Disclaimer: This is my review of the food served during my visit. Keep in mind that taste may change over time, depending on the restaurant’s consistency. Just keep munching~
Recently, my low blood count spiraled into a full-blown sore throat and cold. I was having my period early last week, and any woman would tell you periods mean extra lethargy. So I piled on the iron, exercised less intensely, and slept longer. Now I’m never really that much of a fried-food person (or meat, or anything hard and dry), but some time in the middle of my period, I had more toasts than I’ve ever had in one sitting.
It was a brunch date at 2 restaurants – and in both I ordered toasts (don’t judge me!). Both of these toasts stayed in the oven too long, a.k.a. sooo dry as if they’ve spent a decade basking in the Sahara. Their textures are comparable to your standard packaged snacks, and I’ve never eaten those things for about a decade now. Moreover, one of these toasts had filling that’s described as chicken katsu on the menu – but what I got was more like KFC. About a couple of hours driving back home from the brunch, and I could already feel my throat itching. I thought it was one of those momentary itches that’ll disappear if you guzzle as much water as you would in the Sahara. But no. It didn’t disappear. I drank about 8 liters (yes, friggin’ EIGHT) the next day, and it still got even worse.
This is just a snapshot of how sensitive I really am.
There are plenty more stories concerning my food sensitivity, but let’s save those for later posts.
As I’m writing right now, all I’ve eaten all day was greens, greens, greens, with fruits in-between and lots of white tea and honey-ginger-lemon drinks. Greens are fruits are part of my daily plate for as far as I can remember, and I think it’s better to stay that way … at least for me, lest I become sick again.
So even though we wanted to spend a Friday night out together, my fiance and I found it quite difficult to find a place around town that offers healthy fillings, especially for sick people (he’s not feeling very well as well). I mean, there are plenty, both most of these are pretty obscure, whereas your Facebook ads and Instagram feeds would only flood you with the latest and hippest, most exclusive restaurants in town (because status matters more than taste, apparently). If you go to a standard Korean restaurant, your sensitive throat will hurt. If you go to a standard Japanese restaurant, you’ll come out with a bloated face from all the rice. If you go to a standard Chinese restaurant, you’ll end up having sweet, sour, extra salt and extra umami all jumbled up. And the local scene for Western food? No, not anymore for now for obvious reasons. So what did we do, where did we go? This modest vegetarian restaurant that’s been dwelling all along in my neighborhood.
Once you stepped into the restaurant, you’ll know instantly this is one of those restaurants that’s catered to people living in the neighborhood. Very basic, very discreet, reminds you of family Chinese restaurants in Mangga Dua area, but half their size. You can come in here with your favorite tee and most comfortable flip flops.
It’s also obvious that Ananda’s is located here to invite the ‘hood’s populated Buddhists. There are lots of mainland Chinese people residing here, and besides the Mangga Dua area, it’s safe to say that Pluit is the most densely populated area of Jakarta with Chinese-Indonesians (like myself). So yes, for those who grew up raised under traditional Buddhist teachings on vegetarianism, Ananda’s is the perfect place for getting your take-out meals. Compared to most vegetarian restaurants you see out there, Ananda’s menu boasts dishes that are exactly what we’re looking for: Modest, simple, unembellished, straightforward, but all the while delicious. The theme of our night was probably “simply delicious”, because this is the kind of everyday cooking I’ve prepared myself on a normal weekday/weeknight while I was still living in the States, and the kind I’d certainly prepare for my better half in the near future.
Honestly, we spent a while looking through the menu to decide what to order. We don’t usually go to this kind of restaurants whenever eating out – home-cooked meals are home-cooked meals, eating-out meals tend to be a bit more of an indulgence. So it felt like looking through a physical menu for our own family’s cooking at home, although thankfully, the staff was extremely helpful and informative without being intrusive and/or pushy, like they’d usually do in other restaurants.
One thing you must know before we go on is that Ananda’s do not include garlic, onions, shallots, chives, and other members of the allium plant family in all of their dishes. I’m not sure why Buddhists avoid these well-loved spices, but if you’re interested, check out this 08:32-min video: Why onions, garlic and leeks are seen as “non-vegetarian” foods.
And so we kicked off with soups. Soups are practically instant remedy when you’re sick. They’re like tea is to beverages (as soup is to food). All soups (except the Steamboat) on the menu are for single servings, so don’t order just one if you’re coming full house with your family. This Sop Bakso Tenis (IDR 30,000) is particularly intriguing, in that the meatballs really did taste like chicken meat. My fiance loved it – he finished everything in the bowl. To that I must learn how to replicate the meatballs at our home later … although I suspect you need a really good, made-from-scratch stock to begin the broth with.
He ordered the lotus soup for me (IDR 20,000). It’s sooo hearty and so cooling on the inside if you’re struggling with sinus and throat problems as well. The winner of the soup was the peanuts sinking on the bottom of the bowl – if you’re a sucker of nuts as well, you’ll love it. I invite you to take a look at my lotus soup recipe too – it’s got a bit more TCM ingredients than Ananda’s version, though mine has no peanuts.
Note: Both of the following dishes contain MSG.
Then there’s our mock abalone (pauhi) with a bed of broccolis. The Brokoli Pauhi (IDR 45,000) (available in small, medium, large) is refreshing, although I must say nothing can replace the real deal when it comes to abalone. Since I’m also recently down with a dental problem (I have so many problems … -_-~), the fact that this mock abalone is softer than I thought was relieving. I’m having trouble lately biting and chewing hard foods, but this palate contains a range of texture I’m satisfied with – Broccolis are crunchy, mushrooms are semi-soft, and mock abalone is pillowy, though chewier and not as cushy as tofu. I should also not that the broccolis aren’t that fresh, but they’re cooked just right.
Then we had the tofu dish with traditional Chinese-style mushroom sauce, with Chinese spinach (Indonesians call it poileng) on the bottom – Tahu Saus Jamur (IDR 40,000) (available in small, medium, large). Surprisingly, this wasn’t as good. I’m a big fan of tofu if you must know, and the firm tofu felt slightly over-fried. As a result, it’s a bit sour, and doesn’t soak well into the sauce easily. Moreover, there was too much black pepper added into the whole thing – maybe it’s the cook’s way to meld all the different tastes of the ingredients together? The sauce itself was pretty good – delicious choice if you’re having it and the verdant poileng as your side dish with rice.
Last but not least is the essential carb dish, the Yangzhou-style fried rice/Nasi Goreng Yang Chow (IDR 28,000). We had trouble choosing among the rice dishes because most of them are stir-fried. However, we’d rather compromise our throat rather than deal with the aftermath of spicy food, and turns out it’s just 95% sauteed and 5% fried – those meat-looking stuff that blends with the lightly stir-fried rice? They’re pretty good, although I have no idea what they’re supposed to substitute for. My guess is sausages, ‘cos they taste like mix-bag of real chicken sausage and wurst. What I like best about it was the minimal use of oyster sauce – if you try to have a bite of the previous 2 dishes (the broccoli and/or the tofu dish) after eating this one, you’ll notice the stark difference of saltiness. I’m sure this fried rice contains some sort of MSG as well, but thank God the sodium in here wasn’t as hefty as in the broccoli and tofu dishes.
“See? Food can be delicious without garlic or onions,” my fiance teased. He’s basically the Dracula when it comes to garlic, whereas I am the female vampire when it comes to sunshine. The fact that he enjoyed his meatless dish (he even bought a couple more dishes for take-away) means his taste buds are still healthy, and therefore good. I expect that for a man who’s going to become my husband and the father of my child :p Since I cook practically everything with garlic and onions/shallots/chives, Ananda’s is truly a testament that food can taste just as great without them. So if you’re having one of those days when your appetite is low and you need to eat something that’s not porridge, try getting a quick bite at Ananda’s. You’ll be surprised how simple stuff can both satiate you as well as they do restore your energy.
Jl. Pluit Karang Indah Timur
Blok O 8 Timur No. 57-58
Jakarta Utara 14450
+62 (0)21 661 5226
M – S 09:00am – 10:00pm