Partying in Kemang, hi-tea-ing in Dharmawangsa, shopping in Senayan. Is that all South Jakarta can offer? NAUVAL YAZID discovers a delicious new secret.
Behind the crowded Blok M bus terminal, Mahakam Street paves a way to swanky Grand Mahakam Hotel. Right behind it, covered by well-manicured trees, nestles a restaurant you could call home. Or, a home you could call a restaurant? However it is labeled, the place itself is conveniently named “Dapoer”, literally meaning “kitchen” in Bahasa Indonesia.
Instead of over-dressed waitresses standing beside the door guarding credit card banners, the warm smiles of a girl in a traditional kebaya shirt welcome me to what appears to be a living room. Cozy sofas, surrounded by antique vases, are placed under walls filled with plates and old paintings. Slow beats of nostalgic keroncong (old Indonesian folk music) play in the background.
For a moment, I had to remind myself that I wasn’t spending the afternoon with my grandfather at his house in Central Java. Only when I open my eyes and see a woman speaking loudly on her cell phone did I know I could only be in Jakarta.
But one can be pardoned for feeling out of place. Even the surroundings of this two-storey home-turned-restaurant hardly exude the usual modern cosmopolitan feel of the nouveau dining you find today. Barito traditional floral market sits right in front of Dapoer, big old trees give beautiful shade and closely guarded homes are its neighbors. High ceilings and wide open windows allow fresh breezes to flow through the restaurant with the rustling sound of leaves and branches giving a soothing effect.
Just when you regains your senses from these surroundings, prepare to be surprised when you start reading the menu. Written in old style Indonesian, it runs for pages, presenting a wide range of Indonesian cuisine – the Peranakan-influenced, the Colonial-heritage, the Malay-originated, you-name-it. It gives a crash-course in Indonesian culinary history. For instance, Betawi (Batavian, or native Jakartans) people may be enraged to know that one of their great prides, sop buntut (oxtail soup), is actually a leftover from the Dutch colonial days.
But once those meals are prepared in traditional plates or bowls (yes, noodles are served in bowls with pictures of hens, exactly like the ones used by most of the street sellers in Java), you can begin to forget those potentially debatable notes. When the rijstafel (mixed rice platter) is served in smaller plates of blue-and-white abstract patterns similar to the ones used in warungs (small restaurants), questions of originality are put aside. And when the best way to drink hot coffee is by sipping it from its glass’ saucer, then the time-traveling has reached its completion.
Dapoer boasts a rich selection of Indonesian sweets or jajanan pasar at reasonable prices. Take this advice: go slow with the appetizers (the bitterballen is a must try!) and have enough main course (those traditional noodles are not easily found in other places), then go crazy with the desserts. Es Lembut – a soft, tongue-pampering mixture of iced coconut and avocado) is the winner. The class of Indonesian home-cooking comes with a student’s price, even for those who come with their Vertu. A party of four can have their tummies filled to the max at a cute Rp 300K – a rare delicious treat in Jakarta.
In the end, people like to go home to relax and take their mind off their day to day lives and “Dapoer” is one sweet restaurant to call home.
Dapoer – Tempoe Doeloe
Jl. Lamandau III No. 5
South Jakarta 12130