Dear fellow tasters,
Having some wonderful friends who just love to dine out and try out new culinary adventure can be considered a real blessing, especially for me, who literally ‘lives to eat’ *grin*. I happen to have those kind of friends, two of them from college, now a married couple, who often ask me to join them for lunch and dinner, and I rarely say no. There we were, pulling into the parking area for Lara Djonggrang — the name taken from a famous Javanese legend femme fatale, with exterior adorned by old stone carvings like you can find in Prambanan temple and willowy tree branches shading us from the intense Jakartan sun. Stepping inside, water lily ponds and other antique decoration welcomed us until we entered the cool dim-lighted dining area, a fusion of traditional Javanese style pillars and ceilings, ancient-looking paintings, and other ethnic artifacts and antiquities.
The menu booklet boasts a variety of traditional Indonesian cuisines, from different regions, islands and culture. Our order was two traditional rice menu, Balinese-style rice and Demak brongkos rice, Ponorogo chicken satay, and Balinese ‘tum ayam’. The traditional rice menu appeared on one plate with rice and another gigantic clay plate filled with smaller plates and bowls containing various food items. The first one, Balinese-style rice, is served with white rice shaped like Lara Djonggrang’s head and on the big plate was ‘bebek betutu’ (duck with Balinese betutu sauce), duck egg in some yellow coconut milk gravy, Balinese ‘sambal matah’ with sliced shallots and hot chilies, stir-fried ‘kangkung’ (water spinach) with anchovies, fried peanuts, some spicy seafood and squid side, and ‘kerupuk gendar’ (crackers made from rice, I think). The later, Demak brongkos rice, came with brown rice which tasted of some spices and on the other platter was a combination of chicken thigh and skewered beef on yellow coconut milk gravy, some vegetable (probably cassava leaves) on some yellow sauce, fried sambal chicken liver, yellow cabbage pickles, more peanuts, red chili sambal, and ‘rempeyek udang’ (fried battered shrimps). Both tasted quite appetizing, with great taste of Indonesian spices on most of the dishes and sides, not too spicy, but just enough to tingle our taste buds.
The other items that we ordered, satay and ‘tum ayam’ was not a disappointment. Ten skewers of Ponorogo chicken satay were served on hot burning charcoals, with seasoned and spiced up chicken chunks, accompanied by coconuty peanut sauce. The Balinese ‘tum ayam’ (steamed banana-leaf-wrapped minced chicken) had a delicate taste with just enough hints of spices. The three of us was grateful that we did not order more dishes because we were already feeling pretty satiated from the delicious lunch. What we ended up ordering was an ice dessert with ‘kolang-kaling’ (from some palm seed) and ‘cingcau’ (green grass jelly) sloshed in coconut milk and palm sugar. On the whole, it was a wonderful traditional culinary experience. Although according to my friend, the place looks kind of mystical, the ornamental antiques and ethnic decorations are a nice touch for a lunch or dinner, or even for a hangout and some drinks.
The taster’s notes:
Favorite dish – ‘tum ayam’ and Demak brongkos rice
What to order next time – try out other rice menu, different satay maybe
Food rating – 3 star
Price rating – $$
Ambiance rating – 3 star
Service rating – 2 star