Babooji: Punjab on a PlateNew In Jakarta
The alchemy of spices combined with modern interiors reveal that there’s a new breed of Indian restaurant emerging — one targeted at the well-seasoned diner. Babooji is one of them.
Nestled on the higher reaches of Gunawarman, the restaurant, with its tall, arched windows and soothing wood accents is warm and welcoming. The exposed brick decor is devoid of any kitschiness and it is clear from the off that the restaurant has a natural authenticity about it - and doesn’t need to try too hard.
The bar along the entry is stocked with top shelf liquor — including Singleton whisky — and the seating far more modern and functional than pretentious ethnic.
What sets Babooji apart, however, is its authentic cuisine. From chai served up in a glass (with a couple of milk biscuits— evocative of nurseries in India— to boot) to dishes that have just the perfect alchemy of spices to satiate any purist, it is the kind of restaurant that lures in the homesick Indian as much as it does the worldly expatriate about town. With desi twists to classic drinks (there’s “Delhi Sangria” and “Mumbai Mule”) diners can enjoy a range of North Indian favourites in a setting that is at once whimsical and sophisticated.
Savour the strong wine to juice ratio of the sangria as you tuck into a dish of prawns. Deep red from the spices and colouring, the dish, served up with a mint sauce, is mildly spiced with a refreshing kick. For something a bit gutsier as a entree, there’s the familiar chicken tikka. Perfectly moist and well cooked this dish, too, whets the appetite for the heady gastronomical adventure ahead. Treat yourself to a range of short eats including the ubiquitous street food staple, vada pav. Pillowy rolls hold bite-sized nuggets of spiced, fried potato croquettes within and, when paired with the spiced mint chutney, is deeply satisfying.
A restaurant chef’s ability to perfect a certain dish is often subjective and so it goes with Indian restaurants. One dish that is easy to prepare but not as easy to perfect is the dum biryani. The right blend of spices is important as is the ability to prepare the dish leaving each long grain of rice separate. All too often one ends up with mushy rice or curried rice dishes that seem obtuse.
In my quest for good, authentic biriyani in Jakarta, I approached the dish with the zeal and vigour I do most other main courses. Fortunately it didn’t disappoint. At all. The lamb biryani we were served was delicious - almost perfect. Beautifully spiced, the flavours were evenly distributed across each, separate grain of rice; the lamb cooked until it was fork-tender. If there was one dish to celebrate - and to return to each time, this would it.
So feted, it was time to move on to the equally delectable butter chicken with its rich, delicious sauce that was best suited to the plain naans on offer. The feast was endless - but each bite was worthy of being savoured.
It’s hard to follow up a rich meal like this with an equally rich dessert - as Indian sweets are wont to be. But the Babooji special Khajuri shahi is a different way to round off with a sweet finish. Here, bread is stuffed with dates and dipped in milk and finished up with cardamom and saffron. Although not traditionally Indian the dish’s accents are distinctly subcontinental and round off the meal suitably.
If you prefer a more western option, the tava brownies is the way to go. Rather like brownies à la mode, the dish arrives with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. The Babooji twist on it, however, is that it’s presented straight on the sizzle pan on which it was cooked, giving it a bit of a dramatic push.
Restaurants, like food trends, come and go but there’s something about Babooji that gives one the confidence that this latest Indian eatery is here to stay - and convince skeptics Indian food is well worth the indulgence.
Jl. Gunawarman 61
T: +62-21 2751 9913