Opened in 2016 and promoted as Vietnamese Indonesian Fusion cuisine, Giói has a growing reputation for serving great food at reasonable prices. The restaurant’s unassuming and understated exterior was, for a while, overshadowed by its more established neighbours, but it has steadily grown through social media and online dining guides and it has now earned its place on many a “top” list of Jakarta restaurants.
The name Giói, pronounced “joy”, is Vietnamese for “well done”. An image of an overly crispy steak, but on further delving, this refers to their policy of doing everything in their restaurant “well’. This extends, as mentioned on the menu, to growing their own vegetables in their “plantery”. I do find new words exciting and attempted to find its meaning—perhaps a new quirky version of sowing seeds and subsequently growing plants. Searching to no avail at Oxford dictionary, I checked the Urban Dictionary and found that “plantery” means “the act of picking plants and misplacing them in places far away from their home which could deeply upset the plants”. Gulp!
There is no need to call the authorities, because it turns out that Giói hydroponically and organically grow all it’s own vegetables. Jokes aside, this is to be applauded and is reflected in the wonderful freshness and flavour of all its dishes.
I was looking forward to sampling the food again but was also prepared to be underwhelmed by the décor. Googling Giói, you will see pictures from their early days of pine clad walls and ceilings, which I am guessing were meant to convey an Asian vibe. The main wall in the dining room was adorned with traditional woven rice trays, a nice touch, with the rest of the space fairly basic but functional. Urban, but not quite chic. Three years on it has changed, but not in a good way, with additions and subtractions to the décor that no longer do it any justice. While the food will not let you down, a revamp of the interiors would certainly be appropriate.
On being seated and before the menu were presented, I knew I was going to order the Salmon Lodeh. The first time I had this I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. Salmon Lodeh is a soupy concoction with a mildly spiced coconut cream base and a whole piece of pan-seared salmon floating within. The salmon skin was still crispy, and the flesh perfectly cooked inside which for me is still dark pink in the centre. I love that that there are pieces of corn on the cob, which can be picked up and chewed on alongside tofu and tempeh and long beans.
For starters, we ordered the Som Taam Salad, Salt Pepper Tofu Bites and the Pork Banh.
The Som Taam is a traditional Thai salad dish, and this is the best version I have tasted. The citrus flavours of orange, pomelo and pomegranate paired with the crunch of peanut and other raw ingredients of this iconic dish make a wonderfully fresh starter. Additionally, the dish is brought to the table with the ingredients placed separately on the plate and expertly mixed.
The Salt Pepper Tofu Bites are deep fried silken tofu with a “special” chili seasoning. So moreish! They were piping hot out of the fryer and I just kept popping them into my mouth. The temptation was too hard to resist I had to ask my daughter to remove them from my sight.
The Pork Banh is a version of Banh Mi, a French-influenced Vietnamese street snack of crispy baguette filled with various meats and vegetables laced with a sweet sauce. The Giói version has the bun deep fried and filled with pulled pork and its accompaniments. Delicious, but perhaps an overly generous size as a starter.
Our mains beside the Salmon Lodeh (see above) were the Giói Signature Crispy Duck and the Asian Sticky Ribs.
The Crispy Duck was exactly as it should be, beautifully crisp on the outside yet moist and flavourful on the inside. The Sticky Ribs were succulent of the fall-off-the-bone type and will not disappoint discerning carnivores who love a bit of tasty rib.
We finished with the Molten Callebaut Pandan. This dessert was very impressive and a fitting end to a truly gastronomic feast. The molten pandan lava encased in a semi-circle of sponge was truly unique and bustling with the Asian flavour of pandan. A definite must try.
I cannot conclude without mentioning Giói has a well-stocked bar and talented bar staff who can prepare an impressive range of cocktails. A great addition to the Jakarta dining scene, I highly recommend a visit to Giói.