My lips are numb and tears are running down my burning cheeks. I can’t help it. I’ve belatedly discovered I’m a chilli wimp. My fellow travellers haven’t even worked up a sweat. We’re having lunch at one of Jakarta’s best traditional eateries, MjS at 11 Setiabudi Tengah Street.
Mbah Jingrak Setiabudi is open every day from 11am-11pm and there’s no quiet time to go. It’s always busy. Diners choose a plethora of dishes from the never-ending buffet. Most choose to eat in the courtyard out the back which has a long, shallow tiled pool and a decorative wooden bridge to cross to smaller dining areas shaded by trees and cooled by whirring fans.
Although located in the commercial district of Setiabudi, the restaurant feels like it’s an oasis. The owner is an avid collector of vintage knick-knacks and odd collectibles such as miniature bicycles and soy sauce bottles.
As for the food, I know next to nothing about Eastern Javanese cooking, so everything is a novelty. We choose a variety of and dig in. The dish which brings me to tears is a chicken dish bright with whole orange chillies. Others which I can handle include: tempe goreng (soybean in a cake form potato, red chilies, small red onions, lime, sugar); osend buncis (stir fried snake beans with tempe and chilli); sambal manis and sambal bawang (fiery condiments of which the chief ingredient is, surprise, surprise, chilli); ayam bumbu rujak (a chicken dish which includes tumeric, candlenuts, coconut milk and, um, chilli).
The restaurant isn’t licensed, but after downing more iced water than could fill the swimming pool, we manage to get some beers smuggled in and served in pitchers with ice and straws, so it looks like iced tea. Sort of.
My verdict: Next time I’m in Jakarta, I’m going for a revisit. It’s lively, atmospheric and the food is wonderful. It’s also phenomenally cheap. But I’ll give those bright orange chillies a big fat miss. OK, so I’m a wimp. Got a problem with that?
- MjS at 11 Setiabudi Tengah Street (021 5252605)
- Dishes start at 3,500 rupiah (about 50c)
- Open 11am-11pm
- Not licensed
- Authentic Eastern Javanese cuisine
I flew to Jakarta courtesy of Qantas, which flies daily to the Indonesian capital (and has a much better movie selection than Garuda). www.qantas.com.au