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Heritage at Lara Djonggrang

Published 01 June 2012   

Text & photos: David Trauts

Great custodians of Indonesian heritage, the Tugu group have been keeping Indonesian culture alive in their hotels and restaurants for over 25 years, and through a vast array of artworks and artifacts they offer guests an authentic vision and experience of Indonesian history and culture.

To this end, Lara Djonggrang restaurant in Menteng, Jakarta has been holding a series of Indonesian cultural dining events over the past year or so, with the latest event, the 10th in the series, being fathomed from the kitchens of the Yogyakarta Keraton Palace and the reigns of the Sultans Hamengkubuwono VII to IX, a reign of over 100 years, that ended in 1988.

The owners painstakingly travelled back and forth to Yogyakarta to investigate the dining habits and dishes of this period and the resulting mélange, and what could be called the first ancient fusion of Indonesian and European tastes, was served to the approximately 100 guests attending the dinner. A classical performance of the Raden Panji and Chandra Kirana mask dance with gamelan was presented outside before the diners were seated amongst the many rooms and alcoves of the converted Dutch colonial home that became Lara Djonggrang some seven years ago.

Within the research made to develop the menu, the owners discovered many favourite dishes of the Sultan.

The selection of dishes was presented in a spectacular Royal Palace fashion in high standing clay pots with flower and reed arrangements. The dishes had subtle tastes of Indonesian ingredients and were cooked in a very European manner. Possibly too much of a European manner as my Indonesian companion decided early into the set menu that the flavours weren’t to his liking. That’s a common reaction for Indonesians when it comes to anything fusion in regard to their national cuisine, but for me, being an Indophile of western stock, I was quietly impressed.

One of the many themed dining rooms in Lara Djonggrang.

The owners painstakingly travelled back and forth to Yogya to investigate the dining habits and dishes of the period.

Within the research made to develop the menu, the owners discovered many favourite dishes of the Sultan, which were included in along with other dishes served at the Keraton. These favourites included an appetizer called pastel krupuk, a puff pastry covered mash potato with chicken rice noodle filling, a delicious tomatten soup, a pecel buah salad; and mains like bebek suwar suwir, a sweet, sour and fresh duck dish with kedondong fruit and biefstuk Djawa, a Javanese steak in a light sweet soya sauce. While the tastes wouldn’t be called typically Indonesian they did have a certain Western flair about them. They were created with the assistance of the Executive Chef at Tugu, Jamil, who has almost 20 years of experience with the group.

Special cocktails were also created for the evening by manager Andy Guy, combining traditional and local ingredients like fresh ginger, cloves, star anise with new modern alcohol like lime vodka. “They were creations using modern techniques and ingredients while fitting with the occasion,” said Andy.

The evening was a fine dining experience not to be missed. If you are interested in a taste of Indonesian heritage and cuisine make sure you make it to the next installment of the “Indonesia’s Best Dining Series”.

Lara Djonggrang
Jl. Teuku Cik Di Tiro
Menteng, Jakarta
+62 21 315 3252