Jakarta’s foodies are spoiled for choices. The city offers a wide variety of unique and exciting dishes from all across Indonesia and around the globe.
“The restaurant business has grown rapidly in Jakarta in the past three years,” said Fransisca Tjong, co-owner and director of Pancious Group. “Many new restaurants are opened each month. And they always offer something new and unique to the customers.”
But the foodies in the city are far from being satisfied. Their passion for food drives them to keep finding and trying new cuisines. Restaurateurs have to strive for something new and authentic to grab the growing market.
“Dining out has become an important lifestyle these days,” Fransisca said. “Restaurants have become a place to meet and hang out with friends and colleagues.”
Fransisca, together with her siblings and cousin, operate the Pancious Pancake House in Jakarta, which has branches in eight of the city’s high-end malls.
Most recently, to answer the growing needs of food lovers in the city, Fransisca recently opened Xi Men Ding in Senayan City, Jakarta.
“Senayan City is one of the most crowded malls in Jakarta,” she said. “It has an upscale market segment. We want to grab this opportunity for our new restaurant.”
Xi Men Ding is an international franchise restaurant based in Singapore. It is a merger between two culinary giants in Singapore: Creative Eateries, an independent food and beverage group with more than 18 years of culinary experience, and Ching Yeh, a successful Taiwanese restaurant in Singapore.
Fransisca hopes the new restaurant will receive a warm welcome from Taiwanese food enthusiasts.
“We’re the first full Taiwanese restaurant in the city,” Fransisca said. “It’s generally something very new for our people. But those who have studied and worked in Taiwan have been looking for this cuisine for quite some time. They’re very happy to finally have us here in Jakarta.”
The menu boasts an exciting array of noodles, seafood, tofu, poultry and meat cooked a la minute by the chefs.
An appetizer, named The Lion Head Signature Meatball, started our media luncheon. Served in a rectangular bowl, the dish consists of a huge chicken meatball sitting in a clear vegetable stew. Shavings of carrots, leeks and cabbages are neatly piled on the meatball’s head.
“The name derives from the shape of the meatball, which resembles a lion’s head, and vegetable shavings that resemble his mane,” Fransisca said. “The dish symbolizes prosperity, as lions are considered to be the king of animals in Chinese traditions.”
The dish is a beautiful combination of tastes and textures.
The meatball was tender and juicy. Upon biting, the minced meat crumbled in my mouth, filling it with rich savory flavors. The soup was thick and tasted rather sweet.
Another favorite appetizer is deep-fried oysters. The fresh oysters were breaded and cooked at very high temperature. As the result, the oysters are crispy on the outside, yet tender and succulent on the inside. To make it more delectable, you can try dipping the oysters in the powdered seasonings and chili oil that accompany the dish.
For the main course, definitely try the signature San Bei chicken. The luscious caramelized chicken looked alluring, even though it was served in a blackened pan. The dish emitted a sweet-smelling aroma that aroused our appetites.
“The chicken has been marinated in three equal measures of ingredients, which are soy sauce, sesame oil and Taiwanese rice wine for an hour,” Fransisca said. “It’s then cooked with high-temperature fire in the pan, in which we also serve it to the guests. That’s how the dish retains all its aroma and flavors.”
The chicken was very moist and tender. Each bite sent flavorsome juices to our taste buds.
Diners should also try the Taiwanese spicy braised beef noodles.
The appearance of the dish belies its delicacy. Served in an oversized oblong bowl, the noodles are inundated in black soup and partly hidden under large chunks of beef and vegetables. But once you quell your hesitation and dip into the bowl, you will be in for a culinary adventure.
“It’s one of the most popular dishes in Taiwan,” Fransisca said. “Yet it takes many hours to prepare it properly.”
The black broth is obtained by simmering beef ribs in a concoction of herbs and spices for a couple of hours. When the broth has achieved its dark color and delectable aroma, the noodles will be braised in it, together the radish, carrots and bok choi vegetables.
The result is a hearty dish, which is both delightful and comforting.
The restaurant also serves the famous Taiwanese iced bubble teas. The guests’ favorite lychee green tea has a clean taste that refreshes the palates after a heavy meal. Its pearly bubbles pop in the mouth and release trails of sugary syrup.
Xi Men Ding
Senayan City Level 4 Unit 80Jalan Asia Afrika Lot 19South Jakarta
Tel. 021 7278 1386
Average price per person for one full meal is between Rp 80,000 – Rp 150,000.