First and foremost, Barong Bar is a gastro bar. You don’t get much of that in Jakarta nowadays especially places that carry both quality food and drinks. The atmosphere is leaning towards the masculine side, with dimly lit lighting and accentuated by dark wood colours. You’ll feel as if you’re in an upscale business club in London rather than in Jakarta. With that said, Barong Bar does offer a number of food items within a single-page menu and an even more extensive drinks list complete with their signature cocktails and all-time favourites.
If you’re looking for gut-busting meals that will fill you the brim, Barong Bar may not be the place for you. However, if you’re looking to munch on a variety of small plates while at the same time enjoying a few glasses of the most delicious cocktails in Jakarta, then you’re in the right place.
Getting down to business, we first ordered cocktails in the form of the Clover Club and their version of whiskey sour. You can see the bartenders in action behind counter and it’s apparent that these guys know how to make a good drink –they even create their own bitters. This is evident upon the first sip of the whiskey sour. It was chilled to perfection with the right amount of sourness and sweetness. More importantly, it doesn’t taste bland like many other places that try to create whiskey sour. Every gulp is as exciting as the first and that’s something not easily done. Our second drink –the Clover Club- is a mix of gin, raspberry, lemon, and egg whites. As with the whiskey sour, this cocktail tasted delicious. The taste of the gin is not overpowered by the raspberry or lemon and therefore creates a double dose of freshness. It makes for a great after-dinner drink because it is a tad on the sweet side.
After having enough time to enjoy our drinks, the attendant brought out two of the first food items we ordered: the seaweed cracker and wagyu beef sliders. The seaweed cracker has the appearance of a small stick adorned by bits and pieces of cured salmon, yellow fin tuna, avocado, and togarashi. It’s served on a short and chubby glass where the bottom is filled with Barong Bar’s version of Japanese mayo. If that sounds like a mouthful, the crackers themselves aren’t. It’s a delightfully light dish that’s rich in umami flavours pushed through by the seaweed cracker and mayo.
On the other side of table, the wagyu beef sliders were waiting for us to take a bite. On paper, the miniature burgers pack a big punch in a small package with sweet onion, winter truffles, and glazed bone marrow. It’s tasty for sure, but with an ingredient list such as that, you’d expect something that will blow minds. Alas the end result was a slight raise of the eyebrow and affirmation that it’s a good dish.
Having been impressed enough by the first two dishes, we were hotly anticipating the arrival of the next round that includes The Cigar and the soft shell crab. And as luck would have it, these dishes were amazing. For The Cigar, they’ve gone through great lengths to solidify the BBQ sauce into a sheet that’s paper-thin, in which afterwards they wrap the beef short ribs, hence creating a cigar-like appearance. What amazed me most about this dish was the texture. The BBQ sauce “leather” –as they call it, adds crunchiness that complements the moist meat inside the wrapping. The black sesame crumbs served on the side only adds to the enjoyment as it gives graininess to each bite.
We had the initiative to try the soft shell crab last and it turned out to be the correct decision because it was the perfect way to end our meal. The crab was inserted into a miniature fried mantau (Chinese bun) and glazed with pickled curi and kimchi mayo. Because of the crustacean’s long legs, you’ll most likely only taste crab within the first bite leaving the rest of the crab safely in the clutches of the friend mantau. This is where things escalate to amazing territory because the mantau is ridiculously good. Coupled with the crab and its garnishes, you have an explosion of flavours in your mouth.
At the end of the meal we felt a bit cheeky and ordered a lychee martini –the best in town we reckon- and a custom elderflower cocktail that utilises gin. The food was great and it didn’t leave us feeling like complete gluttons. As there were only two of us present, the ideal situation would be to come to Barong Bar with a group of friends so you can sample more dishes. You might have to be in a splurging mood when visiting Barong Bar, but this place is a rare case where the price justifies the entire experience. (HARIO PRIAMBODHO)
Jl. Asia Afrika No. 8
T: 021 2970 3333
Rp.500,000 for two
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