E & O breaks the trend. Over the past decade many successful Bali restaurants have attempted to try the Jakarta market, most have come home with tails between legs, egos bruised and much lighter in pocket!
This new venture to showcase the culinary talents of Will Meyrick in Jakarta has been so eagerly awaited and for so long, with so many Jakarta tourists already flocking to Sarong and they are even more visible at MamaSan. If E & O had not been successful it would have been an anti-climax! It is not!
E & O, Eastern & Oriental! Funny I had always thought that the Orient was in the East? Sorry but the name keeps reminding me of 'Errors & Omissions Excepted', happily there are not too many of either here.
The regular 'foodies' of Bali [expats and tourists alike] were well aware of what Will can achieve with Thai cuisine after his exploits in opening Husk at the old Sofitel and Blossom at Sentosa, but the addition of Vietnamese, Indonesian and even some unusual Chinese dishes and dim sum to the menu presents the dining scene with feast of Asian tastes rarely ever found in the one location and certainly not at this quality level. Bali had already discovered the Meyrick dining factor, Now Jakartans [plus visitors from Bali] can enjoy the same in Jakarta.
The Thai touch is still there of course. Thai food as it should be with vividly contrasting dishes that are alternately sweet, sour, salty or hot. Pungent flavours to attack your senses, and titillate the taste buds. The crisp but intensely sweet Pork Belly, stir fried with tamarind and tamarillo till crunchily perfect. Beef Cheeks slowly braised in a Penang curry with chilli, peanuts and Thai basil, the beef so tender yet a millions miles from bland.
The enormous menu [not only the content but also its physical size, why not normal menu design with readable type? Design can sometimes get in the way of practicability] causes a major problem that can only be solved by many repeat visits. Every item sounds so good, with the presented dish following through, that the talent is to order a spread of dishes that contrast and compliment each other. No mean feat as too much of the same taste spoils the end result.
The stylish and spacious bar and lounge area provides the perfect scene for relaxed dining, and invites you to linger! An Asian bistro?
Old favourites abound on the Thai sections of the menu. Betel Leaves topped with chicken and coriander, shallots, capsicum and roasted chilli relish [an essential way to begin your meal]. Egg Nets, a David Thompson standard, a net of egg rolled around a mix of chicken and prawn with caramelized coconut, peanuts, mint and pickled cucumber. Fish Dumplings with Soya, Ginger, Shallots and Sesame Oil are the surprise from Beijing, wonderful, a mouth full of exploding taste! Or the new dumpling packed with Peking Duck meat, served in a heavenly broth of soy and mushrooms. Pick up the bowl and put it to your lips to finish the broth, no one will care in worldly Jakarta.
You have had Spring Rolls before? Not like these, just wait till you try this version with slowly braised lamb combined with ginger, red bean and black vinegar. Then there is the Yunan Sausage with nam prik num and pork crackling, served on a betel leaf.
A new 'in' dish for Bali and on the menu here is their Open Steamed Buns, You can select the inside contents that you wish. It can be Slow Smoked Wagyu Brisket with cucumber, coriander and pickled mustard greens or Roasted Pork Belly with kimchi and fresh Herbs or Peking Duck, cucumber, green shallot, coriander & hoisin sauce. They are perfect to order when snacking with drinks.
I am a great fan of the Vietnamese cuisine and lament the lack of quality Vietnamese generally throughout SE Asia [apart from Vietnam of course and a recently found treasure in Kuala Lumpur, Sao Nam], So I had to try Will's Vietnamese Caramelised Duck Breast with young coconut juice, lime and black pepper. I did so, knowing full well that the full dish would be far too sweet for a lone diner. As with most Asian dishes, it is one to be shared. Yes, it was very sweet but it as still sensational, order it as one of your varied dishes!
In Asian restaurants I am always drawn to the chicken and duck sections of the menu as no one does it better! Kaeng Phet of Roasted Duck with lychee, ginger, Thai basil and chillies is another showstopper here, the meat tender, the flavours sublime. Chicken can be grilled with turmeric, honey and nahm jim jauw. Roasted Thai style with Kaffir lime and sweet chilli or stir-fried with bamboo shoots, cloud ear mushrooms and green shallots or simple Thai in green curry. Any which way all fantastic!
Other Vietnamese dishes include their no.1 favourite, Pho Bo, with sliced tenderloin of beef, bean sprouts, green shallots, onion, Thai basil and Vietnamese chilli sauce.
Salads are an integral part of Thai cuisine, usually beginning with Som Tum, green mango with snake beans, peanuts and dried shrimp. But there is also a Soft Shell Crab Salad with rose apple, shredded coconut, chilli jam, Thai basil and Kedondong leaves, Grilled Fillet of Barramundi with black bean paste served with nam pla prik or King Prawns served with green nahm jim. The Grilled Beef Salad is way different from the Yum Neau [Thai Beef Salad] on hundreds of Bali menus, this one is with green mango, shallots, and peanuts, mint and nahm jim jauw. Then there is the sensational Nam Doc of Smoked Wagyu Brisket with mushrooms, mint, red onions, chilli and roasted rice.
Whilst most people imagine all Thai dishes are hot with chilli, they are not. One of the most fragrant Thai curries is the Massaman of Thailand's south, gently simmered with pumpkin, cardamom, shallots and tamarind. At E & O they slowly braise lamb shanks in this incredibly luscious mix. It is a wonderful combination. The Beef Short Ribs are twice-cooked with sweet fish sauce, cucumber and nam pla prik resulting in flesh that is so tender but full on taste. The most unusual dish on the menu is their Suckling Pig with nahm prik num, nahm jim jauw and Kaffir sweet chilli sauce. Call it fusion if you must!
Seafood gets the same treatment with flavour reigning supreme. It is all here, fish simply steamed but with shiitake mushrooms, ginger and shallots, grilled fillet of Barramundi with black bean paste and nam pla prik. The famous Thai Tom Yum is here; prawns, galangal, lemongrass, milk and coriander. Choo Chee is one of many Chinese importations, since improved by centuries of Thai ingenuity, based on a red curry but with s many extra ingredients it is unrecognisable from the original. Perfect for seafood particularly shell fish but here it is with crisp Barramundi.
There are also many rice and noodle dishes, perfect for the lone diner. Most are of Chinese origin; Hainanese Chicken Rice, Char Siu Pork [perfectly tender not dry as in most food courts] with rice and chicken soup, crisp Lemongrass Chicken and that Thai original Pad Thai Goong, noodles with prawns, bean sprouts, garlic, chives, crushed peanuts and chilli tamarind.
With such a menu of vastly different cuisine backgrounds it is only to be expected that the staff training [kitchen and waiters] must take some time but with food this sensational even the occasional mistake is quickly forgiven however the service level at E & O is excellent young friendly waiters well trained with the menu and obviously happy in the environment. New restaurants often have a very short life in Jakarta, 12 months down the track and E & O is a well established part of the normal Jakarta dining scene.
Reservations are almost essential, particularly on weekends. E & O is almost a reason alone to visit Jakarta!