Imagining Paris in Bistro Baron Jakarta
Published 06 January 2011
Get one step closer to Paris in Bistro Baron. VE HANDOJO shared his ‘Parisienne’ mini adventure in Jakarta, and how he built a new kind of French connection.
My social status has reached the stage where my peers are now sharing their best Paris experiences – from how long they have to queue to take a peak at the original Mona Lisa painting in Louvre (and how amazingly small the painting actually is), to waiters in bistros by the street who think you have to thank them for getting a table there. The sad fact is, the closest place to Paris that I’ve ever been to is a certain apartment unit in the South Jakarta area, late in the evening, to do many French things – an experience I can only share in other more adult-oriented magazine.s
When Bistro Baron opened in Plaza Indonesia Extension, my hopes was high. “Oh, finally there’s a place where I can go to everytime I long for those escargots I tried in Montmartre!” I bluffed to my peers, mentioning the name of a place that I learned from “Moulin Rouge!” – the movie. Armed with some knowledge on how “fabulous” the prices are in the real Paris, and how they would serve you better if you at least try to speak French (and make a fool of yourself), I went to Bistro Baron.
I entered through the front side of the restaurant on a lazy afternoon, after the lunch crowd had left. The patio overlooked Jalan MH Thamrin at a long distance. At a short distance, it was the traffic of fancy cars coming and going to stylish Plaza Indonesia that I could monitor. The heat of the day made me the only one sitting there – even the waiters couldn’t believe it. It took five French songs to finally make one of them realize that there was someone who actually chose to sit there. (Hey, I just wanted to know how it felt to sit by the street in a Paris bistro, okay?)
I’ve finally given up the chic patio, and entered the main dining room. Plush sofa, classic design, some vintage stuff, and snobbish glance from some of the guests and the waiters. Note to self: never exclaim “Bonjour!” here anymore, especially when you don’t know how to pronounce it.
Nevertheless, I was pretty sure that I can could pronounce foie gras properly– though my “r” is still Indonesian. So, that was the first item that I looked for in the menu, and – voila! – there it was. It came in a portion that’s more than enough as a starter, the salad was fresh, richly dressed, and the taste of foie gras became the star. A bread basket would have been nice to accompany it, but apparently I – coming in between lunch and dinner – was not eligible to have any. I was only offered if I bought some branded water. No thanks, I brought my own mineral water from home. You want to kick me out for that?
Bistro Baron menu is all about simple, comfort food. There is nothing pretentious, nothing mind-blowing. French onion soup is among the popular choices. I went for simple duck confit. The crispy skin covered the tender and moist meat – a meal that was meticulously prepared to wow. That was definitely the best duck confit I have ever found in Jakarta, if not my whole life. Every bite was a joyful occasion indeed. Pairing it with the white wine made me feel like a five-year-old listening to a “happily ever after” bedtime story. (Oh, the house wine selection was really fine, by the way.)
I had to pick the sticky or the sweety way to wrap up my dining experience in Bistro Baron. Churros, or Crepes Suzette? Somehow, the math of salad + duck confit + white wine led me to Madamoiselle Suzette. And, how fine she turned out to be! Drenched – no, scratch that, soaked in liqueur, the crepe was a joy. The classic recipe consisting of grated orange and caramel was flambéed to the next level. I was in fantasyland once again, and the only way to knock me back to reality was a cup of doppio espresso by Nespresso. Yes, the staggering Rp 90,000 price for that caffeine fix slapped me real hard.
Back to my social life, those fine mesdames-et-messieurs start to talk out loud again about Champs Élysées, high tea in Versailles, bungy jumping from Tour Eiffel, etc, etc. Fine. I could match them now by asking, “Have you tried the duck confit in Bistro Baron?” There was a ego-boosting response for a moment, until one of them asked me back, “Didn’t you bring your own water there?” Yes, I’m an Indonesian after all.
Plaza Indonesia Extension, Level 1, E20-21
Jl. MH Thamrin Kav. 28-30,
Tel: +62 21 2992 3505