-industrial companies in Indonesia fail to manufacture or produce quality products.

Take chocolate for instance. Indonesia is one of the largest producer of cacao beans in the world. And yet, chocolate made in Indonesian is low standard and any restaurant/bakery who wants to have a decent dessert with chocolate must import.

Fruits and vegetables also are rather disappointing, especially when you know how they taste in neighboring countries. Compare a mango from Indonesia and a mango from Thailand and you'll understand what I am talking about.

The same goes with dairy and meat products (especially cheese, yoghurt, beef, lamb and of course pork).

The Indonesian government is protecting local industries by imposing high tariffs on most imported food, but unfortunately this has not led to an improvement of the quality of locally-sourced ingredients.  I think it creates just the opposite: Producers feel protected and they do not invest to improve their methods and processes.

- Few independent restaurants

Restaurants owners in Jakarta are rarely chefs themselves. Most often, restaurants are owned by business people with a training in finance, accounting, marketing, public relation. They know how to make the place busy and profitable, but the food comes last. Spending millions of rupiah for the design and marketing of a place while buying the poorest quality ingredients in the kitchen is the norm. If restaurants where opened by chefs or by people with a real interest in food, I am sure that the quality of restaurants in Jakarta would improve dramatically. Unfortunately, the access to financing or the right connection needed to open a restaurant in the city makes it very difficult for anybody who does not belong to a certain elite.


There is also a bunch of smaller issues who contribute to the problem also:

- The price of kitchen equipment is usually imported and expensive. Smaller restaurants do not have the possibilities to buy the necessary tools for cooking properly.

- The menus tend to be extensive with many favorites from different countries. Keeping the menu short to a few well-mastered items could certainly help.

- Lack of control from authorities regarding the hygiene and the standards. I imagine that you can put a sign saying your food is organic with no MSGs, and no one will really check.

If so many bad restaurants in Jakarta continue to exist, it is because people still go there. Hopefully the public will become more demanding with time and put more pressure on restaurateurs to improve their quality. Changes can only come from them.
Read more >>

Cuadrilla Restaurant (Kemang)

Cuadrilla is a small restaurant in Kemang, serving Italian, Spanish and Greek food. It has only a few tables and the prices are affordable. I tried the Greek Salad (47,000rp++) and the Pita Bread with Tzatziki (23,000rp ++).

Considering the price, it was very decent. The Paella seems to be their signature dish so I would be happy to come back to try it.

Overall: Recommended for lunch if you live in Kemang. They had fast wifi too and the waiters were very friendly. The music played was Latin mostly, including Bossa Nova, Manu Chao, and maybe Bonga (?).
Cuadrilla Restaurant Kemang
Jalan Benda No 1D (near Beer Garden Kemang)
Kemang, South Jakarta
Phone number: +62-21 782 0188

Facebook: Cuadrilla Resto Kemang
Twitter: https://twitter.com/cuadrillaresto 

Opening Hours:
Everyday from 11am to 11pm
Read more >>

E&O Jakarta (Restaurant, Bar)

E&O (Eastern and Oriental) is a trendy, upmarket restaurant, bar and lounge located in Mega Kuningan, not far from its main competitor in the area, Loewy (which has the same owner actually, also behind Union).

The kitchen is headed by Chef Will Meyrick, behind the famous restaurants Mamasan and Sarong in Bali. The cuisine in E&O is actually similar with that of Mamasan: Western dishes with a twist of Asia (or the contrary).

The menu is long and full and discoveries. We had lunch or dinner there quite a few times and the food can be hit-and-miss as some of the food combinations can be audacious.
Overall: If you want to discover original unique cuisine in a refined restaurant, with an upmarket crowd and atmosphere, E&O is your place.

Opening hours:
Everyday from 11am to 2am.
E&O Jakarta
Menara Rajawali, Ground Floor, Jalan Anak Agung Gede Agung
Mega Kuningan, South Jakarta
Phone number: +62-21 576 1645
Email: reservations@eandojakarta.com or info@eandojakarta.com

Read more >>

Circle K vs. 7/11: Which Take-Away Food Tastes Better?

I could have called this article: Circle K vs 7-Eleven: Which take-away food will not make you sick?

At the bottom of my residence, I have a Circle K on my left, and a 7-Eleven on my right. Both about 100 meters away from each other and they didn't exist just 1 year ago. As they are open 24/7 and serve some take-away food, it can be quite convenient for everyone from the busy executive to the reveling expat. For that reason I decided to make a food trial to compare which one you should prefer for take-away food.

The first item I tried was their Spaghetti Bolognese.
Eating the Spaghettti Bolognese of Circle K (21,500rp) is probably the closest you'll ever come from eating actual plastic. The sauce was ok, even though it is hard to see any meat from the Bolognese (at most you'll notice some bakso crumbs). The ingredients mention "daging" on the box, which means "Meat". We don't know if it is beef (as it should in a Bolognaise sauce) or chicken or pork or most likely something else that must not be very expensive to produce (and may live in a  sewer). The spaghetti in itself had no taste and they had a very strange, chewy texture.
Spaghetti Bolognese from Circle K
The Spaghettti Bolognaise of 7/11 (19,500rp) are actually fresh and they must be eaten within a few days. They do not mention any ingredients though which I always find a bit scary. It didn't taste like homemade pasta of course, but it was very decent and eatable. Even better, I didn't feel sick after eating it.
Spaghetti Bolognese from 7/11
The second item I ate was one of their Sandwiches:
I took the Tuna Spread Egg Sandwich from Seven Eleven (18,000rp). The bread looks like it is whole meat, I wouldn't know for sure as there is nothing on the label. It is not bad: The vegetables feel fresh and it is not too heavy on the sauce. There was just a one of the ingredients which had a strange taste, as if it had already expired. Overall, not too bad and it seemed healthy.
Tuna Spread Egg Sandwich from 7 11
I compared it with the Beef Salad Sandwich from Circle K (9,500rp). This sandwich was a total disaster. It doesn't look nice, it is just two poor pieces of bread with a brown paste in the middle. The bread and the filling had no taste, except for onions. It may have had some irritating chemicals inside as my mouth was feeling itchy afterwards.
Beef Salad Sandwich from Circle K

The third item was their Hot Dog:
The Hot Dog from 7-Eleven had a disgusting appearance as you can see on the picture. It looks like the last thing someone would ever want to put in their mouth. I overcame my fears though and after I added a lot of ketchup, I had a big bite. The Hot Dog has a sort of plastic shell, but once you reach the inside, the taste is not too bad. The bread as well is decent. Overall, the whole thing almost tasted like a normal Hot Dog.
Hot Dog from 711
At first glance, the Hot Dog from Circle K (17,500rp) seemed like a superior product. It has a nice round sausage and the bun is well-shaped. However, there is no taste, or at least not the taste of a hot dog.They added some mustard that looks just as if a dog had peed on the bun.
Beef Hot Dog from Circle K

The last item on trial was the Beef Lasagna:
In 7/11, the Beef Lasagna (16,000rp) comes in small portion and the presentation is relatively good. It has very little pasta, tomato and beef, but way too much cheese and fat. The first bite feels ok, but then it starts to feel quite heavy.
Beef Lasagna from 7-Eleven
In Circle K, the Beef Lasagna, comes in a very large portion. It is not really following the recipe for lasagna. It rather looks like Bolognese Sauce topped up with cheese. The taste is very boring, the same as eating tomato sauce out of a can.
Beef Lasagna from Circle K
Final result: 
My general opinion is that those convenience stores are not selling proper, edible food. It is in your own interest to avoid them.

If I had to choose a lesser evil, I would go for 7-Eleven as they have more choice and their products are in general more fresh (though slightly more expensive). It is not good enough to repace a normal meal or food taken on the street I think. Circle K is a big NO for me, I will never buy any take away food from them again.
I felt unwell after eating their food, especially the Beef Salad Sandwich: Mild migraine, discomfort in my mouth, stomach pain that required a trip to the bathroom.

Another thing that bothered me a lot is that there is no label indicating which ingredients were used to make these products. I am especially curious about the origin of the meat of the hot dogs and that of the bolognese/lasagna sauce.
Read more >>