July 30 (Jakarta Globe) Something in what passes for air in Jakarta has been disturbing my allergies more than usual these past few weeks so I've had neither the energy nor inclination to venture far afield in my search for good food. But a gal still has to eat, and this one likes to eat well, so it seemed the perfect opportunity to check out the new wood-fired pizza oven at Porta Venezia — the Italian restaurant in the complex where I live.
A short explanation first: The complex consists of the Aryaduta Suites Hotel in one tower and Sudirman Tower Condominium based in another two. The hotel is run by a company affiliated with the Jakarta Globe and, having spent my first month in Jakarta living there, I know many of the hotel staff on a first name basis. However, I now spend a not-insignificant part of my salary to live in a privately owned apartment that is attached to but not part of the hotel.
I had enjoyed the restaurant's buffet breakfast regularly while a guest of the hotel (enough so to warrant some serious gym time to work off the result), and join friends who live in the hotel for occasional Happy Hours at the bar, but had never dined from the restaurant menu. But I'm an affirmed fan of Italian food and, despite my dislike for what I think of as “American” pizza — that is, a thick, doughy crust and far too much cheese — I adore the real thing.
Porta Venezia by evening takes on a decidedly romantic glow once the tables are set for service and the candles lit. Embroidered maroon runners set off the crisp white linen on the tables and dim lighting shows off the dark wood of the bar. The glass doors open on to an outside balcony with a few tables available, and the second-floor restaurant overlooks the hotel pool. Add in staff in long white linen aprons and it is an elegant location to dine with that special someone. Not having a special someone on hand, I joined friends at the bar for my meal.
My favorite part of most menus is the starter section as it almost always offers more imaginative choices than to be found as mains. Being primarily Italian, Porta Venezia offered a good choice of antipasti and I was having difficulty choosing between between carpaccio of Australian beef fillet served with shaved parmesan, fresh rocket and white truffle oil; or tomato and mozzarella with a basil pesto. The answer to my dilemma – the antipasti buffet at just a fraction more in cost than any individual dish. Here, in addition to those mentioned above, I could add sundried tomatoes; grilled eggplant, zucchini, capsicum and asparagus; marinated mushrooms; roasted garlic; and shrimps with cocktail sauce. Accompanied by a selection of warm bread rolls and butter, it was a perfect way to start my meal.
But I was here specifically to try pizza from the new oven so selected the Salmone – tomato sauce, smoked salmon, artichokes and mozzarella. I asked for the addition of fresh basil, which was no problem. A word about the service here: as mentioned I know many of the staff on a first name basis and, like many long-term guests in the complex, find they make my place of residence feel more like a home. They balance skilled professionalism with a friendly personal touch — something that I know from my own experience in the industry is not always easy.
But back to my pizza, which I'd been so looking forward to. And it didn't disappoint — a thin crispy crust with just a smear of tomato sauce so as not to overpower the delicate salmon and artichoke flavors, plenty of smoked salmon and the fresh basil to top it off. It was too large for me to eat alone so I offered some to friends at the bar and took the rest to work cold the next day – where it was appreciated just as much.
The restaurant has a good selection of wines, including house wines available by the glass, and I accompanied the pizza with a glass of Stonehaven cabernet, after which I paid my bill, took my remaining pizza (in an elegant black box with gold lettering) and made the short stroll back to my apartment.
Porta Venezia offers an extensive menu of Italian antipasti, pasta, pizza and secondi (Italian mains) but also, in keeping with its added duty as a hotel restaurant, has sandwiches and burgers; Thai, Indonesian and Chinese options; and dishes from the Middle East.
But what will bring me back will definitely be the antipasti and the pizza.
The Aryaduta Suites Hotel
Jl. Garnisun Dalam No. 8, Karet Semanggi
Tel. 021 251 5151
Starters Rp 39,000 – Rp 75,000 ++
Mains Rp 60,000 – Rp 235,000 ++