Koi Kemang: Brunch, anyone?

Koi13

Prosecco Treviso Cascine, one of my favorite prosecco

Champagne brunch is one of my favorite things to do when I spend my weekends in Jakarta. I call it champagne brunch but I literally drink anything vino – red wine, chardonnay, cava, prosecco, champagne – name it, I will down it!

Since 2010, one of my favorite brunch places in Jakarta is Koi in Kemang. Koi has witnessed a lot of my life celebrations with friends and loved ones and it continues to be one of my default go-to places. The quality of the food is consistent and the plenitude of red and sparkling wines are always great reasons to visit this place.

For me, Koi Kemang will always be a timeless classic!

Here are some of our favorites from Koi, which we usually order over and over again. These never get old for me.

Koi17

Koi’s wheatgrass shot with a slice of orange on the side.

I normally start my meal with a wheatgrass shot and I drink it clean and straight.  It’s a good way to start the meal as wheatgrass is power-packed with chlorophyll, which acts as a neutralizer of toxins in the body. It also improves blood sugar and detoxifies the liver (great when you are just about to indulge on the fizzies!)

Some mix the wheatgrass shot with fresh orange juice, but I just prefer mine straight up.

Although cheese is considered dessert, I normally order it as my appetizer. At Rp150k, Koi’s cheese platter has brie, gruyere and French blue cheese, with baguette on the side, roasted cashews and yummy caramelized onions.

Koi2

Koi’s cheese platter: brie, gruyere and French blue cheese, with baguette on the side, roasted cashews and yummy caramelized onions.

Arshad and I normally pair the cheese with either a light, fruity red, a bubbly prosecco, cava or champagne. My top faves: Corte Giara Bardolino from Italy and Trimback Riesling from Arsace, France.

Apart from cheese, we usually share a salad: caesar salad with honey and truffle oil.

Koi14

For the main course, we are creatures of habit. By default, I always order the poached eggs with spinach and hollandaise sauce. It’s basically their Eggs Benedict without the ham, since I prefer to eat mostly plant-based.

Aside from the vast selection of wine and their perfectly poached eggs, another primary reason why we keep on coming back to Koi is their steak and eggs.  Arshad has tried steak and eggs from other restaurants but they always pale in comparison. He keeps getting disappointed so the verdict was that if he wants his steak and eggs, we only go to Koi.

Koi12

Koi’s medium rare steak and eggs with herbed butter, vegetables and potatoes

For dessert, if you are a first-timer in Koi, it merits to try their dessert sampler, where a plateful of Koi’s best desserts can be had.

My newly-discovered heaven, though, is the flourless chocolate quinoa cake with vanilla ice cream on the side and vanilla sauce. After tasting this, the definition of dessert will never be the same!

After indulging your cravings for Koi’s delectable food, you can go to their second floor to check out teakwood furniture, paintings and other Indonesian fixtures. Koi also showcases beautiful curated Indonesian pieces from local craftsmen and furniture makers.

For all these and more, I’d say Koi never fails to make my Sunday wonderful. I will never tire of going back for more…and more. =)

Koi Kemang’s details:

Address: Jl. Kemang Raya No.72b, RT.7/RW.2, Bangka, Mampang Prpt., Kota Jakarta Selatan, Daerah Khusus Ibukota Jakarta 12730
Hours:  Opens 7am Closes 11PM

Phone: (021) 7195668

Jakarta Sunday Chill-out: Trying out William’s Casual Dining in SCBD

Given last Saturday’s fainting situation, I decided to have a steady Sunday – for real. Arshad and I decided to road-test a new restaurant in SCBD: William’s Casual Dining.

I discovered William’s Casual Dining through an Instragram ad (what do you know, IG ads actually work!). I figured, hey, the food looks interesting and they’re website is beautifully done. No harm in trying something new to celebrate my 2nd year anniversary in Jakartown.

Williams_A&A_wm

Arshad and I at William’s for Sunday lunch

Situated at the heart of Jakarta’s Central Business District (SCBD), William’s is a laidback restaurant serving Western and Asian cuisines.

The ambience was true to their claim: casual dining. The seats were comfortable and there were booths for couples who wanted to go on dates and long tables for friends and family.

williams truffle fries

William’s truffle fries paired with chardonnay

I was famished so we ordered glasses of wine first. Chardonnay for me and Pinot Noir for the mister. For Rp110k per glass, I’m not complaining! Their wine selection, although limited, is not bad either.

I paired my chardonnay with the usual starters of truffle fries. I just love the aroma of truffle oil combined with my fries, although I try to eat this sparingly aka special occasions only, since I veer away from anything deep-fried. At Rp45k, it’s reasonably priced without sacrificing the truffle oil punch.

The watermelon salad we chose to share was interesting. It was a blend of cured watermelon, vanilla mascarpone, balsamic caviar, cashew crumbs, dill and lemon fluid.

The watermelon was fresh and the vanilla mascarpone had a hint of sweetness that wasn’t overpowering. Overall, the salad was refreshing and light. It’s something I wouldn’t mind ordering again.

William's watermelon salad

Watermelon salad from William’s Casual Dining: refreshing and uniquely interesting

For our mains, I decided to go for the roast baked barramundi with smoked mash potato, cauliflower, baby carrots, chilli oil and potato glass. Since it’s a pescatarian dish, I paired it with another glass of chardonnay.

The fish was fresh and nicely cooked, with the vegetables on the side crunchy when you take a bite of them. The mashed potato had an interesting consistency and viscosity to it, which I actually liked.

Williams_baked barramundi_wm

Roast baked barramundi with smoked mash potato, cauliflower, baby carrots, chilli oil and potato glass

Arshad, on the other hand, ordered the creamy mushroom spaghetti, which, according to its menu, is “as simple as its title,” and I couldn’t agree more. It was that: a pleasant, comfort pasta of cream and mushroom, with a very light hint of sweetness to it.

Arshad felt like it could still be creamier, as that is his preference for creamy pasta. I prefer it light this way and I wouldn’t want it any other way. I can order this for myself next time!
Williams_creamy mushroom pasta_wm

Overall, the food was both good and interesting. In terms of price points, I think William’s Casual Dining is reasonable, considering the freshness and the quality of the ingredients.

In terms of areas of improvement, the waiting time for the food tops the chart for me. The restaurant was almost packed for Sunday lunch, I don’t think the kitchen was ready for the deluge of orders. My truffle fries took more than 15 minutes before it came out (yes, I timed it). The main course took around half an hour.

Under normal circumstances, I would have bitched about it, but since I was trying to be zen that day, I patiently waited.  In fact, we wanted to try the Dragon’s Nest for dessert but we were told it’s going to take another 15 minutes or so for it, so we decided to just head out to another dessert place.

The wait staff could also be trained more, since they did not immediately give us out our plates and utensils. The salad came out without the plates and utensils and we were staring at it for quite a while, before the staff took the hint.

It’s a relatively new restaurant so admittedly, I’m more forgiving. The food made up for the delays but I do hope they improve the time spent waiting and they train their staff to be more attentive to the customers.

Plus, fine, they have good online presence and they have good Instagram ads, if I may say. I’m a sucker for beautifully orchestrated web sites and deliberate efforts on social media, so hats off to William’s on this.

Will I come back? Sure – just to give it another shot, perhaps on a less busy time or day. I’m keen to try their octopus crackers, arancini and king prawn aglio olio. Hopefully, I can also get my hands on the Dragon’s Nest already!

Here are the contact details of William’s:

Phone: +621 21889061 ext: 858

Reservation table recommended

Opening hours: 10am – 11pm; daily

Address: Jl. Tulodong Atas No. 28, SCBD , Jakarta

Budget: Rp455,000 for 2 people (average)
VAT & service charges extra
Cash and Cards accepted
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Easter Sunday Bazaar at Tugu Kunstkring Paleis

Easter Sunday Bazaar at Tugu Kunstkring PaleisI love bazaars! When I got the announcement from a friend that Tugu Kunstkring Paleis is hosting an Easter Sunday bazaar, I knew I had to go.

Bazaars for me are not just about shopping. It’s the experience. I love looking at rare and hard-to-find bazaar items for sale, since these are normally not sold in the malls. That’s the appeal of bazaar shopping for me.

Tugu Kunstkring Paleis’ Easter Sunday Bazaar was a sensory assault – just the way I like it. There were A LOT of merchants selling batik, jewelry, house ware and other unique finds. Aside from these, there were also bands playing, a Dutch family photo booth where you can don Dutch costumes, a fortune teller (in Bahasa, though), a Japanese clay workshop and a lot of food concessionnaires.

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One happy Bella scouring the ground floor with antique finds

Oh, it was dogs’ day too, since dogs were encouraged to be brought in the bazaar venue.

Here are my interesting finds:

The ground floor teemed with antique items: from Chinese ceramics, maps, furniture, accessories and paintings.

As usual, I was enamored by notebooks and journals with printed batik covers. I cannot have enough! On this day and age, I think journal writing and writing letters by hand are both a dying art.

TK_batik notebooks wm

At the entrance of the bazaar on the second floor, a booth selling items from Holland greeted customers:

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There were also a lot of locally made products, one of my favorites was the one selling canvass pouches, ID and card holders, pencil cases, vanity and notebooks, with cute and creative printed designs:

A welcomed sensory assault of colorful batik clothes and local accessories were sold on the second floor, too.

Overall, there were a lot of great finds. I had to stop myself from buying things that I don’t need but they were very tempting. In the end, I went home withTK_antique mirror wm one item that I felt I couldn’t let go of: an antique mirror with a blue Chinese ceramics design and a jade handle. I went back for it three times just to make sure I really wanted it. It’s a much-coveted piece to be included in my own antique collection!

The great takeaway from this visit is that in the weekends to come, I will definitely go back and visit Tugu Kunstkring Paleis, not for the bazaar, but for the bar, the restaurant and the antique collection inside that I can still scrutinize and marvel at. Definitely in my bucket list for to-dos over the weekend!

Jalan Surabaya: A Charming Weekend of Antiques

Jalan S_lamps_wmTraversing Jalan Surabaya is literally strolling down memory lane, what with all the lovely antiques that you can discover in the whole stretch of this quaint street nestled in the upscale neighborhood of Menteng. Quite a paradox, actually, after seeing posh houses with sprawling yards and lush green lawns, you will be transported to a different scenery, teeming with beautiful antiques.

Solely dedicated to the trade of charming memorabilia, the wide array of items lined up in Jalan Surabaya will definitely pique the interest of antique enthusiasts or amateur appreciators like me.

The Antique Market in Jalan Surabaya was founded in 1974 by the then Governor of Jakarta, Ali Sadikin. The street became home to antique traders who used to sell their goods walking around Kota Tua (The Old City of Jakarta). The current traders manning the stalls are usually the second generation family members of the former Kota Tua traders.

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Ceramics: one of my favorite finds in Jalan Surabaya

There are several shops selling antiques including woodwork and wooden sculptures, wooden masks, wayang or puppets, paintings, woven cloths, silver and brass cutlery, metal and earthenware souvenirs, antique lamps and old fashioned accessories. You will also stumble upon telephones, cameras, typewriters, phonographs, telescopes, watches and jewelry. It will be a delightful surprise to discover that there are a handful of shops selling ship rudders, dials, compass and even old diving helmets and brass suits! There are several shops specializing in old books, plates and brassware. At the far end of the street, you can find stalls selling old bags and luggages.

My favorite purchases: ceramics displays, lamps and old Balinese paintings.

I’ve been back as an expat in Jakarta for 18 months now and I realized that I haven’t gone back. Immediately, I called my friend Mark who has never been there for a spur of the moment visit.

Jalan S_Mark and I_wm

with my fellow Pinoy expat Mark at one of the shops in Jalan Surabaya

As expected, Jalan Surabaya did not disappoint. Until now, this street never fails to enthrall me. The plenitude of items lined up on the street always catches my attention…and my wallet.

I had two specific items that I had in mind: an old typewriter and an old-fashioned stand fan, which will both be a nice addition to my antique collection back in Manila. While going through the shops one by one, though, I kept my eyes open for other interesting finds.

A few practical tips that will come in handy when you visit:

Jalan S_couple_wm

 

  1. Getting there: For tourists who are not very familiar with Jakarta, this will be tricky. I strongly recommend getting an Uber, Grab or Blue Bird taxi. If you are buying in bulk, it is highly recommended to bring your own car if you have one. Stall owners allow customers to park alongside the shops.
  2. Location: Jalan Surabaya is located at the heart of Menteng, which is an upscale neighborhood. It’s near Jalan Cikini, Cikini Market, Proclamation Monument and Suropati park
  3. Best time to go: In the morning or afternoon over the weekend so there is a lot of parking space on the side street. For me, a Saturday afternoon is always ideal.
  4. Amount of time spent: Make sure you have plenty of time, but based on experience, I spend 2-4 hours, give or take. It is, after all, an entire street of antique shops! It is always more pleasant when Jalan Surabaya is experienced at a leisurely pace.
  5. Outfit: Wear casual clothes that are not too warm on the skin as the weather can get hot and humid in the afternoon.
  6. If you are not very fluent in Bahasa Indonesia, it is always best to bring a calculator with you so you can type in the price of the items. This is a necessary tool of the trade, so to speak, when bargaining for the price.
  7. If you are not an expert in antiques, bring a friend who has some knowledge about it. Not all the items are antiques and there are a lot of replicas. Most of the time, though, the real ones are stored in glass cabinets inside the store. Although this is not always necessarily true.
  8. Walk the entire stretch and compare prices before buying anything. This is an important reminder. When I was a newbie shopper in Jalan Surabaya, I had buyer’s remorse when I was too excited to purchase my antique ceramics, only to find out that the stores further down were cheaper!
  9. Bring cash! The shops don’t accept debit or credit card transactions. Everything is paid on cash basis.
  10. Most important of all: haggle. Haggle fiercely. The prices of the items in the stores depends on your willingness to pay for them. As a rule of thumb, ask for BIG discounts, as high as 70-80%. Yes, you read that correctly: 70-80% because some of them are willing to budge. Even if they don’t, if you get the item at 50% discount, it is still a huge win.

Armed with sheer curiosity for the old and some cash, an afternoon spent walking through the shops in Jalan Surabaya is something that I strongly recommend to expat friends and foreign visitors. Whenever someone asks me for an itinerary in Jakarta for a quick weekend trip, my list will always include a trip to this nostalgic street.

And for me, Jalan Surabaya, ironically, will never grow old and will stay as one of my favorite things to do on one fine Saturday afternoon.

Weekend hits: What to do in Jakarta when you’re staying in the city

Last weekend was the very first semi-sane weekend that I spent in Jakarta, which was exactly what I needed: to stay put and have some quiet time after a work-week inundated by nothing but meetings and boardroom presentations.

I always get these questions from friends in Manila: “So what is your typical weekend in Jakarta? What is there to do in Jakarta? Is it still traffic during the weekends?”

To finally shed light on what’s happening here in my side of town (yes, it’s still traffic in some parts of the city), I’m sharing what a quiet Jakarta weekend looks like. Here’s my initial weekend top 5:

1. Healthy Saturday breakfast. In South Jakarta, my go-to restaurants for great coffee and avocado toast are Saint ALi in Setiabudi and Lucky Cat Coffee and Kitchen in the Plaza Festival complex.

Saint ALi is originally from Australia and luckily, Jakarta is the first branch outside of it. Their coffee game is strong and they offer a lot of variety. The baristas definitely know their coffee and you can ask for recommendations. I regularly order their flat white with Dama almond milk paired with my favorite Avo on Toast.

Another great news for those who love macarons: Saint ALi also partnered with La Maison Patisserie. There is an array of colorful macarons to choose from, with eccentric flavors, too. I tried the salted egg yolk and the salted popcorn and they tasted good, in a weird way.

On the other hand, Lucky Cat is currently one of the hippest coffee shops in town (yes, there is always a line and you can’t make reservations). They’re open 24 hours, too! They have a much shorter menu for both coffee and food, but if you’re into flavored latte or affogatto, this is the place to be! I prefer their mushroom and avocado on toast over Saint Ali’s, to be honest. It’s creamier and more savory, but since this place is one of the newest, it also runs out pretty fast.

Side bar: I don’t know why, but Indonesia seems to have better-tasting avocados, compared to the Philippines. Theirs is more buttery and sweet-tasting, you just can’t have enough of it.

Saint ALi
+6321-52906814
Price Range is around Rp300k for 2 people
Hours: 7am to 8pm
Address : Setiabudi Two, Ground Floor, Jl. HR Rasuna Said, Setiabudi, Jakarta
Lucky Cat Coffee and Kitchen
+621-52961475
Price range: Rp300k for 2 people
Open 24 hours
Plaza Festival, South Parking, Jl. HR Rasuna Said, Kuningan Jakarta

 

2.  Books! When I was a newbie in Jakarta, I had a hard time looking for English books. I didn’t know where to go. Indonesia has Gramedia bookstore but majority of the books they sell are in Bahasa Indonesia. There were English books but quite limited, in terms of bestsellers and new releases line-up. Luckily, I discovered Periplus in Plaza Indonesia in one of my cardio window shopping spree. Periplus branches are modest in size but they pack a lot of bestsellers and popular authors.

A weekend well-spent is a Periplus shopping spree and an afternoon spent in a coffee shop reading one of the bestsellers you just bought. In my case, I usually go to the Lotte Shopping Mall in Ciputra World since it’s in my ‘hood.

3. Batik shopping. My love for Indonesian batik is infamous among my friends. I wear them everywhere, for any occasion. For cheap batik shopping, Ambasador and ITC malls in South Jakarta are the places-to-be. One of my secret shopping jaunts though is the Bellagio Mall. There is always a bazaar in the middle of Bellagio Mall with around 5 stalls selling batik from Solo, Yogyakarta and Bandung. It’s very near my office and apartment so I end up buying whenever I pass by (or whenever I can come up with reasons to do so!). Price ranges from Rp150k to Rp300k.

For the bold and the brave, Thamrin City is the best place to buy batik coming from all over Indonesia. Imagine 5 floors of batik shops! I always, always get lost whenever I go, but I never get tired of going. You can find batik fabrics, RTW, shoes, bags and handicrafts. There are 2 main caveats: beware of pickpockets and traffic is a b*tch. Better to park your car if you’re driving in Plaza Indonesia or just go take Uber or Blue Bird taxi.

4. The most underrated but most divine treatment: Crème bath. Crème bath is essentially a hot oil treatment, with a pleasant twist: the head and scalp massage lasts for an hour! For someone like me who loves a scalp massage more than any kind of spa treatment, this is my best stress reliever! Most salons would have this treatment, but my favorite spots are at Alfons in Lotte Shopping Mall or Hair Code at Epicentrum, Rasuna Said.

Jakarta also has a better blow styling method that is longer lasting. Whenever I have to go to a Sunday brunch, I head to the salon first to get my crème bath treatment and a blow-dry after.

Alfons Salon
+621-298890677
Hours : 10am – 10pm
Lotte Shopping Avenue
Jl. Prof Dr. Satrio Kav. 3 – 5, RT.18/RW.4, Karet Kuningan, Setiabudi, Jakarta Selatan, Daerah Khusus Ibukota Jakarta 12940
Hair Code Epicentrum 
+621-29889292
Hours: 10am – 10pm
Jl. Prof Dr. Satrio Kav. 3 – 5, RT.18/RW.4, Karet Kuningan, Setiabudi, Jakarta Selatan, Daerah Khusus Ibukota Jakarta 12940

 

5. Speaking of my most favorite thing: Sunday champagne brunch at Hotel Mulia. Back in 2011 when I was still single and bored with nothing much to do during the weekends (except for the top 4 above), my girlfriends and I made it a habit to have Sunday brunch together with free-flow wine and champagne.  Jakarta boasts of several hotels offering Sunday brunch, but I am most fond of the restaurants in Hotel Mulia, specifically, Il Mare.

First of all, the interior design of Hotel Mulia with its grandiose staircases makes me feel like a queen when I descend the stairs to go to the restaurant. Mulia has this old, elegant look that makes you feel like you’re an aristocrat of the olden days about to partake in a sumptuous feast of fresh oysters, lobster and champagne.

Oh yes, did I mention the fresh oysters already? What’s good about Il Mare is that the buffet spread is just enough in terms of size, but it doesn’t shortchange the customer. The buffet packs in a lot in terms of diversity in their offering – fresh seafood, sushi, sashimi, steak, pasta, grilled food, cheese and all the desserts you can think of.

I love the buffet brunches in Mulia, so much so that this deserves a separate blog entry!

Il Mare buffet with free-flowing wine and cocktails go for around Rp638,000.00++. Reservation is a must and when there are occasions such as Christmas or Chinese New Year, it’s always better to call a week ahead.

IL Mare, Mulia 
+621-5747777
Hours: 12pm – 2:30pm for brunch, 6pm – 10:30pm for dinner
Jl. Asia  Afrika, Senayan, RT.1/RW.3, Gelora, Kota Jakarta Pusat, Daerah Khusus Ibukota Jakarta 10270
This is my first Top 5 weekend hits in Jakarta. I will be posting more of my favorites soon. For now, it’s time for a lazy weekend.

What Christmas is like for a Pinoy Expat in Jakarta

3 days before Christmas: Work is still up to my ears here in Jakarta.  Whilst Manila is already on holiday mode, I’m in back-to-back meetings, with a Christmas tune in my head (Chestnuts roasting on an open fiiiiire…).

To be fair to Indonesia, it’s not all that bad. Luckily for the expats here, although Indonesia is a Moslem society, there is more religious tolerance compared to other more conservative countries.

christmas-tree_wmYes, people, we are allowed to celebrate Christmas here, in case you are wondering. Both my office and apartment buildings have towering Christmas trees.

I usually come back to Manila for the holidays, but this is the first time that I’ll be touching down in Manila exactly on the 24th, so I will be missing a lot of the Manila festivities.

How does it feel, apart from getting homesick? I had a few realizations and musings, between wrapping Christmas presents, rushing to meetings and daydreaming of chocolate batirol.

  1. You miss the pre-Christmas party lunches, dinners and reunions. For the friends and friends_wmex-colleagues who miss you, they either Photoshop your face on the group photos, or in my case, they made videos and placed my name on their group shots. The upside of missing out? Less calories to burn post-holiday season.
  1. You miss Simbang Gabi. Ergo, you miss all the other good stuff that come along with it: bibingka, puto bumbong, taho and that Christmas cool air that greets you when you go to church at 4am. There is this distinct Christmas air that you feel in our country that you won’t feel anywhere else. I know so, having been able to celebrate the holidays in other countries. It just feels…different.
  1. You create your own Christmas traditions with your circle of friends in your second city. As you cultivate friendships along the way and create your own inner circle, you get to create new Christmas traditions. In my case, it’s the annual Christmas champagne brunch where I get to exchange Christmas presents with my friends and one-on-one Christmas lunches with other colleagues before we all fly out to our home countries.
  1. When you finally, finally come back home to Manila for a very short holiday break, you get to appreciate all the little things that make Christmas such a huge deal: misa de gallo, hot chocolate and queso de bola for Noche Buena, the mess of ribbons and wrappers after opening the presents, little kids singing Christmas carols in the streets, the shopping rush at S&R a few days, or even a few hours, before Christmas – all of it. You miss all of it.
  1. In the end, though, your sense of gratitude for being an expat throttling between two cities heightens. I miss Manila and I will always miss it, but being an expat increased my gratitude for all the things that I experience and even the things that I miss out on. I get to miss my favorite things in Manila, but when it’s time to face the music again, I feel great that I can go back to the other favorite things that I became fond of here in Jakarta. Would you believe that I’ve been chowing down sambal and Indonesian food in the past few days because I’m gonna miss it when I come home to Manila? I guess I will carry this dichotomy for as long as I call these two cities my home, and truth be told, it sits with me just fine.

To all my fellow Jakartan expats, enjoy all the lechon, queso de bola and kakanin back home.

To everyone, may this season bring you and your families joy, faith, hope and love. Maligayang Pasko sa ating lahat!