For a whole month, this restaurant wants to spoil you with the best of Singapore right here in Jakarta.
Yes, it’s Howdy Hello Hola Hey Ho (H5). The OPCO-owned restaurant has been around for close to a year now, but the place is still packed every time I come here.
It’s amazing how the company started out from the nightclub culture1 and has only expanded to F&B in recent years.
In an effort to widen their reach (which is already growing substantially), they’re having a special campaign, the Singapore Food Festival2, and it’ll have you coming for more this fall.
Exclusively from September 11 till October 12, 3 leading F&B brands from Singapore will be serving the Southeast Asian food-loving patrons of H5 the most authentic dishes of SGP.
The 2 from Hai’s are bak kut teh and chicken rice, whereas Yi Kou Wei is generally best known for their popiah, so you should order it when you come here, even though I can’t tell you whether it’s good or not or whether it’s authentic or not. I’ve chosen something else for my appetizer that I regret, which you’ll find out what in a bit.
So let’s start this off on the right foot.
Ming Fa’s mee pok [listed as Fish Ball Noodles (IDR 58,000)] is served a bit differently from the average hawker center. The sauce comes with it separately, perhaps allowing tasters to adjust the level of its peppery-saltiness according to their liking.
The winning aspect of this dish is the texture of the noodles itself. They’re right on point when it comes to authenticity: It’s wavy, medium-width, and a softer al dente so it’s much delicate and springier than your carbonara. I also think they’re quite generous with the fish balls, although they taste just fine for me.
What I’m not particularly a big fan of is the bland and oily soup. Even though it’s meant to just be an additional oomph to the bowl of mee pok, I think every part of a dish should be given equal attention, especially when this version of mee pok leans to the dry end.
Too much oil in anything completely defeats the purpose of tossing and coating the noodles. The fragrances simply dissolves into the oil and the overall taste disintegrates. I ended up enjoying it more just as dry as it is along with a dash of the sauce.
Now for that appetizer I mentioned earlier …
It’s not really an appetizer. It’s a special main dish under the H5 menu that I’ve never tried before on previous visits.
The oyster omelette, or the Orh Luak (IDR 68,000), was prepared more like how the Chinese originally prepared it as opposed to that of Singapore. I was about to call for the Yi Kou Wei’s popiah, but when I saw oyster omelette on the menu, my craving for Newton’s famous oyster omelette rushes in.
What came to my table was sheer disappointment to the point of almost hating it … but hey, this is just personal taste. There’s a reason why millions of Chinese dig it with its thick, excessively gooey consistency. For me, there’s way too much starch in it that you can find it hard to cut a bite off of it. I guess it’s just a way of making sure you feel full because this is supposed to be a main dish.
To be fair, the oysters were huge and pudgy. What I ended up doing was finding the oysters, pulling them out with the shards of fried egg, and dipping them into the hot sauce, which wasn’t very hot to begin with.
Fortunately, things got a lot better throughout the course of the meal. This is my rich and flavorful bowl of laksa (IDR 68,000).
The gravy was superb. It’s hot, milky-thick, and full of spices. You can sense the sharp tamarind stirring you up at every spoonful, followed by tons of other sweet and sour tastes from the laksa’s rempah (ginger, lemongrass, laksa leaves, etc) as well as the bitter-umaminess from the fleshy prawns. On that note, I wish there’s more prawns to balance out the generous helpings of fish cakes.
The tell-tale sign that this dish is meant to imitate the Katong Laksa is the short noodle strands. This is meant to make it easier for you to eat by the a spoonful – just scoop the spoon in and take it out, and you’ll have everything on your spoon. It’s a fuss to have to wipe it off every minute whenever those the usual long limp strands of noodles smudge your mouth as you slurp. By taking scoops of this laksa, you can get the most of the broth at every bite. Although my personal preference is still that of a la the classic Malaysian laksa, I have to give a thumbs up for this one, thanks to its authentic broth.
Now if you’re full by now, that means it’s time for dessert. This is how you get a FREE one: Go follow H5 on instagram (@H5OPCO), snap a pic of your dish, and hashtag the pic with #H5SFF, you’ll receive a giant scoop of ice cream from the staff. You have matcha, ogura, and vanilla to choose from.
This one’s vanilla.
But the best part of my meal? This last one.
You know how I love mangoes already by now. The more sour the kind, the more I love my chunks.
H5’s seasonal dessert, the Mango Mania (IDR 40,000), was simply sooooooooooooooooooooo good. I mean, for the mango lovers out there, I’m 500% sure you’re gonna love it even though everyone else thinks it’s only 100% good. It’s a very simple dessert, actually, but has everything you love about mangoes. All that goodness is reassigned and allocated into the form of a sticky rice dollop and a creamy-cool mango bar, which is finally sprinkled with the crunchy peanut grits to play up the texture.
We waited for about 20 minutes for this, but seriously, it was well worth the wait. It was a crowded night for sure, and the closer it got to midnight, the more packed the room became. Even when we’re seated in the non-smoking area, there were latecomers who puffed their stuff within our 10ft radius, and it just got really unpleasant during the wait. Despite the limited staff, peeps at H5 are friendly and really attentive to your needs – just really, really busy serving tables.
But let’s come back to the king of fruits.
The mangoes are uber fresh, uber sweet AND sour, both squishy AND supple, and just plain heavenly. This is one of the perks of living in a tropical region – you get uber fresh produce.
The sticky rice is fairly sticky that its taste lingers a while in your mouth, and I also like that it’s not too sweet. This makes it better eaten with either the mangoes or the bar (or both), but not alone – after all, you don’t want to do too much to the natural sweetness of glutinous rice.
Then we have the half-icy, half-creamy mango bar, which was 70% palm-sugar sweet. I quite love it eaten alone, but as with most sweet stuff, I got bored with the taste after a while. So the best way to enjoy this wholesome dessert is to cut a morsel of all three into your spoon, then gobble everything on the spoon at once. Close your eyes like Remy does in Ratatouille, and lose yourself in the interplay of sweet, sour, pulp, dry, and moist. There’s a dash of coolness, flakes of salty grits, and on top of all that, the bold, distinctive coconut-y aftertaste of the milky-starchy tapioca. You can tell – I had a serious foodgasm wallowing in this.
Since the festival will be ending in 3 weeks, I’m giving the green light and suggest you hurry to get the goods of Singapore ASAP. From the stuff I’ve just reviewed, that will be the mee pok and the laksa that’ll run out by the time mid-October rolls around.
As to whether I’ll come back to H5 or not, of course I will, since I’ve been here a couple of times before. Grand Indonesia is packed with good restaurants, but if you’ve got a special place in your heart for hawker foods, street eats and all things exotic from the Southeast, there’s no place like H5 in the mall to enjoy all that.
H5 (Howdy Hello Hola Hey Ho)
Grand Indonesia Shopping Town
West Mall, Level 5, Unit ED2-03-3A
Jl. M.H. Thamrin No. 1
Jakarta Pusat 10310
(021) 2358 0045, 2358 0046
Visit Facebook page at H5OPCO
Follow @H5OPCO on Twitter
or @H5OPCO on Instagram
M – S 11:00am – 12:00am