Things are getting a bit tense in the world of pasta houses in Jakarta. Truthfully, I can count with my fingers how many out there are truly exceptional.
That includes this one, brought to the Big Durian by reputed chef Akira Watanabe. Though it’s fresh off the boat (opened locally last June), it’s definitely worth a mention.
We discovered AW Kitchen while we’re heading to another restaurant that afternoon. We got curious, and so decided to skim through its menu.
What changed our minds to this joint wasn’t the delicious-sounding dishes per se (although they make up a huge part) – it was how friendly and helpful the server was at the front, and that same warmth permeates across all corners of AW Kitchen.
Entering the medium-sized space, you’ll see a busy line of bartenders serving their concoctions for the customers on the bar to taste with their grilled selections. For the rest of the room, there were families, small group of friends, and casual mall-strollers like us who took interest in the modern European setting and the Japanese-Italian fares on their tables.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll feel a major glee from the back of your spine, because the whole concept of AW Kitchen is to provide the pasta-loving tastebuds of Indonesia a whole new twist in Italian cuisine – even though classic cooking methods are being applied (and wholly respected, obviously), Mr. Watanabe’s styled up most dishes into healthier options that taste equally good, and for some, even better – he added a few drops of Japanese ingredients into the mix, such as bonito flakes, dried nori sheets, and lotus root.
We started off with the simple complementary bread bowl of sourdough, served with a side of butter and olive oil. It was salty-sour and tasty alright, but all too crispy for me. I love chewing hard things like a dog does, like those kind that’s perfect as a base for rye breads, but that’s just personal taste. This is delicious so I kept eating, but because it’s so crumble, you have to put a lot of oil and butter on it for the whole piece to stick.
Then we move on to the mother of Neapolitan cuisine, the simple, classic, and delicious Pizza Margherita (IDR 68,000). Two words: LOVED IT.
There’s a rich, strong rush of fresh basil as soon as you take your first bite, and that herby quality was followed by the just enough tomato sweetness (pureed, so the whole texture was pretty consistent to taste) and the mild, acidic milkiness of mozzarella. You can practically taste all that drizzle just by looking at the picture … but really, is there such a thing as too much oil on pizza?
As you can see, you only get 8 slices of the flatbread per portion, and it was relatively thin (and somehow, the bread has a particular taste reminds me of naan). This counts as a huge compliment from me me, because I love naan and practically all the world’s best breads. Add sour and chewy and fermented stuff to it, perhaps followed by just a little bit more lactose and a MASSIVE variety of herbs, and I know I’ll be loving you forever.
Once the appetizing foreplay is over, along comes my main dish: The Spaghettini in Garlic Oil with Spicy Cod Roe and Japanese Mushrooms (iDR 138,000).
You won’t believe how much garlic oil that was poured into this thing – it was heavenly, and I’m sure it’ll be as well for the garlic lovers and the guilt-free-comfort-food seekers out there. Mushrooms included shiitake, enoki, king oyster as shimeji, and the whole squishy consistency of the fungi was just perfect on top of the hill of al dente spaghettini. My first spoonful was a bit too salty, but then I realized I forgot to mix it all up :p After I did so, I still think it wasn’t the best pasta dish I’ve ever tasted before, but it’s certainly something unique. Take away the briny cod roe and the nori flakes, and you’ll have the classic Italian mushroom, garlic, and oil combo.
My only itch here is just the bulky amount of nori flakes – I reckoned it wasn’t supposed to be this much. Though thick as they are, they did not overwhelm the whole taste of the hearty, cod-spiced pasta, so I still recommend this dish if you’re looking for a refresher.
Now here’s the star of my afternoon … le Risotto in Ikasuni (Squid Ink) Sauce (IDR 88,000).
Trust me, this risotto is D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S! Even my lettered emphasis is an understatement. I didn’t expect much when I asked the server what else is on the risotto other than squid ink sauce and the squids (Her: “Uhmmm… just squids [laughs]”).
Well, technically, it wasn’t just ikasuni and ika – there’s also tomato slices to taste, tiny chopped parsley leaves, an uber creamy gravy to hold everything up, plus LOTS AND LOTSSS OF PARMESAN. You already know the drill – cheese is my kryptonite1, and so I died and had brief moments of foodgasm while chewing this thick, mushy, velvety little oven-fresh sexpot. Seriously.
As you can now tell, AW Kitchen has a bunch of pickups that’ll probably become your instant favorites. Unless you think there are too many carbs in this one meal, then you’re missing out a lot of good stuff. It was hard enough to pick just one pasta dish off the menu for myself, I bet it’ll be harder to keep up with Mr. Watanabe in the months to come. To make sure he’s using seasonal ingredients to his advantage, the restauranteur rotates the dishes and ingredients every couple of weeks at all 12 AW Kitchen outlets in Japan. While the method cannot be replicated here in the year-round sweltering Indonesian weather, he’s promised to innovate a few selections on the menu every 3 months.
Before August comes to an end, I highly recommend you trying out what I’ve tried here at AW Kitchen. I’m not sure if these items will stick around if he does keep his promise, but if you live in South Jakarta and you won’t bother with Senayan’s traffic, then you’re about to be blessed – AW Kitchen will be opening another outlet in Kota Kasablanka by the end of the year, so stay tuned.
View Plaza Senayan in a larger map
AW Kitchen by Akira Watanabe
Plaza Senayan, 4th Floor, #CP409
Jl. Asia Afrika No. 8
Jakarta Selatan 12170
(021) 5790 6071
Visit Facebook page at AWkitchen Jakarta
Follow @awkitchen_jkt on Twitter
M – S 10:00am – 10:00pm
- Actually I have plenty of kryptonites to date. The few you may already know, listed in no particular order: Cheese, garlic, bread, fresh herbs, tofu, eggs, seafood, dark chocolate, and so on. [↩]