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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Restaurant Review: Sabrosa, Jakarta


Oct. 22 (Jakarta Globe) As someone who has spent my life around restaurant kitchens, I can’t help but be enthused when I meet chefs who are truly passionate about food. Abdul Halim Hafiz, head chef at the recently opened Sabrosa, fits that bill.

First, some quick background on the restaurant itself. Sabrosa only started serving customers at the end of September and is still in its soft opening phase as Abdul finalizes suppliers and his menu. The restaurant is owned by Aprilia Djojorahardjo, Lisa Tumbelaka and Lonny R Mahendra, all of whom are newcomers to the hospitality trade. They know what they want though and, with the help of Abdul and experienced restaurant manager Agus Permana S, look likely to succeed in their venture.

The decor is modern/elegant, with soft lighting, inconspicuous abstract paintings and pots of white orchids throughout the room. The mocktails we sampled were delicious so I expect the cocktails will be also, and the preliminary wine list features offerings from around the world. Add to that an attentive and knowledgeable staff, and I can easily see Sabrosa becoming the next place to see and be seen by Jakarta’s beautiful people.

But all of that pales beside the true star of the show — Abdul’s food! I was delighted to see a selection of tapas on the menu and my colleague Lisa and I ordered three to begin — garlic chicken, mushroom with garlic and seafood croquette. Tapas are Spanish-style nibbles and each was merely a few bites, but what delicious bites they were, with delicate details that were truly impressive. Tiny mushroom caps were filled with garlic pesto and topped with roasted cherry tomatoes, each set off with a tiny deep-fried mint leaf. Fine strips of chicken breast were wrapped about slivers of zucchini and fresh thyme with slices of roast garlic alongside, and a seafood-filled potato croquet was served beside a barely cooked piece of salmon atop a shelled shrimp.

We decided to share a main and chose the grilled fillet of Norwegian salmon with crispy skin. To accompany the dish, we were offered a choice of fried or roast potato and salad or steamed vegetables. The salmon was served on a bed of potato mash with al dente asparagus spears, roast garlic cloves (Abdul, like myself, seems to be a fan of the pungent bulb) and a light drizzle of balsamic vinegar and oil. We had chosen roast potato, which came as a rosti-style cake of interwoven potato strips, and a salad of assorted baby leaves. The fish was perfectly cooked and the simple presentation allowed each individual flavor to be appreciated in its entirety.

Lisa suggested sharing a creme brulee for dessert, a suggestion I resisted until told by a staff member that Sabrosa’s brulee was well worth sampling. I usually avoid this most cliched of ’70s-style sweets, but Abdul’s dessert was indeed a unique twist. Rather than the usual ramekin of custard topped with caramelized sugar, we were served a bowl with the custard resting in a red berry coulis, topped with a latticework of spun sugar and a scoop of refreshing strawberry sorbet.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that Abdul studied and trained in Jakarta, although he has since worked in Jeddah, Bahrain and on an exclusive private island in the Seychelles. Jakarta diners should be pleased he has returned.

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