Fri, 18 Aug 2000

Archipelago food promo at the Peninsula

By Grace Segran

JAKARTA (JP): From Aug. 14 until the end of the month, the Menara Peninsula will be running a food promotion featuring cuisines from around the Indonesian archipelago at its Kafe Coleman.

Kafe Coleman Wintolo executive chef Suparto and food and beverage manager Stephane Servin were on hand to see that the promotion was running smoothly.

"The concept of the promotion is to showcase the different ethnic cuisines of Indonesia," said Suparto. "Each day the spotlight will be on a cuisine from a particular region."

Indeed, the day we were there, there was Javanese, Madura and Surabaya food with a special emphasis on Balinese cuisine.

"The Indonesia archipelago has so many different cuisines," said Servin, "that to promote food from each ethnic group would easily take an entire year."

According to Servin, there is even variety for any one dish. Take soto, for example. In Madura, the soto is different from the soto in Betawi. The gudeg in Yogja is different from the gudeg you would find when you drive 50 kilometers out of Yogja.

Moving quietly among the lunch-time crowd to serve or to clear tables are staff dressed in traditional costume. Like the dishes, the traditional costumes are representative of different parts of the archipelago.

Pak Iwan, the duty manager, was dressed in a Sundanese outfit. He wore a close-fitting headgear called the bendo that matches the design of the dodot made of batik lereng tied around his waist and hips. He looked elegant in his Sunda beskap, which is a white long-sleeved jacket with a Nehru collar, and black pants.

Another member of the staff was dressed in traditional Betawi costume. He had on his head a peci -- an upright, oval black velvet cap. The white top called a baju koko had discreet embroidery on the front panel. He wore the typical betawi checkered sarong over black trousers.

With Independence Day just round the corner, we thought the archipelago food promotion was most timely.

The spread was impressive, taking up two of four chambers of the large dining room. There was a salad bar with three different types of dressing; 10 types of appetizers; a soup tureen; seven main warm courses with rice or potatoes; carvings of roast beef striploin; a stall preparing dishes; a nasi station and more than 10 cold and warm desserts.

While the cafe was promoting ethnic Indonesian food, it also served such popular items as smoked salmon, sushi and sashimi, and roast beef.

We started with the comoh, a Balinese crabmeat soup. The consomme was a winner at our table. It was very peppery with fine bits of shell among the crabmeat, verifying that it was authentic crabmeat and not the imitation stuff found in many outlets these days. The soup had a lovely subtle crustacean flavor.

The satay lilit, a traditional dish from Bali, was made from minced beef formed around a stalk of lemon grass and grilled over charcoal. "The minced beef was marinated in spices such as turmeric and chili," said Suparto, "and the lemon grass on which the satay is grilled emanates its flavor to the meat."

Soto ayam Madura was prepared at the stall when ordered. Besides the usual ingredients of shredded chicken, vermicilli, cabbage and the usual condiments, it also had cubes of chicken liver.

An interesting dish was the ayam bertutu, which also comes from Bali. "The chicken is marinated with turmeric, ginger, galangal and chili. Then it is wrapped in banana leaves and baked in the oven together with cassava leaves for about 45 minutes to an hour," said Servin. It is then cut up into bite-size pieces and served. The result was delectable and tender chicken.

"There are many ways of serving rice in Indonesia," said Servin. "There is nasi liwet, nasi gudeg, nasi Padang, to name a few."

Today was nasi rawon komplit. It consists of plain steamed rice served with beef stew, salted eggs, fried beancurd, tempeh, cucumber, basil, mung beans and chili sauce. Nasi rawon is commonly eaten in Surabaya. The beef stew was made with a local nut called buah keluak and it is this nut which gives it its distinct black color. While the stew may look "strong" because of its dark color, it was pleasantly mild in taste.

For dessert, the warm Javanese biji salak was particularly good. It consisted of sticky rice balls in palm sugar and coconut milk. Or there was the ubiquitous pisang goreng, which was prepared on the spot. Unlike the banana fritters we find at pisgor (short for pisang goreng) warungs all over the archipelago, which are eaten plain, we could have ours with toppings such as sugar, chocolate, etc.

We had an enjoyable lunch getting to know the different Indonesian cuisines. At Rp 50,000 ++, the archipelago food promotion was a steal.