Wed, 17 Dec 2003

Seeing red at the new stylish Melt

Broto Dharma, Contributor, Jakarta

The 9th floor of BRI II in Central Jakarta has been a road less traveled for this foodie since the celebrated Cappellini's closed its doors a few years back.

Remember that establishment, its groaning buffet spread and tight quarters every Saturday night as families piled in to feast on the assorted seafood, sushi and Italian treats? Despite close encounters of the unpleasant kind, with small children running all over the place with nannies in tow, the buffet was great value for money.

But it must have been quieter on other nights of the week; Cappellini's disappeared sometime during the crisis. And so it was that we looked for other culinary hunting grounds around the city.

Thankfully, there are now at least two reasons to make a return trip to the 9th floor once again.

One is Ganesha eks Sanskriti, a charming Indian restaurant, with good, attentive service and a great deal of a buffet on Sunday afternoons (free flow beer or soft drinks included in the price).

And the second find, brought to my attention by another confirmed foodie, is Melt, the classy restaurant and wine lounge occupying the other side of the floor (take a left as you get out of the elevator).

As soon as you enter the lounge area, one is enveloped by the stylish design of the place, its interior bathed in deep earth tones and reds, not that bordelloish garish hue, mind you, but one that is warm and welcoming. It's chic and young, but not so that you expect a group of ABGs to be chattering away.

Artistic elements all come together in the long, L-shaped room, from the lounge and bar area, the well-lit tables and chairs, to the well-appointed restrooms that would give Cafe Batavia a run for their money.

As my dining partner was already acquainted with the owners, I could not do my little incognito reviewer act, stealing off to a corner to sup on the tender vittles. Instead, I sat down for a meal with Simone Hahn who, with her husband, Andre, came up with the concept for Melt.

They are in the mold of young, dynamic restaurateurs -- Dian Purba of Cinnabar and Magnolia also comes to mind -- who have returned from stints abroad fresh with ideas and fully equipped to give jaded dinners what they are looking for.

A U.S. graduate in graphic design and also a self-confessed lover of good food, Simone has combined her two passions in the restaurant's culinary offerings and the sleek, attractive decor.

With an Australian chef on board, Simone offers a combination of Western and Asian cuisine, but she is quick to add that it's none of that "cultural confusion" that occurs in experimentation, where the end result becomes neither one nor the other but, basically, a mess (remember that shortlived Kemang eatery, now an auto showroom, that had four kiosks for different cuisines of the world, not one of them serving up a passable meal).

At Melt, from what I tasted, it comes together supremely well, such as the "Californian lost in the kampung sushi" -- a roll of spicy chicken, green onion, chili, avocado and mayonnaise (Rp 70,000), and a feast for the eyes with a little crest of fresh roe -- in which all of the various taste sensations complimented each other, and caramelized onion and cheese with crispy bread (Rp 32,000), a sinfully rich treat.

For the main course, we went with cuts of Kobe beef (Rp 300,000), another wicked departure from our various diets, but without a doubt (here come the superlatives) the most tender, scrumptious and, yes, melt in your mouth cut of steak I have ever tasted.

We were a small party of three, and we did not get to taste the other items on the menu, many of which sounded intriguing: appetizers such as very spicy potato fries, crunchy green mango salad, chicken pandan; "Cozmo lunches" of tofu, raw vegetables and humus, wrapped in mountain bread; Australian beef triple decker burger with fried egg, lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, beetroot and bacon; lobster sandwich with Japanese mayonnaise; various cuts of steak, gindara and chicken breast with rocket salad, pine nuts and lemon dressing, as well as assorted desserts for the sweet-toothed.

What is most impressive about Melt is the attention to the detail, from the young but professional waitpeople (I accidentally dropped my fork and another was at the ready in a flash), that distinctive decor, the great choice of titles on the menu (Some Like it Hot, for appetizers; Thrill of the Grill, etc).

Melt, still in its soft opening stage when we visited, promises a classy evening out on the town, whether you want a drink or a delicious meal, or a bit of both. So far, it's delivering.

BRI II, Center Park 9th Floor Jl. Jend. Sudirman Kav. 44-46 Central Jakarta Tel. 21-251-2732 Open 11 a.m. - 11 p.m. (Sunday - Thursday)

11 a.m. - 1 a.m. (Friday and Saturday)