Jakarta’s Japanese Restaurant Santouka Revs Up the Ramen
You know you are in close proximity to Santouka when you catch a whiff of the broth that made this Japanese ramen franchise internationally loved.
The restaurant opened on the fifth floor of Jakarta’s Plaza Indonesia in mid-June and has already earned a loyal following that owner Albert Wijaya says is growing steadily.
Inside Santouka earthy hues dominate the minimalist and modern decor. By no means large, the restaurant can seat up to 44 people, making it an intimate and relaxed affair.
We visited on a Wednesday afternoon and the restaurant was quiet, but that didn’t stop the waitresses from overlooking us for a few moments. They eventually spotted us and led us to a comfortable brown sofa.
Though the jazzy music that played in the background was not exactly Japanese, it helped create a relaxing ambience that is hard to find in big, bad Jakarta.
We took our seats and wasted little time ordering. I had heard plenty of good things about the food here and was dying to taste it for myself and find out what all the buzz was about. Our four appetizers appeared on the table in no time and I immediately dug into the tori karage, fried chicken cutlets. They were tender on the inside, crispy on the outside and downright delicious. The juice from a squeezed lemon gave the cutlet a delightful kick and the dish reached what I would consider perfection when dipped into mayonnaise.
Chawanmushi, an egg custard dish, and the pork gyoza were equally appetizing. But the one appetizer that should not be missed is aburi char siu. For Rp 45,000 you get four slices of roasted pork belly beautifully presented on a charming ceramic plate containing a candle.
And then it was on to the main attraction, the ramen. I dove straight into the shoyu ramen and quickly came up for air. It was disappointingly commonplace. There was nothing special about the dish, and the one big slice of chewy pork that accompanied the noodles did not help.
Since the highly praised pork cheek ramen has been out of stock for two weeks, I tried the char siu shio ramen, another frequently recommended dish. The diced spring onions gave it a refreshing crispy texture and the five slices of pork belly tied the dish together nicely, making it very enjoyable.
However, the kara miso ramen proved to be the most delicious ramen, although the spicy hot red broth could easily intimidate the faint of heart.
As the soup from the kara miso ramen spilled into my mouth, an explosion of spices overwhelmed my taste buds and left me secretly pleased that I did not have to immediately reach for a cold glass of water.
“I wanted to uphold the high Japanese standard by having the kitchen equipment and a lot of the ingredients imported directly from Japan,” Albert said. “We really wanted to give our customers a strong taste of Japan in a modern way.”
As a result of that attention to detail, the dishes at Santouka are quite pricey, though the quality definitely matches the price.
“Our family loves food. We tried a lot of Japanese ramen but I think Santouka Hokkaido Ramen is the best in the world,” Albert said.
Although I have to disagree, as someone who does not consider pork to be her cup of tea, I would definitely come back again and again for Santouka’s delectable appetizers and any dish containing the heavenly char siu. After draining my last cup of water and paying the bill, I walked away with a smile on my face, happily filled if a little lighter in the pocket.
Santouka Hokkaido Ramen
Plaza Indonesia, 5th FloorJl. MH ThamrinCentral JakartaTel. 021 2992 3832