28 August 2012

Idul Fitri brunch — or yet another reason why I haven't lost any weight in Jakarta

The streets of the city were eerily quiet last Sunday morning [tempus fugit: this was 19 August] when we took a Silverbird taxi to the newest boutique hotel in town, The Keraton (palace). It's tucked neatly — and almost invisibly from the street — into a recess next to Plaza Indonesia. Michael had spotted an article in the Jakarta Globe before he left to join me in Pennsylvania extolling the contemporary ambience and food at this luxurious new hostelry/watering hole (http://www.thejakartaglobe.com/lifeandtimes/at-the-new-keraton-a-chance-to-be-the-king-of-the-castle/531637). The Keraton lived up to the hype.
Below, a serving table for kopi luwak, an exclusive type of coffee bean harvested from civet excrement (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kopi_Luwak). I'm not a coffee drinker, but Michael has sampled it several times. He must not have had the genuine article, though, because he was unimpressed. He does like the Indonesian brewing device shown here, though, used at the coffee bar in Pasaraya.
 The room where we waited half an hour for the restaurant to open its doors at 11:30. It's amazing what a difference mudik, the mass exodus of Jakartans to their hometowns elsewhere in Indonesia, makes to the time needed to get around this usually congested metropolis. The serious downside of this momentary respite: 820 people dead and 5,308 injured as an estimated 8.3 million left and returned to Jakarta.
On the walls, some very clever display and framing techniques we've never seen:
 The metal lacework is on the outside of the glass.
11:30 arrived and we ascended to the Bengawan (Javanese for river) restaurant, empty as the roads. We were the only guests, far outnumbered by the staff, until a party of three arrived just as we were leaving. Great service, needless to say, and great food. Many thanks to Putu Sudarmayasa and his crew for such a wonderful Sunday morning.
The beer cart. We, however, opted for mojitos, properly muddled.

Everywhere you looked there were temptations.

  Michael's first plateful, after he decided to concentrate on the display above. What I neglected to get photos of is the delectable orange juice and mint drink that was served in small glasses as we started to eat. The mint was chopped small enough to qualify as a powder. I'm not sure whether this was done by machine or, labor being cheap in Indonesia, by hand.

Then we ordered our eggs. Being virtuous, Michael asked for the egg white omelette, thinking he would get the one listed on the menu with crab. Instead it was assumed he wanted the full English breakfast, which came with a choice of eggs. His wife was luckier: I specified scrambled eggs with lobster, shown below.
Three people presided over the production of our eggs. 
 Then we tried the foie gras on toasted brioche, with apple compote and glazed shallots, so temptingly laid out right in my line of sight. No way we were going to miss out on this.
 A velvety pumpkin rosemary soup. Superb!

Tender lamb is hard to get hold of in Jakarta, so this was a real treat for Michael.
 Chili crab — even better than what we had in Singapore.
 Indonesia lobster, actually more like crayfish but still very good.
 Other Indonesian offerings in their rustic clay pots.
Desserts. I was full, so chose only to sample Indonesian es cendol and an exceptionally good fruit macaron.

 Time to explore. This is hotel pool and a view of the city.
The bar, source of mojitos and that memorable orange-mint drink.
  Extravagantly tropical tiles in the ladies' room.
 If we can find these mattle black faucets in Europe, we'll be using them when we redo our bathroom in France. Suddenly the idea of black and white, with easily changeable color supplied by towels, etc., has a new appeal.

Since the Hotel Keraton is so centrally located, we made a beeline for Alun Alun in Grand Indonesia Shopping Town. The roads may have been empty, but the mall certainly wasn't. This is yet another of Jakarta's upmarket shopping centers, where you stroll by Louis Vuitton, Bottega Veneta, Loewe (maker of the bag of Irina's that Cheri and I so admired), Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana, looking for a store that you would feel comfortable entering. Alun Alun (marketplace) fits the bill. Our purchase was far from cheap, but we wanted to buy one more fabulous silk weaving from Tenun Imam, based in Bali. This will join two others once we've redone our London bedroom in shades of grey, bronze, and cream.
 Two last photos to show vehicles parked right at the mall entrance, clearly owned by wealthy Indonesians who could easily afford to enter the shops that we walked by so quickly.

07 August 2012

Jakarta burning

Firefighters and local residents work to extinguish a blaze in Karet Tengsin, Tanah Abang, Central Jakarta on Monday night. The fire burned through more than 400 homes and 200 kiosks. (Antara Photo)

Images of wildfires in Colorado and Catalonia have been dominant features of the news this summer. While our "zone rouge" house in the Pyrenees is always at risk during the dry season, we weren't too worried about the London flat or our possessions in the Ritz-Carlton. As a reminder not to get complacent anywhere, though, last night we spotted this raging fire from our window here in Jakarta. We weren't really threatened by the blaze, but flames that high and intense definitely give one pause.

Exploding Cell Phone Ignites Massive Blaze in Central Jakarta

Lenny Tristia Tambun | August 07, 2012

More than 400 homes were heavily damaged Monday evening in a blaze in Karet Tengsin, Central Jakarta, that was reportedly sparked by an exploding mobile phone, an official said.

“The fire was caused by a mobile phone that exploded while it was being charged,” Paimin Napitupulu, head of Jakarta Fire and Disaster Mitigation Agency said. “It caused a short circuit and the sparks ignited the blaze, which was spread by gas and strong winds. The house was made of wood and was located in the middle of the neighborhood, so the flames spread quickly.”

Firefighters began battling the difficult blaze with local residents at 7:35 Monday evening. The fire was under control by 1:25 Tuesday morning after some forty fire trucks arrived on the scene.

“Our firefighters found it difficult to combat the fire because of poor access to the location,” Paimin said.

As many as 1,665 people were left homeless by the blaze, which burned through some 405 homes and 200 businesses. Some residents fainted after seeing their home ablaze.

The Jakarta Social Agency and the Indonesian Red Cross Jakarta chapter were on location Monday helping the victims.

The owner of the mobile phone was taken into protective custody by police, Paimin said.

“He was not detained, just secured in anticipation of street justice,” he said.