Sun, 16 Mar 2003

New taverna in Cilandak just the place to forget worldly woes

Now that we're waiting for planeloads of extremely hard organic fertilizer to hit the fan over in the Middle East again, and all sorts of smart bombs to prove just how incredibly un- smart they really are, what better recourse for your average, bewildered punter than to find a nice, cozy pub and take refuge in copious quantities of the demon drink.

And where better to hunker down bottle in hand than the sort of salubrious rendezvous that's pretty much guaranteed to whisk you away from the travails of life here in the big smoke, daily demonstrations demanding all manner of nonsensical things, and possible attacks by the brethren in white coats.

A watering hole that can transport you Captain Kirk-like through time and space, and deposit you somewhere mild and melodic, where you can almost hear gentle Mediterranean waves lapping against a white, sandy shore, and an ancient, whitewashed village sits gleaming in the sun atop the steep, nearby hill.

OK, I must admit I'm writing this with a half-empty carafe of retsina sitting amicably in front of me, and everything has just recently started to take on a warm, rosy glow.

Where am I? Well, not the Med, that's for sure, but happily ensconced in a pretty nifty recreation of a Greek taverna in the new Cilandak Town Square center out in the wilds of dreariest, most-congested South Jakarta.

Calling itself Mykonos Taverna, this new hostelry has only been open since the end of January, but going by what I saw on the very wet and miserable afternoon of my visit, when a glass or six of warming retsina was just what the doctor ordered, it should be around for a very long time to come.

Not surprising really, as the patron, Mr. Marinos Kokotovis (he's as Greek as Telly Savalas) has been in the taverna business since time out of mind over in Bali. So, you can take it for granted that these guys know what they're doing.

Named after Mykonos island, one of Greece's sun-drenched and fragrant Cyclades, and the place from where Marinos originally hails, this little piece of the Med miraculously transported to Jakarta attempts to capture the atmosphere and ambience of a traditional taverna.

Not an easy feat to pull off, mind you, especially as it finds itself deposited slam-bang in the middle of the flashy, must-yak- on-my-mobile-ad-nauseum Cilandak Town Square, and is cursed with a view not out over a turquoise cove, but rather an ever-chaotic, congested parking lot -- all in marked contrast to its Balinese elder sister, which actually is located along the street in true roadside-taverna style.

But, whinging is not a practice I hold with (Give us a break! -- Ed), and seeing that Mykonos Taverna has just about everything a proper taverna should have -- good booze, good food and friendly, homely service -- I think I'll overlook the fact that the massive plate glass windows out front could give sensitive souls the impression that they've somehow become encased in a glorified aquarium.

Look the other way, young man! Ah yes, that's better. With the wall opposite the glass front representing the mock facades of a couple of traditional village houses, window shutters and all, and the whole ensemble suitably decked out in blue and white, those signature hues of the Greek islands, there's quite a lot to interest the punter if he happens to find himself whiling away an hour or two on his own.

Provided, of course, he can drag his eyes away from the goings-on out in the parking lot, which, truth-to-tell, can often be quite stimulating if, like me, you're into ogling short- skirted ladies loading groceries into the trunks of their cars.

Yes, indeed, this retsina stuff sure does have some strange effects!

But if Greek plonk doesn't tickle your fancy, don't despair, there's heaps of other booze to wet your whistle with.

An ice-cold glass of local draft is going for Rp 15,000 while small bottles of Corona, Heineken or Carlsberg will all set you back Rp 25,000. As for the hard stuff, a hit of Black Label is a reasonable Rp 35,000, while, mysteriously, a Red Label is only Rp 2,000 cheaper at Rp 35,000.

If you're a regular victim of the munchies, you've come to the right place. For like any taverna worthy of the name, Mykonos goes all out when it comes to the nosh, serving up a host of delicious treats from the old country.

To help the retsina along, I decided to order what turned out to be a tip-top beef moussaka, a tasty combo of egg plant, potato, ground beef, bechamel and cheese sauce all baked to perfection in the oven -- absolutely delicious!

So there you have it -- Mykonos Taverna, a great place to relax and hang out. Grab yourself a bite to eat, order a carafe of retsina, and spend the afternoon or evening watching the world go by. The Mediterranean peoples are well-known to be masters at the art of relaxation and taking it easy. Perhaps this is something that the rest of the world might do well to look into before the balloon finally goes up.

Mykonos Taverna, Town Square, Ground Floor, Jl. TB Simatupang Kav 17, Cilandak Barat, South Jakarta 12430 (you can call them on 759-20271. Hours: 10:30 a.m.-12 midnight, 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. Credit cards not accepted at the time of the Post's visit due to problems with the swipe machine. All prices quoted above exclusive of 10 percent tax and 5 percent service charge. Bill Blade