I’m in and out of Jakarta on a regular basis, but this time I was stuck for 4 days as my appointments were rather spaced out, affording me more time to try out new restaurants. In the mood for Japanese cuisine, I was tempted to re-visit Akira Black, one of my fave dining venues in the city, but my research led me to OKU, a newly-minted Japanese restaurant at the Hotel Kempinski, adjacent to the humongous Grand Indonesia, a regular haunt of mine just round the corner from where I usually stay when in town.
The hotel was just known as Hotel Indonesia when I last stayed there in 1982! It has since been given a gorgeous makeover; now enveloped in warm hues, featuring a vast expanse of polished marble punctuated by Indonesian motifs and artefacts; the sum of which exudes elegance.
OKU is tucked into a nice corner of the ground floor of the hotel, providing an oasis of calm from the maddening Jakarta traffic traversing the iconic roundabout literally next to the hotel. The stylish and contemporary interior of the restaurant is softly lit, and doesn’t scream “Japanese” while drawing on its minimalistic and zen elements.
Instead, OKU’s Japanese heritage is projected more subtly – through the liberal use of light pastel-coloured wood; pots of strategically placed Bonsai plants, and an art installation of 2 metal cranes majestically soaring over a water feature.
In contrast, the bar is more masculine in design – decked out in darker and bolder hues with mahogany-coloured bar stools lining a polished granite counter. The bar spins out an extensive array of signature cocktails and Japanese whisky mixes. I was tempted by the bartender into ordering a Yuzu Cosmo, concocted from Umenoyado Yuzu Junma, Vodka, Cranberry and Lime, which turned out to be a refreshing drink with a rather decent kick.
OKU in Japanese means the peeling back of the layers of an onion, and in poetry implies something abstract and profound, and here the name is intended to represent the culinary journey that diners will experience at the restaurant.
OKU is helmed by Chef Kazumasa Yazawa, who has cut his chops at several top-notch restaurants – in Singapore at IZY and Waku Ghin in Marina Bay Sands, and Tetsuya’s in Sydney. Chef Kaz offers a modern but well-balanced make-over on traditional Japanese dishes.
My choice of the 9-course Omakase menu started with the Grilled Corn and Chilled Corn Soup, simple but enough for the sweet and tasty corn to whet my appetite.
The Sushi Platter was a delight – the assortment of fresh seafood were well paired and assembled. Delectable is how I would describe the Aburi Salmon; moist sushi rice rolled with salmon and topped with spicy–sweet mayo, contrasted by a burst of savouriness from the luxurious black caviar.
I love eggs. The Chawan Mushi was perfectly steamed – the egg custard still wobbly yet firm enough to hold its shape when scooped.
Next up was the Grilled Gindara, competently executed with firm flaky flesh, but nothing very exciting. For me, Nobu’s Miso Black Cod is a hard one to beat.
The star of the evening came next; the exquisite trinity of cuisine – Wagyu Beef over Foie Gras topped with Uni, offering a luxurious juxtaposition and explosion of texture, tastes and flavours. A very memorable moment, reminding me of an equally exotic trio at Kitcho Sushi in Taipei – I still yearn for the chopped toro and uni wrapped in seared toro.
I’m a carb person, and ending the main meal with the Wagyu Don was perfect. The almost-rare beef sits atop perfectly cooked rice – you can see the grains of rice distinctly. The plate is heated to a very high temperature, to”cook” the beef I supposed. I was warned by the waitstaff about the very hot plate but of course moi had to verify that, and ended up with a scorched finger to vouch for it – it is indeed VERY hot, so be forewarned! Nicely done.
The pre-dessert of a Yuzu Sorbet was artistically presented as an ice lollipop, the stick embedded in a petite container of pebbles, with the whole assembly looking like a mini bonsai plant. The yuzu flavour made a good palate cleanser.
Finally, the dessert of Lychee Pannacotta; Rose Powder & Crispy Wafer; Raspberry Gel & Coulis was an unusual but delicious concoction, delivering a nice surprise to complete the unravelling of the onion that’s OKU.
I’m happy to have made the journey to OKU, and while the meal is not inexpensive (the Omakase course is a little over S$100) by Jakarta’s standard, you get top quality ingredients that are artistically presented in a classy restaurant located in the most prime area of the city. Chef Kazumasa Yazawa is deserving of the accolades that have been lavished upon him since OKU opened. I’ll be back for sure to explore the ala carte menu where I spied several interesting items.
Hotel Indonesia Kempinski Jakarta
Jl. M.H Thamrin No.1, Jakarta 10310
Phone: +62 212358 3896