Petromak: Blast from the Past

A new resto boasts retro feel and hipster appeal | The new Petromak cafe shines a light on Indonesian comfort food and unique takes on classic dishes

Petromak, a new restaurant at La Codefin, features a retro Indonesian concept that has created a buzz among Kemang hipsters since it opened in May. Owned by a group of Indonesian actors and actresses — Baim Wong, Lukman Sardi, Ririn Dwi Ariyanti and Ririn Ekawati— the restaurant is named after petromak lights, the traditional Indonesian oil lamps that were used in villages before the arrival of electricity service and are still commonly used today by street vendors and fishermen.

The semi-outdoor restaurant has a modern interior with a traditional feel. There are mini-petromak lights on the ceiling and tables, along with gerobak (food wagons) that offer ice cream and other deserts.

The Petromak menu offers a varied selection of main dishes — from burgers and steaks such as Johnny Wong Steak, blue cheese sirloin steak and honey dijon salmon steak, as well as an Italian pasta section featuring fettuccine alfredo and spaghetti with mushroom or meat sauce. In the Indonesian corner, you’ll find Petromak fried rice, buntut bakar, gado-gado and traditional rice wrapped in banana leaves, such as nasi pedas, nasi ulam, and nasi liwet bakar.

The main specialty dish at the restaurant is the Johnny Wong Steak, a sirloin steak with mushroom sauce. (Priced at Rp 99,000, it is the most expensive entrée in the menu.) The steak is served with rice and sweet soy sauce on the side.

“My tongue is very Indonesian, so normally, I’m not too crazy about steak. However, I have to say the steak at Petromak unlike any other,” said Irma, a customer who is a Kemang regular.

The fried rice is not like the ordinary fried rice you’ll find elsewhere either. At Petromak, the fried rice has a slightly yellow color, similar to nasi kuning (a traditional yellow rice dish), and is served with fried chicken, meatballs, mushrooms, shrimp and basil leaves.

“The fried rice is tasty and authentic, kind of reminds me of Tom Yum (spicy Thai soup) in a way, because of the shrimp and mushroom,” said Dicky, a customer from Singapore.

Petromak serves a few signature cocktails, such as Green Petromak, Kemang Sunset and Sweet Apricot as well as mocktails like Dewa Monkey, Petromak Plus and Petromak Special. These can be enjoyed with finger foods like fried tofu, nachos, chicken wings and more.

Petromak offers a relaxed setting where you can enjoy a varied selection of both Indonesian and Western foods at pocket-friendly prices.

Iwan Putuhena Reports

Original article was published in Kemang Buzz

Petromak: Blast from the Past

Pictures by Dissy for Kemang Buzz

My Jakarta: Khusyi, Restaurateur

Restaurants and bars in Jakarta are like babies, a new one seems to pop up every day. It’s hard to have staying power in a city where customers are demanding new, innovative experiences from each and every place that slaps a neon sign in a window and turns on the open sign over the front door.

But what really works? Khusyi, who got his start in the food and beverage industry more than 10 years ago washing dishes, talks about his newest baby, Bureau, a gastro pub in Pondok Indah, what it’s like to work seven days a week, and why not everybody should open a restaurant.

What other businesses were you involved with before you opened Bureau?

I opened Birdcage on Jalan Wijaya in 2008. I also was involved with the opening and creating the concept for Bibliotheque at Sampoerna Strategic Square. I was the general manager back in 2009.

The restaurant business is cutthroat. Why not just sell something simple, like insurance or wicker chairs?

I’ve been doing this for more than 10 years. I studied hotels and hospitality in Switzerland. I focus on the operational, front and back of the house, while my partner who went to the same school as I did studied the management and accounting aspect. So we always have the passion to open up our own establishment.

You own a restaurant, but did you ever spend any time really making your bones?

I’ve been everything from a dishwasher to a waiter to a housekeeper. I’ve done almost everything there is to do in a restaurant or hotel. I started at the bottom. Like I said before, there are people who are passionate, and there are some who have money and just want to open up a restaurant.

I know in my mind when something is out of place, sometimes members of the staff just shake their heads and say, “How did we miss that?” I know if the table is not right or something is missing in the kitchen as soon as I walk in. It’s all about being passionate about what you do, that’s what gives you the ability to sense these things.

What do you think about the food and beverage business in Jakarta?

The F&B business in Jakarta is growing rapidly everywhere. The middle class is growing and people have money to spend on good food and lifestyle.

There are people who open up a restaurant and understand this business in and out, and others just want open up a restaurant because they have friends and money.

If you want to get into this business you have to be serious and know what you are doing, otherwise it’s a gamble — you open up for six months and nothing happens. You need to have the passion to open up a restaurant.

Do you think there will always be a market for new concept restaurants here in the city?

In this kind of business, there is always a market for everyone in Jakarta — it’s unbelievable. One day I was at Bibliotheque, it was packed, and then I went to another place it was packed as well. You realize that one place cannot accommodate all the people in Jakarta, so there is always a market.

What’s your favorite food?

I love my steak, because I guess it’s the way I cook it — to perfection. If its cooked medium well, it has to be medium well; the meat should still be juicy.

Do you come up with your own recipes?

For some of the food, I came up with my own recipes; the signature cocktails are from my experiments. Again, it all depends on the concept. With Bureau, for instance, I focus on international food, combining French and Spanish tapas, but the ingredients themselves are mostly French.

Do you follow a certain philosophy in this business?

I just want people to experience good food. And it doesn’t have to be expensive. I don’t want to cheat my customers. We serve the best quality at a decent price.

So, do you often cook for your girlfriend?

I usually just bring her to my restaurant [laughs]. I don’t have a day off, so I come here to make my own cocktails and food.

Do you prefer cooking in the back or running the restaurant up front?

I think both elements are important. People in the front are just as important as people in the back. When it gets busy, I can help out in the kitchen or in the front talking to customers.

What qualities do you expect from your employees?

In the back, we have excellent products and we expect that the people in the front know the details of the products and ingredients we intend to deliver to the customer.

I expect that when I go to a fine-dining establishment, the server should be able to explain to me what’s in the food. Sadly, in my experience at some of the more popular restaurants in the city, that’s not the case.

I try my best to train my staff, because I want them to know and understand how the product is made, what’s in it and be able to describe the taste.

Has there been any changes in the city since you’ve come back from college?

When I came back from Switzerland, five-star hotels were still ruling the fine-dining industry. Independent restaurants are booming now and we have more choice today compared to before.

What do you and don’t you like about Jakarta?

I don’t like it when it rains in Jakarta because it’s bad for business; reservations get canceled and people just stay in. However, the traffic in Pondok Indah can be beneficial because those who work in this area stay out after office hours and hang around to avoid traffic.

 

Khusyi was talking to Iwan Putuhena

Original interview was published in The Jakarta Globe

My Jakarta: Khusyi, Restaurateur

 

Picture by Iwan Putuhena

My Kemang: Dhiah, Clubber

Dhiah, 21, spends several nights a week clubbing in Kemang and is a regular guest at a number of venues. We caught up with Dhiah at Venue, one of her favorite clubs in South Kemang. She talked about what she loves about the nightlife in Kemang, the hottest places to party and her resolution for the new year.

How often do you hang out in Kemang?
I started coming here around four years ago. Back then I hung out in this area almost every day; lately I’ve cut it down to about three times a week (laughs).

What do you normally do around Kemang?
My night usually starts at Shisha Café, dinner at KFF (Kemang Food Fest), then off to Triple Nine, Venue, Nu China, or wherever the party’s at.

Where do you go most often?
I like to go to Venue, it’s one of my favorite places, because on Mondays it’s 50 percent off for drinks, and Wednesdays is ladies night with R&B music. I feel like I’m promoting the place now (laughs).

Do you get privileges as a regular?
Of course, but I already get special privileges just for being a lady; I’m talking about free drinks and entry on ladies night. I normally get invitations and guest list to places almost every day. And almost everywhere I go, there are people who also party as much as I do. We know each other from hanging out, so we join tables and party together.

Do you call yourself a ‘clubber’?
I don’t go clubbing to get that title or recognition. I just happen to really enjoy going out, being with friends, being around people, talking and drinking. So I think it’s an accidental status (laughs).

What’s the hottest nightclub right now?
I would say Second Floor, because they recently renovated the club and it’s packed almost every night.

Do you live in Kemang?
No, I live in Central Jakarta, behind Grand Indonesia, because it’s closer to my work place. But I would love to be in Kemang. I used to live here a few years back. It was comfortable because everything is in the area. But being away doesn’t stop me from partying here.

Why do you choose to party here, it’s so far from where you live?
It’s my second home. When you’re in the area, everything is near and convenient; the clubs, restaurants, boutiques and lounges. Everything is within a walking distance, so it’s easy to hop around.

Where do you work?
I work in public relations at After Hour Sarinah, a billiard bar in Central Jakarta. Before that I was an SPG (sales promotion girl) for a variety of products and brands.

Where are you originally from?
I’m originally from South Jakarta, born and raised, so I’m comfortable with the area and I’m not scared to go places by myself or to walk in the street.

Do you think Kemang is affordable?
Well, it depends. There are expensive places and fine restaurants, but I think there are many more places for young people and professionals that are affordable.

What do you drink when you go out?
I would like to drink my favorite liquor, Johnny Walker Blue Label, but since I can only afford Black Label, anything mixed with that will do just fine. My friends and I usually buy bottles, because it’s much cheaper at the end of the night than buying drinks by the glass.

Do you have a boyfriend?
Yes, he is a DJ at one of the clubs in the area. But I don’t go to Kemang because of him, because he plays classic disco, and I’m not really into that (laughs).

What don’t you like about Kemang?
Not being able to get a table especially when you really looking forward to go to that particular place whether it’s at the club or restaurant. Kemang is always crowded, and it happens a lot, particularly over the weekend, some places don’t take reservations.

What is your New Year resolution?
I will try to quit smoking, because lately I’m starting to feel like I’m getting short of breath. But I’m not ready to quit drinking just yet (laughs). In the beginning I wasn’t a smoker but when I’m drinking it makes me want to smoke, so it will be a challenge.

Recently the government banned smoking inside public buildings. Do you think they should regulate that for clubs?
Well it would be nice to provide an outdoor space for smokers, like a balcony or roof top. I think it’s a good idea to enforce the non-smoking law in the club, because sometimes when everyone smokes in a packed room with bad circulation, my eyes gets watery and my clothes and hair will smell like smoke when I get home.

Do you think there will ever be a “last call” for partying?
Not anytime soon (laughs). Only when I’m in mourning, like recently when my father passed away. I was sad and stopped going out for 10 days, but then I couldn’t resist wanting to go out again. I guess I can say partying is kind of like a healing process for me.

Dhiah was talking to Iwan Putuhena

Original interview was published in Kemang Buzz

My Kemang: Dhiah, Clubber

Picture by Iwan Putuhena

My Kemang: Tongkol, Bartender at 86

Long before drinking outdoors became trendy, the bar Lapan Anem (“86”) was already serving cold beer in the rain. Tongkol is a veteran bartender there. You wouldn’t guess that he’s pushing 40, but he puts his youthfulness down to his balance of work and pleasure. Tongkol sat at the bar with us and shared his stories, favorite drinks and his views on living and working in Kemang.

How long have you been a bartender at Lapan Anem?
I’ve been working here since they opened in 2003. At first, I was a bar back, just helping out the bartenders.

Where do you learn how to bartend?
I taught myself by watching the bartenders over the years. Learning, while drinking, because after all, I have to know the taste, right? (Laughs)

What’s your favorite drink?
I enjoy drinking beer, especially Bintang. For mixed drinks, I just like the simple and classic like Jack and Coke.

Do you have your own specialty drink?
Yeah, I call it Absolut “Tinggal” (Leaving). It’s a combination of Absolut vodka, triple sec, Midori, Cointreau, gin, tequila; pretty much everything! As you can imagine, it’s very strong, so after the drink you’re leaving consciousness. (Laughs)

Where are you from originally and where do you live?
I was born and raised in South Jakarta. Now I live in Wijaya. I’ve been living there forever, and rarely pass the south border.

What else do you do for fun, besides bartending?
I raise Bangkok chicken, and I go fishing.

Do you eat the chickens?
No, it’s for cock fighting.

What do you like about Kemang ?
There are many places to hang out, especially for nightlife. It’s been happening since I remember. Even before I worked at the bar, I would already spend most of my time in this area.

What are the changes that you’ve seen?
There are more bars and restaurants opening. The garden and outdoor concept is the new trend, it’s everywhere now. Places like Beer Garden, Bremer, Rooftop and many more, but we were the first outdoor bar, even before the new part, Splash, was renovated.

This place is like a second home to you. Why are you comfortable here?
We are all friends and my boss is very laid back, so I don’t have to go anywhere else. All of us have been working here for a long time.

Is it hard to handle drunken people?
Well, it’s always fun to take care of our customers. They do stupid things all the time. But it’s difficult to handle fights. I mean, it always happens when alcohol is involved, but we try to keep the peace.

Do you want your own bar someday?
It never crossed my mind. I just want to have a small warung by my house selling snacks and soda. That’s enough for me.

What do you think about the high-rise and construction around the area?
It’s very high; I can see it from here. (Laughs.) But I guess it’s good for the expats and tourists who’ll be staying there; after all, Kemang is their area.

What do you think about Kemang’s problems?
Well, traffic is always a problem everywhere, especially here. I would like to see them expanding the streets, if it’s possible. The roads around here are very small, while entertainment places grow.

How busy is Splash?
It’s consistent, always packed. It’s a good place to listen to music. We have a stage that we share with other outlets in here. On weekdays, you find the locals such as young professionals and students. Then over the weekend, it’s a mixed crowd, but there are many kids from international schools.

Do you guys check ID cards?
We do, but sometimes they come with their parents and they buy the kids drinks. I guess it’s a different culture than us.

What’s the drinking age in Indonesia?
I think it’s 18 (pause) or 21. Who knows? (Laughs) In here it doesn’t matter really.

How do you compete with other bars?
Well, we compete in a good way. There’s always a brotherhood among people that work at the bars, we know each other. Sometimes when the other bar is running out of liquor or beer, they come here to borrow our stock. If we have it, we will give it to them, and help them out if they are busy. And they will do the same for us.

Tongkol was talking to Iwan Putuhena

Original interview was published in Kemang Buzz

My Kemang: Tongkol, Bartender at 86

Picture by Iwan Putuhena