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

Go Dutch at Dijan’s

f you’re looking for a Sunday brunch unlike the usual Jakarta hotel buffet fare, Dijan’s Pannekoeken and Poffertjes is the place to go. This intimate Dutch restaurant has a homey setting to enjoy pancakes and other Dutch specialties that call to mind grandma’s cooking.

I paid a visit to Dijan’s one recent rainy Sunday, after craving pancakes all morning. It’s early afternoon by the time I arrive after driving in the heavy rain. A security guard approaches with an umbrella to escort me from my car. I note it as a sign of good service, especially considering I’ve come unannounced and no one is aware that I’m here to do a restaurant review.

Entering Dijan’s I’m instantly reminded of my Dutch grandmother’s old house in South Jakarta — the stained glass with colorful tulips on the windows and front door, the wooden interiors, the porcelain and antique Dutch objects on display.
The restaurant has three sections — a lower floor, upper floor with a bar and an outside garden. Only a few tables are taken and I choose one on the upper floor, a non-smoking area. A waiter brings me a menu and I flip through the pages and go straight to the Pannekoeken section. I read through every single pancake description and they all sound tempting. There are pannekoeken served as a light meal, dessert, or as entrées. There are some with cheese, banana, strawberries, beef ragout, salad, ice cream, pretty much anything you can imagine. A shame I can’t try them all in one visit. I settle on the cheese and banana pannekoek.

I turn to the specials and review the Dutch brunch entrées. I had read before coming that the bitterballen (meatballs) were very good. I also consider the hutspot met gehakt (sweet potato and vegetables with meatballs). The vegetables are served with light cream, steamed French beans, carrots, potatoes, cabbage, sautéed onions, and two big meatballs seasoned with pepper and onions.

Another dish that catches my attention is the kakap ala meuniere, a snapper deep-fried in bread crumbs, which sounds like the Dutch version of fish and chips.

It is served with spinach and French beans cooked in butter and garlic, a baked tomato with sautéed onions and potato wedges. There are also some Indonesian dishes on the menu, and even spaghetti.

In the end it’s a toss-up between the Holland biefstuk (beef steak), which is tenderloin served with sautéed potatoes, vegetable and special jus (sauce), and the stamppot spinazie (spinach stew) with bratwurst or beef burger. I ask the waiter for a recommendation, and he says that since I am ordering two courses, it would be wise to go with the stamppot spinazie, which is a smaller portion and a favorite of many customers.

And then my food arrives, both courses at the same time. Both dishes look delicious and equally enticing, and I have to pause to consider which one to try first. I decide to start with Dijan’s specialty, the pannekoek with cheese and banana, which is best eaten warm.

As I take the first bite, I’m transported at once to my grandmother’s kitchen. I immediately know this is the real deal. The pannekoeken from my childhood days used to have just some sprinkles of sugar, but the melted cheese and banana are a delicious combination.

After savoring the nostalgic moment, I am ready for my stamppot spinazie with bratwurst. It’s a delightful presentation and very Dutch — bratwurst with sautéed onion on top, spinach mixed with potatoes and butter and a baked tomato. The bratwurst could have been better, but I eat everything on my plate.

I review the menu for the poffertjes featured for dessert. Poffertjes are basically warm coin-sized pancakes topped with all types of fruits and ice cream. I will skip them for now, but will be sure to have them next time.

I come away from my excellent Dutch brunch entirely satisfied. Dijan’s cuisine is authentic Dutch fare one can enjoy as a full meal, a light snack or a quick stop for dessert. I know I’ll be returning soon to try the other dishes.

Iwan Putuhena Reviews

Original article was published in Kemang Buzz

Go Dutch at Dijan’s

Pictures by Iwan Putuhena

Dijan’s Pannekoeken & Poffertjes

Jl. Kemang Selatan, No. 102A
Hours: Weekdays 10am – 11pm; Weekends 10am – midnight
Tel: 021 7179 3538

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