Last weekend, we traveled to Kemang to try this new restaurant called Nusa Indonesian Gastronomy. We’ve been to Nusa before when JalanSutra mailing list had an event there several months ago. Nusa was not yet open for public at that time, but they made quite an impression by providing tempoyak durian (a condiment made from fermented durian fruit) cooked with fish and gadon daging (Indonesian steamed dish made from ground beef and coconut milk) for lunch. So when I got an invitation to sample the dishes at Nusa, it was too good an opportunity to pass up as I always love to explore and learn more about Indonesian food.
Nusa is located just across the street from Plaza 88 Kemang. It was originally a colonial house in Menteng area that was bought and moved, almost brick by brick, to Kemang area. As such, all of its doors and window sills are still original and the stained glass still looks as good as it was in its heyday. Nusa Indonesian Gastronomy is the brainchild of Chef Ragil Imam Wibowo, serving what he called an edible story of Indonesia, so with every dish, a staff member will explain to us what we ate and where it came from. All the ingredients used here are sourced directly from farmers all over Indonesia. Currently, they’re serving dinner only from 6PM with the choice of 3 or 5 courses starting from 350K++ per person.
So long story short, we arrived at the venue around 7 o’clock and were greeted by the very friendly staff who ushered us to our table. Each of us was given a welcome drink made from nira (non-alcoholic fermented palm nectar). It tasted refreshing but I wish it was an alcoholic version. On the table, there were two menus for the food and drink for that night. Both SC and I opted for the 5 courses menu and let the chef chose what to serve us and hope that each of us got a different dish so we can try more. So let’s begin the feast.
For drinks, we chose nusa ginger flower (flavors of ginger flower, pressed honey pineapple, and muddled red ginger) 45k and sayur asem (flavors of tamarind, shallot, garlic, sweetcorn, labu parang, long bean, peanut, and melinjo) 45K. Both tasted good, but I think the flavors could have been a tad stronger.
After that, each of us were given a platter of amuse bouches (bite-sized hors d’œuvre) that consisted of belut balado Minangkabau, macaron sambal roa, gulai banak Sumatera Barat, and rendang emping melinjo. I love the smokey and crispy eel that goes well with the balado sauce, the macaron was somewhat too sweet for me, but the gulai banak (beef brain curry) and rendang served on top of Melinjo crackers were definitely a mouth pleaser. I’m sorry there are no pictures as they seemed to have mysteriously disappeared from my memory card.
Next, for appetizer we were served a glass of naniura (a raw fish dish from North Sumatra where the fish was “cooked” by the acidity from utte/asam jungga, a kind of kaffir lime) and a plate of gohu udang (another raw dish from Ternate Island, eastern Indonesia, where raw prawns were “cooked” by the acidity from calamansi juice). Both looked and tasted exquisite, tangy, and refreshing, with the Naniura being a bit richer as it was spiced with andaliman (Indonesian green peppercorn).
Soup is next and we had Nusa sop kambing Jakarta (Nusa’s version of Jakarta’s mutton soup, made with shredded young mutton meat served with potato, tomato, lime, and some chili sambal), and sup ikan kuah kuning (red snapper cooked in sour soup, a recipe originating from Jailolo, Halmamera), served with papeda (thick sago congee commonly eaten in Maluku and Papua) and karambola/starfruit). The clear soup was poured directly onto our plates. The sop kambing was delicious, but I prefer the smoky and tangy fish soup. I noticed that most of the dishes so far have only a mild level of spiciness in a bid to promote Indonesian dishes for foreigners.
Then each of us was served two main courses. The first course was gadon rebung daging (West Java dish made from free range grass-fed Balinese beef, steamed in banana leaf with coconut milk and spices then served with bamboo shoots) served with cassava from Jailolo that was cooked in coconut milk as the carbohydrate source, and a three-tier enameled containers containing Solok rice, bacem daging (a traditional dish from Central Java made from braised free range grass-fed Balinese beef), and urap (Indonesian vegetable salad with spiced grated coconut served with soft boiled egg). I love the gadon daging so much as it reminded me of a warm home-cooked meal. I also love the cassava as it was so creamy and smooth. The bacem daging dish was somewhat too sweet for my palate, but I do love their urap.
Next, we had nusa ayam kulat pelawan (kulat pelawan are rare mushrooms that only grow in Bangka Island in rainy season, cooked with chicken and coconut milk in gerabah/traditional clay pot for more than 6 hours) and nusa tuna sambal tempoyak (sambal tempoyak served with tea-smoked tuna). As the carbohydrate source, we’re given a bowl of Adan red rice sourced from Dayak people in Krayan sub-district, East Kalimantan. I generally don’t like red rice as it tends to be very dry, but the adan krayan rice is so tender and flavorful with a hint of sweet black rice aroma, so I have no problem with it. The tea-smoked tuna was delicious and goes well with the sambal tempoyak and if it’s not spicy enough, you can always crush the bird-eye chili to add some kick. The chicken with mushroom were so tender and creamy, but you can still differentiate the mushroom texture from the chicken.
After that, we’re already quite full from the two main courses plus the ‘oh so good’ singkong Jailolo and Adan Krayan’s red rice, next each of us got a scoop of Ginger Flower sorbet, a truly refreshing pre-dessert that was made from kecombrang with asam jungga (kaffir lime) foam.
For dessert, we got two plated desserts, one was klepon (an elevated version of Klepon from Central Java, consisting of 3 layers: white chocolate fondant, pandan mousse, palm sugar, and served with sponge cake made from sorghum flour, jackfruit, and coconut gelato), and bubur kampiun (a dessert from West Sumatra made from rice flour with palm sugar, served with srikaya pudding, candil, merah delima, and crackers made of ketan hitam). Both tasted great, but I really like the klepon as we had more fun cracking open the green klepon balls to find the melted palm sugar inside.
Next we’re offered coffee/tea. SC opted for white tea while I chose Solok coffee brewed with V60. Our drinks were served with various sweets such as nastar truffle (honey pineapple coated with chocolate from pidie district, Aceh), wingko babat, ketan gulung dengan coklat Pidie (rolled sticky rice cake with Pidie chocolate) kue lumpur (mud cake with sweetened karambola/starfruit filling). Chef Ragil joined us for this session and we chatted a lot about the dish we had. It was a very enlightening conversation about various ingredients from all over Indonesia that are usually hard to find in Jakarta.
We’re entitled to a tour to the kitchen, so we went straight to the pantry and kitchen. Chef Ragil showed us the traditional stoves with firewood his team used to cook most of the dishes. He also use a range of gerabah (traditional clay pots) to cook dishes including rice. No wonder the rice was so flavorful and fluffy compared to when cooked with a rice cooker. Then we walked to the back garden which I think is a nice place for afternoon coffee and tea. We had great food and great talks. Thank you Nusa, for having us and We will surely return for more.
Nusa Indonesian Gastronomy
Jalan Kemang Raya No.81
South Jakarta 12730
Phone. +62(21) 7193954