James and I had a nice time the other night. We first stopped by a great Chinese seafood restaurant that our friends really enjoy, and had all sorts of steamed fish and wok-fried vegetables and tasty tofu and the like. Our friends are observant Catholics and decided to lay off the chicken that we ordered, but that just meant more for us. James was funny, though. He has spent a bunch of time travelling throughout China, from Kashgar to Harbin to Guangzhou, so he’s familiar with Chinese food. He claimed that the food was delicious and very authentic, but he was simply amazed that there was absolutely no pork or ham available. I told him that this is normal in Indonesia, where almost every restaurant is halal so that it can attract business. There’s a similar phenomenon on NYC and Philadelphia of kosher Chinese restaurants, but in Indonesia you’d have to really search to find a non-halal restaurant. JM and I, on our travels throughout Java and frequent attendance of nice restaurants, never saw pork. The only exception was Bali, but that makes sense because it’s a Hindu island.
After dinner at that restaurant, we headed to a fancy Belgian-run restaurant for dessert. It was also quite good, although the clientele was entirely ethnic Chinese and Western. I had a chocolate tart with basil ice cream, which was surprisingly delicious. Yes, you read that right, basil.
We capped off the night with a drink in a bar in the leafy, prosperous neighborhood of Menteng, which is where the Freedom Institute is. This place was excellent as well. I had a drink that essentially boiled down to a Mint Julep accented with crushed watermelon and lime juice. Very tasty. This restaurant, named Loro Jonggrang for character on display at the Hindu temple of Prambanan in Central Java, featured cultural artifacts from throughout Java and Bali. It was nice enough that we asked and received a tour, checking out very nice pictures and carvings. The place even included a Sukarno room, a tribute to Indonesia’s first President.
My project for the next week is to get as much new Indonesian music as possible. One of our friends is really tapped into the Indonesian arts community, enough that she knows all the new jazz/fusion groups such as Krakatau (whom JM and I have seen live) and played a traditional flute with a jazz group at the recent Java Jazz Festival. I’ve asked for her recommendations for the best modern Indonesian pop, rock, and jazz. JM and I are only really familiar with Peterpan and Sheila on 7. Other bands we’ve heard are good include Slank, Dewa, and Iwan Fals. I’ll keep you posted with the results of my search.