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TRAVEL WATCH: AUGUST 23-30, 1999 VOL. 154 NO. 7/8

J A K A R T A   C I T Y   G U I D E
Fine Food and Fun in Jakarta




By SHIRLEY BRADY

    ALSO IN TIME


Hot Tip
Jakarta is a city of cultural contrasts, especially in its treasure trove of museums

Short Cuts
Hilton International has withdrawn from its namesake properties in Indonesia

Detour
Beat the heat in Jakarta by heading south

Web Crawling
Indonesia's official national tourism site is a worthwhile pit stop

Need to jumpstart your senses? Set aside a weekend for a whirl through Jakarta.

With the June elections safely concluded, the only thing you need worry about is the traffic. Plan ahead to avoid the crush of taxi drivers awaiting your arrival at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport: have your hotel send a car to meet you, or stop at the Blue Bird taxi counter in the arrivals terminal to arrange a dependable, English-speaking driver to take you to your hotel. If you're impressed, hire him for your stay, as Jakarta is a city you'll want to explore by car. Although downtown traffic jams are still a nuisance, taxis beat the city's frustrating public-transport system and sporadic sidewalks.

You'll find Jakartans hospitable and cheerful. Crime rates are low, parking attendants are ubiquitous and you'll be serenaded at most intersections by aspiring musicians strumming guitars in search of their big break--and some spare change, so keep a few coins on hand in case you like what you hear.

The Asian financial crisis and the plunging rupiah laid low dozens of restaurants, cafés and nightclubs over the past two years, but many more have opened to take their place. Jakarta's lively dining scene offers something to suit nearly every palate. The best chefs are usually found in the city's top hotels. Riva, a cozy and dimly lit spot at the Park Lane, features pan-Asian and European fare. Other five-star faves include Columbus at the Gran Melia for excellent Mediterranean cuisine, Margaux at the Shangri-La for French and Ambiente at the Aryaduta Hotel for Italian. Xin Hua at the Mandarin Oriental serves up spicy Sichuan specialties, and there's great dim sum at the Mulia Hotel's Samudra. Al Nafoura at Le Meridien is a recent addition to the culinary scene, as well as the only place to sample Lebanese dishes in Jakarta. Or cool off by dining al fresco--book a table poolside at the Regent or at the Dharmawangsa hotels. For local cuisine, check out Sriwidari at the Hilton and Bengawan Solo at the Sahid Jaya Hotel.

You'll need to venture beyond the hotels to get a true taste of Jakarta. If your appetite's big enough, you can virtually eat your way around Indonesia. The Oasis restaurant has long been a favorite for its rijsttaffel buffet of Indonesian delicacies served up in a Dutch colonial setting. Padang food from western Sumatra is a spicy choice for picky eaters, who can point and pay for dishes at Padang eateries like Nasi Kapau or Sari Ratu. Bawakaraeng in the Kemang area of south Jakarta serves the best Makassar specialties--such as mouth-watering beef satay--from southern Sulawesi, while Ikan Tude in central Jakarta features the fiery food of Manado to the north. Sundanese treats from West Java, like grilled chicken and fish with sambal chili paste, can be experienced at Dapur Sunda in south Jakarta or at Sari Kuring, located behind the Jakarta Stock Exchange, where cheap and cheerful local dishes are served in the Tenda Semanggi outdoor "tent cafés." After feasting, Jakartans love to ngopi (drink coffee) and chill out at cool salons like Twilite Café or Padi Padi in the Kemang district--home to Jakarta's hipsters--before stopping for dessert at Koi, ice cream at Kafe Pisa or a few games of pool at Klub 45.

You're not done yet, as Jakarta's nightlife is vibrant--and non-stop. A night on the town often kicks off with drinks at Lan Na Thai (where the northern Thai cuisine's to dine for, too) as a prelude to kicking up your heels by hitting the dancefloor at Tanamur, Salsa, D-Bar or De Laila, where pan-Asian dangdut music rocks the roost. After-hours' haunts like Mata Bar, Parkit and Zanzibar stay open until the wee hours. The Kota area in the northern part of the city features all-night clubbing in renovated Dutch ballrooms like Stadium and Atlanta. When the sun comes up, refuel with a shot of bubur ayam at Café Batavia, an old Dutch warehouse open night and day in the heart of Kota. Now you've got the Jakarta jive down cold.

Reporting by Jason Tedjasukmana/Jakarta

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