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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Restaurant Review: Sushi Tei, Plaza Senayan, Jakarta

Aug. 13 (Jakarta Globe) As a still reasonably new resident of Jakarta, I get first impressions of many restaurants from the comments of my Indonesian colleagues. So when I said I was going to review Sushi Tei and a good number of those colleagues offered to join me, it boded well for my dining experience.

On arrival at the Plaza Senayan outlet on a Thursday at 7 p.m., the crowd of people waiting for tables was another positive sign. My colleague Ade informed me that the Sushi Tei restaurants are always full, another good sign, especially in the current fragile economy.

We were expected, so quickly bypassed the waiting list and were taken to a table.

The restaurant also offers seating at the sushi bar, where a conveyor belt constantly tempted diners with dishes made freshly by the many chefs on duty.

I’m a huge fan of pickled ginger, as is Ade, so we both enjoyed the copious container of it on the table while we waited for our menus to arrive. This was where I found we’d had a slight miscommunication — the newspaper had been invited to review the restaurant but I’d not realized our meal would be chosen for us. But I would have asked for recommendations anyway, trusting good staff to know their best dishes, and the selection was excellent.

Drinks arrived first, a strawberry soda and a Matcha Fusion, which was a blend of Japanese green tea, green tea ice cream and honeydew syrup.

Both were a little sweet for my taste but I’ve found the palate of most Indonesians sweeter than mine, and the mix of fresh strawberries and soda was refreshing.

The first dish to arrive was salmon sashimi — four good-sized pieces of fresh, high-quality fish that disappeared quickly. This was followed by a salmon belly soup that was wonderful. The salty miso broth was perfectly balanced by creamy bricks of tofu; salmon belly so tender it almost melted on my tongue; shiitake, enoki and shimeji mushrooms; a green vegetable and noodles.

Next to come to our table was a jumbo dragon roll, which I’d been told by friends is a signature dish for Sushi Tei. The presentation was cute, with a dragon’s head and body fashioned from the ingredients, and was both tasty and filling.

So filling, in fact, that we probably didn’t require anything more, but also received a mixed tempura dish, featuring shrimps, fish, pumpkin, eggplant and carrot, all set off by a crisp tempura batter. The eggplant especially was excellent — the creaminess of the cooked vegetable an ideal contrast to the batter.

By this time I’d acquired a menu to see what else was on offer and was impressed by both the range of dishes and the design of the menu. Each item was accompanied by a photograph good enough to make your mouth water.

The Sushi Tei concept originated in Singapore and the franchise is now in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Bangkok, Sydney and, of course Indonesia, where one company holds the master franchise. Having first opened here six years ago, the company now has 12 outlets, six of those in Jakarta, and Ade tells me each has a different decor and subsequently, a different feel.

Assuming that all have the same high standard and good food, I can understand why so many of my colleagues wanted to accompany me here.

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