Bali and Lombok Culinary Spices Journey

11:37 PM

Living in Indonesia with so much diversity in every life aspect means you can learn something new every day. Starting from the languages, cultures, plants, religions, spiritual habit but most of all is foods. One day will never be enough to look or try all of it. I mean you cannot possibly explore all of them since the diversity is literally spread all over the country. So when I heard about an event in one restaurant, saying that you can try some of Indonesian food in one place, you know exactly what I’m going to say.

Hotel Indonesia is one of the oldest and probably best known hotel in Indonesia. The hotel was opened on 5th of August 1962 and declared as one of national heritage by local government in 29th of March 1993. Hotel Indonesia went through a major renovation around 2004. By 20th of May 2009, they reopened under the name of Hotel Indonesia Kempinski. Speaking of a great hotel, it would never be complete without a great all day dining restaurant. And near the hotel main lobby, there is Signature Restaurant. One of the best all day dining restaurant that I ever been to.
The interior itself has this modern with a classic feeling twist. I love the ambiance that the dining room brings. The dining room divided into two big main areas, indoor and outdoor seating. The indoor seating area divided again into beautiful-bright area surrounded by glass and mini pond, also luxurious-gloomy area with famous portrait everywhere. Meanwhile the outdoor seating area has this garden area that brings a calm and serene feeling.

The cost of their buffet menu is Rp.265,000++/pax for weekday lunch, and Rp.360,000++/pax for weekend brunch, and all week dinner Rp.285,000++/pax. Even though it looks expensive, I personally thought it was worth every penny. The buffet menu has a wide selection of dishes, starting from the West to the East and also Asian cuisines. Some of the menu was something that I’m not familiar with but I always love to try something new.

Like this polenta cake who looks good and yummy. Polenta is a dish made by boiling cornmeal into a thick, solidified porridge and then baked/fried/grilled. I was excited to try this, since there are lots of polenta cake recipe that I have found but turned out it taste weird and sadly I don’t like it.

Oh by the way, I also tried the famous Bubur Hotel Indonesia. Rumor said that this is the best porridge in town and many people across the globe have tried and love it. Sadly since I’m not a big fan of porridge, I can’t really tell how good it was.

On early August until early September, Signatures Restaurant at Hotel Indonesia Kempinski was having a big event. They were having an Indonesian food promotion, where you can find foods from five foodie islands in five weeks period only at the Signatures Restaurant. This promotion was held as a celebration of 70th anniversary of Indonesia’s Independence Day and also the hotel’s 53rd birthday. Bringing the ‘culinary delights with origins spanning the archipelago’ theme, they sure caught my attention instantly.

This Indonesia food promotion show authentic dishes created with the expertise of the hotel’s chefs for this celebration. The chefs guide diners on a culinary journey through the cuisines of forest, land and sea in an epic feast. On their event press release, General Manager Alex Pichel said that we must not forget that Indonesia is made up of thousands of islands with its own unique culture. Moreover he also said that the islands also celebrated unique culinary traditions influenced by the spices and other ingredients only found on those islands which bring us to a very distinctive cuisine. “And this is what we are celebrating” he added.

The event was held from 5th August to 8th September with five different food themes for five weeks. And each week, Hotel Indonesia Kempinski flew special chef s from those islands so we can taste the authentic food straight from the real chef. There were Sumatra, Java, Bali-Lombok, Kalimantan and last but not least Sulawesi and Maluku food for each week. I signed myself for the Bali-Lombok dishes on third week and still not get over it yet up until now.

I don’t exactly remember the entire dishes that were presented that day, but one of my favorite dishes was this beautiful fish dish which sadly I forgot the name of.

It was a shredded pan fried fish sautéed with garlic, chili and other herbs. I’m sold to this one. At first I thought it would be another fish dish with a mediocre taste. Turns out it was delicious with the perfect level of spiciness and not too oily as it looks. I tasted unusual herbs taste from this dish and made me curious about it.
There are lots of other great foods too that day. I remember eating the chicken satay and literally shocked because it was too good to be true. The spice mixed with the chicken meat was different than the regular chicken satay that I eat here in Jakarta.

The vegetable dishes also hard to forget. I fall in love with the Plecing Kangkung (morning glory salad with chili paste) and the Srombotan (boiled mixed vegetable with spicy sauce). And again, I found unusual herb taste from those dishes.

During my visit, I noticed that the foods which come either from Bali or Lombok are rather spicy, oily and dry. By ‘dry’ I mean they don’t have much food with soups like ‘gulai’ from Sumatra or ‘soto’ from Java. I also realized that in most of their food they use some herbs that I never taste before. From my conversation with Chef Rudi (sous chef for that week), I found out what the mysterious herb is.

“Bali and Lombok dishes mainly use a special herb for their dish. I don’t know what exactly it is called, but Bali/Lombok people called it ‘kemenyan’. Other than that, they use regular herbs to be mixed with” said Chef Rudi. No, it was not that kind of ‘kemenyan’. From what Chef Rudi explains, this ‘kemenyan’ has strong but mild taste and scent that made the Bali-Lombok dish so unique. As he explain this, my mind was imagining how the ‘kemenyan’ would look like. I tried to find the picture of the herb but not sure about it, so I won’t post it here. If you happen to know how ‘kemenyan’ look like, please let me know. I’m really curious about this.

Since most of restaurant nowadays providing international food, eating at Signature Restaurant at Hotel Indonesia Kempinski in an event like this made me happy. Not because the yummy taste and great food selection but the fact that they support Indonesian dishes is something big to me. From what I saw, Indonesian people tend to pretend to be something they’re not these days, especially the young generations. I always saw they choose to be like ‘bule’ rather than to embrace who they really are. I don’t hate international lifestyle or culture at all, I like it too since it made me grow and grow every day.

But you can’t put your own culture aside.

This is the cultures that made us a great country. This is the cultures that make other people travel the world to see it by their own eyes. These are the cultures that made us who we are today. I hope in the future there will be more event like this. An event that embrace the broad diversity of Indonesian cultures. An event that we all need, to learn and to celebrate the cultures that we have. An event that we should do more often before blaming other country for ‘stealing’ our culture.

And for that, cheers to Signatures Restaurant at Hotel Indonesia Kempinski. Thank you for reminding me about how awesome Indonesia is. May you have a wonderful and prosper year ahead.


Signatures Restaurant
Hotel Indonesia Kempinski
Jl. MH Thamrin no 1
Thamrin, Jakarta

Food          : 4/5
Ambiance  : 4/5
Price          : 4/5
Service      : 4/5

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