In a city surrounded by blocks and building, it is hard to expect something that will trigger your curiosity. However, the sense of curiosity is woken due to visiting Lara Djonggrang. Housed in a nondescript commercial row on a busy street in Menteng, this ten-year-old restaurant looks eerie and secluded under its big banyan trees and red dominated facade.
Move closer and you’ll notice big statue at the sides of the door. Once inside, there are more indications this is not your typical industrial-themed restaurant that you always see on instagram. Every corner in this restaurant offers an interesting story or perhaps eerieness. Antiquities from Indonesia, Cambodia, Myanmar, China, the Middle East, and other exotic parts of the world are scattered beautifully.
The lamps, statues, chair, desk and others arranged carefully to make a harmony. Some of the columns to support this building are taken from a real temples. Ask the staff to take you a tour in the restaurant and they will gladly take you cruising. They also will explain the inspiration behind this restaurant.
Lara Djonggrang was taken from old Javanese folkore. It is the name of a warrior princess and her tragic life. Her father was killed by a prince named Bandung Bondowoso. After conquering the land, Bandung was captivated by Lara’s beauty and asked her to marry him (Lara’s father actually is a bad guy, but you know, you wont marry the guy who killed your father no matter how mean he is). Realizing that she cant refuse the offer directly, she requested the prince an impossible task which is to build no less than a thousand temples in one night for her.
Bandung of course accepted the challenge and used his magic to accomplish the task. However, right before completing the 1,000th temple, Lara staged a fake sunrise and Bondowoso lost his power. Bondowoso cant fulfill his promise and thus cant marry her. Furious of this deception, he cursed her and turned her into a stone to complete the temple. You can find her standing majestically in one of the room in this restaurant opposite with Bandung.
As the name suggest, Lara Djonggrang offers arrays of Indonesian food. Annete Anhar, the owner of Lara Djongrang, stated that she has mission “to put the Indonesian cuisine in world-class cuisine.” Each food crafted with high regards to the original recipe. Each food also served with beautiful packaging.
One of recommended dish is Pasar Nelayan (The Fishermen’s Market). It is an array of fresh catches of the day such as fish, shrimps, prawns, crabs, mussels are served on a mini canoe. For the spicy lover, the dish also served with variant of sambal such as sambal rawit, sambal bajak, or sambal terasi. For those wo cant eat seafood, try their satays or Aromatic Rujak Soto Banyuwangi.
And if you are the kind of go big or go home, try their extravagant Tugu Dom Dining which inspired by the royal journeys through the regions during the times of the King Hayam Wuruk, who held the reign of the Kingdom of Majapahit at the beginning of the 14th century. Hayam Wuruk’s journey can be found in Nagarakertagama.
Annette said that the team from Lara Djongrang traveled to the city mentioned in the book and create the menu based on the findings. And not only the food is spectacular, the serving of the food is also spectacular with royal treatment. If you are full, don’t forget to chill in The LA Bihzad Bar sipping wine or sangria. Surprisingly for the price, though looks extravagant, Lara Djongrang offers a very reasonable price with its quality.
Imperial Indonesian Cuisine
Jl. Teuku Cik Di Tiro No.4, Jakarta Pusat
Text: Tatu Hutami
Photo: Anies Wildani.