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Thursday, October 1, 2009

Restaurant Review: Stammtisch at the Tavern Pub, Aryaduta Hotel Jakarta

Oct. 01 (Jakarta Globe) There’s something about being told items are forbidden that can make them all the more tempting. In this predominantly Muslim country, pork and alcohol fits the bill. To sample both, one can fly off to Hindu Bali, where roast suckling pig is a favored delicacy, or instead take a taxi to the Aryaduta Hotel Jakarta, which hosts a German stammtisch each Monday in its basement Tavern Pub.

Resident hotel manager Robert Kunz, a native of Germany, says stammtisch translates as gathering, and is a large part of Bavarian culture.

“Usually the men gather once a month on a selected day,” he said. “They gather together, they eat together, they drink together, they exchange about work, politics and fun.”

When guests are seated at the stammtisch, they are brought an ashtray with a bell attached, in addition to a selection of freshly baked pretzels. The tradition, Kunz explained, is that anyone who rings the bell is expected to buy drinks for everyone in the room. The rule is applied loosely at the Tavern, but Kunz said at many stammtische it would be treated very seriously.

Dinner was a buffet laden with heavy Germanic fare, and the humble pig featured in many guises, from roast hocks with crunchy crackling through smoked pork loin and several types of sausage. The chef will happily carve your roast for you, and the tender white meat set off by the crisp crunch of the skin is a taste I hadn’t realized I was missing until I sampled it liberally, doused with a tasty gravy. Sides of spaetzle, sauerkraut, potato and beet salads were also on offer, as were Bavarian-style beef rollmops, but pork is definitely the focus. The bread selection, another German specialty, was also excellent.

But, as good as the food is, and my friend and I ate ourselves into a hog-fed heaven (Katrin didn’t even leave room for the strudel dessert she had been rhapsodizing about since our arrival), the stammtisch is mostly about the gathering.

Beer is included in the buffet price, and regulars have their names inscribed onto their tankards. The weekly event has been going for about 20 years, Kunz said, and the tavern is the oldest German restaurant bar in the city.

“We have hard-liners who come every single night, it doesn’t matter how’s the weather, unless they are away on holidays.”

Newcomers are just as welcome as old friends, however, and we were quickly made feel at home by the regulars.

“You always meet new, interesting people,” Kunz told us. “You can make new relationships, new friends.”

The hotel chain is also hosting Oktoberfest on Thursday and Friday at the Aryaduta Hotel Jakarta, and on Saturday at the Aryaduta Hotel and Country Club Karawaci. Kunz said the ballroom would be dressed as a traditional German beer tent with a nine-piece Bavarian band flown in to play.

“There will be drinking games and telling jokes, and they’ll all be in traditional clothes,” he said.

“The people, with the music, they set up first on the beer benches, like you can see here. They will most probably start on the benches to sing and dance to the music. When the alcohol level increases, they will be on the tables, but this is all traditional like you can see on the TV.”

Tickets for Friday were sold out but still available as of Wednesday for the Thursday and Saturday events.

Tracie Barrett is a Jakarta Globe copy editor who formerly worked in restaurants.

Stammtisch At the Tavern Pub
Aryaduta Hotel Jakarta
Jl. Prapatan No. 44-48
Central Jakarta
Tel. 021 2352 1234

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