Tue, 30 Aug 1994

White sand, good food and Phil Collins

JAKARTA (JP): Picture this. You're having a seafood barbecue and a few drinks with friends in beach-like surroundings while watching Phil Collins in concert.

That's the atmosphere that Pasir Putih grill and bar tries to recreate in the heart of the Kemang neighborhood in South Jakarta. Good food, friendly and somewhat neighborly surroundings and good, slightly loud, music.

The one vital missing element is the sea breeze, but at least you're spared from having to struggle through the traffic to get to Ancol to find the atmosphere you're looking for.

This particular eatery in Kemang is advertised as located on Jl. Bangka XI No. 1, but it is actually facing the main road of Jl. Bangka I. The huge parking space in front of the house was filled when we got there, but we managed to squeeze in somehow, thanks to the parking men.

The decor of Pasir Putih, which literally means white sands, is all beachy.

Colorful surfboards hang on one wall, and on the other a long aquarium serves as a partition between the dining room and kitchen, allowing patrons to absorb the collection of tropical fish and at the same time take a peek at the way food is being prepared, or check if the kitchen's hygiene is up to expectation.

There is a long bar on the left side of the dining room and two tall round tables with stools for those who come to drink and enjoy the music.

A narrow path in the flooring is filled with white sand and sea shells, just in case anyone wonders where they got the name Pasir Putih from.

At the far end of the restaurant there is a stage for a live band and a huge screen where laser discs of music concerts is projected. During our visit there, we chanced both Phil Collins and a live six-piece local rock band which was quite entertaining. If you think you're up to it, you can even go onto the stage and sing one or two songs yourselves, but be sure not to drive customers away!

Fish market

In the front there is the mini fish market, where you can select from a range of fish and shellfish as if you're in a fishmonger's. They're kept fresh with ice cubes, but I guess they are as fresh as you can expect in the Kemang area at any particular time.

As grill is its speciality, the restaurant also has a range of red meat should anyone who doesn't go for seafood dine there. Those who don't go for the grill can choose from the selection of the chef's wok.

On the night we went there, we dispensed with the ritual of reserving a table beforehand. After all, could a restaurant that was still having its advertised "soft opening" be full?. We were almost proven wrong, and it was a good job that there was only the two of us as ours was the only spare table they had when we arrived just before nine o'clock.

The service was quite fast as we were given the menu immediately after we were seated. It became slightly confusing later on when different waiters/waitresses came to attend to our needs.

Entree-wise, we decided to go our separate ways. I went for crab corn soup while my companion went for shark fin. For the main course, we opted for the grilled kakap, which we picked ourselves from the fish market. For vegetables we decided on Cai Sim Prawn -- Chinese cabbage with cuts of shrimp cooked in soya sauce and Chinese wine.

The soups were quite satisfactory although I had expected the shark fin to be a little bit thicker. My companion noted that the chef had put a little too much pepper in the crab soup.

The kakap was excellent, although one could hardly fail in grilling fresh fish on charcoal. It was grilled to perfection, neither under nor over done.

We had a choice of different sauces, but since had opted for the Indonesian kakap, we went for the ginger flavored soya sauce and the chili sauce. Both were served on sea shells.

Every order from the fish market comes with rice. Two tiny bowls of rice were delivered to our table, almost too small for a big eater like me, but understandably this restaurants caters for expats who prefer small portions of rice.

We washed down the meal with fruit juice, mine was lime juice while hers was orange juice. For afters, I went for a cup of cappuccino and my companion settled for a plate of assorted fruit -- papaya, pineapple and water melon.

All this we enjoyed while enjoying a selection of music, first on the huge screen, later from the six-piece band. A little noisy but quite entertaining.

We did have our misgivings about the "soft opening" status earlier, but we found little to complaint about, and there was no scaffolding or construction work which we had feared might still be in evidence.

When the restaurant's friendly PR came to our table after our meal to check that everything was okay, we asked how different it would be once the restaurant has its full opening.

"The service gets better," he responded.

We later found another benefit of the "soft opening" when we discovered that we were entitled to a 20 percent discount.

Our total bill of Rp 50,237 certainly was worth it.

-- Hijitus