BY: JENNIFER CROSSON
In Jakarta, there are no shortage of restaurants to choose from and with the variety, you rarely have to travel far to find the cuisine of your choice. With traffic returning to close to pre-pandemic levels, I now carefully consider how long I am willing to sit in a car to travel for food. That said, in a span of one week, the restaurant Pantja came up in three separate conversations as a place to try. As such, I decided it had to be worth the car ride to the Senopati area of Jakarta. Nestled on a main thoroughfare, the three story structure was elegant and classy, yet still warm and inviting.
A friend who had recommended the restaurant to me described Pantja's cuisine as “new American.” Another friend declared that Pantja had the best burgers in town. Armed with that information, I was picturing a place that served mostly bar food (chicken wings, burgers, fries, etc.). While those dishes were available, they were definitely a bit more upscale than the casual American fare. There were also some twists to other classic dishes blending cultures and flavors.
Let’s start with the wagyu sliders. This dish was probably one of the best items on their menu. The beef was cooked perfectly to perfection, where it melted in my mouth, paired with shitake mushrooms and crispy fried onions with a spread of truffle aioli. What made it unique from the usual burger though was the bun. In place of brioche was a crispy biscuit like bread that was a bit sweet and was an excellent pairing to absorb the truffle aioli spread.
Known also for their handmade pastas, my fellow foodies and I tried their tortelli, which was butternut squash pasta mixed in a creamy sauce with pork tesa, mushrooms, and Swiss chards. The flavors mixed well with no one item overpowering another, and unlike some creamy sauces, did not leave the eater feeling heavy.
For some lighter accompanying fare, try the zucchini blossoms or brussel sprouts. The zucchini was fried into flower like clusters served on top of a ricotta and honey layer with a tomato chutney on the side that made me think of the beginning days of summer with its light sweetness. As someone who loves roasted brussel sprouts, I found the mix of apple, goat cheese, and basil to be a nice change from the usual garlic and olive oil often served at most restaurants.
Some other Asian classics like sushi, Thai salad, scallops with ginger soy sauce were also found on the menu, but the char siu bao was what won out in our Asian fare selection. For Chinese food purists, the char siu bao was not the typical BBQ pork in a steamed fluffy bun; instead, it was closer to a gua bao (pork belly buns), where the bun was lotus leaf shape, and it had a slice of marinated pork with slivers of scallions. Despite not being the traditional char siu bao that I had imagined, the presentation and flavor of these buns were still a tasty treat.
Finally, if you have lived in Jakarta for a while, you are probably familiar with the artisanal cookie company Dough Lab. Well, if you are a fan, then you should leave room for dessert. Pantja’s featured dessert was their Dough Lab pecan pie which contained a cookie pie crust reminiscent of their delectable cookies. Generously filled with toasted candied pecans, this warm treat topped with vanilla ice cream is a great selection for anyone looking for just a little something to cap off their meal. Pair it with their piccolo coffee for an even sweeter deal.
Address: Jl. Senopati No. 37, Senayan, Jakarta Selatan, 12190
30211 Avenida de las Banderas , Rancho Santa Margarita, California 92688