Dining Out at Restaurants in Jakarta
Try the local cuisine - Indonesian Food
Eating out is an integral part of life in Indonesia, for expats and Indonesians alike. While middle and upper class residents of Jakarta may spend their leisure time trying out the many international restaurants ... the working class also have their favorite dining experiences. As all over the world, dining out in Indonesia is a great way to get together with family, friends or business colleagues for a fun time!
Restaurants featuring Indonesian cuisine can be found all over Jakarta and other urban centers. Many regional dishes are popular far from home - including spicy hot Padang food, delicious chicken from Kalasan in Central Java, grilled fish from Ujung Pandang and delicious Chinese seafood dishes. A good place in Jakarta to get a quick introduction to Indonesian cuisine would be at a mall food court. Here, you can actually see the various dishes being prepared and sample different specialties until you discover your favorites.
Restaurant Delivery Services
Several enterprising firms have addressed the difficulties Jakartans find in dealing with traffic jams to get a meal from their favorite restaurnat.
Download the App of the delivery service that you want to use such as GoJek or Grab, login and select the food delivery service, then the restaurant and menu items and place your order. Phone apps facilitate the ordering process and are much easier than calling your order in.
Using a delivery service is an easy way to try out a lot of restaurants without the eternal hassle of Jakarta's infamous traffic jams!
Part of the experience of living in any large metropolitan city around the world is the variety of international cuisine available to the residents of the city. In this respect, Jakarta is no exception as there are diverse international culinary delights for all to experience. If you come from a small town in your home country, this may be your first chance to try out exotic cuisine which you had never had access to before!
A partial list of cuisines available in Jakarta would include: American, Asian, Brazilian, British, Chinese, Deli, Dutch, European, French, Greek, Indian, Irish, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Lebanese, Mediterranean, Mexican, Nouvelle, Pizza, Seafood, Spanish, Steak Houses, Swiss, Thai, Turkish, Vegetarian, Vietnamese, Tex-Mex, western fast food and broad-menued international restaurants. Within most of these cuisines there are a good selection of restaurants, from cheap to expensive.
Better restaurants are concentrated in five-star hotels and in the Golden Triangle area where business people are regular customers, as well as in residential areas such as Kemang, Menteng and Kebayoran Baru. Good listings of restaurants are available in the AWA's Jakarta Shoppers Guide and the Jakarta Dining restaurant guide. Many restaurant guides can also be found in major bookstores throughout the city.
Hotels offer a good selection of international and national fare. Major five-star hotels have several world-class restaurants each, with an international cuisine coffee shop and specialized national/international cuisine restaurants and theme bars. Lunch buffets are great way to indulge your taste buds!
Wine and drinks tend to be expensive as alcohol is heavily taxed upon importation into Indonesia. Your drinks may cost you more than the food bill!
Hotels often feature an expert chef brought in by their hotel chain or a foreign embassy for special food promotions which showcase national cuisine. These food festivals are a perfect opportunity to be introduced to the delicious cuisines of the world - without having to travel.
Prices in hotel restaurants tend to be higher than other restaurants. One reason is because the hotel chains are pressed to have comparative prices with other hotels in their chains and may find it hard to justify the low US dollar equivalent of their lavish food buffets and delicious meals to their regional management. If there are many imported food items in the buffet this will also justify the higher price. In most hotels there will be a tax and service charge of 21%. This fee is usually referred to as “plus-plus”.
In Jakarta, hotel and restaurant association members are obliged to charge their customers, and in turn pay the government, an 11% sales tax and a 10% service charge, which is given to their staff. When looking at prices, be sure and ask if they are inclusive or exclusive of the 21% tax and service charges.
If the restaurant doesn't automatically charge the 21% tax, an appropriate tip may be in order. This is usually not calculated on a percentage basis, but averages from Rp 50,000-100,000. The amount depends on the type of restaurant, the number of diners, your generosity, and the total amount of the bill.
There may be more than one waiter attending your table and the person who brings you the bill may not be the one that waited on you. The person that clears the table may be different again. So, instead of leaving money on the table or including extra with the payment ... you may choose to hand the money directly to the waiter/waitress to be sure it gets to him/her. More info on tipping
Many better restaurants in Jakarta allow their patrons to bring a bottle of wine from home and will only charge a corkage fee. With the high costs of quality wine in Jakarta, this service is welcome! Corkage fees range from Rp 100.000 to Rp 500.000 per bottle. Be sure you agree on a price BEFORE the wine steward opens the bottle. The restaurant management may be amenable to reducing the corkage fee, if you are good at bargaining! Members of the Wine and Spirits Circle get free corkage in many restaurants.
Loyalty Cards/Frequent Diner cards
Many restaurants have their own loyalty card (looks like a credit card) to encourage frequent business by regular customers. If there is a particular restaurant that you like and frequently dine at, ask if they have a loyalty or discount card. These cards are sometimes free, but sometimes a fee is required to obtain the card. If you do eat at the restaurant often enough, the savings will surpass this amount very quickly.
It is also common for credit card companies to have a cooperative agreement "kerja sama" with restaurants so that the restaurant will give a discount ranging from 10-50% off when using their specific credit card. If you contact your credit card company, they will be able to provide you with the list of establishments where cardholders can expect discounts.
Hotel Loyalty programs
In addition to restaurant loyalty cards, many of the five-star hotels in Jakarta have loyalty card programs as well. For a sum of money you will receive a loyalty card which is used for identity purposes only (not to charge) and/or a book of coupons. The card/vouchers entitle the member to a free night's stay, free meals, two-for-the-price-of-one meals and varying discounts on meals, depending on the number in the party, as well as other services. There is a time limit in which you can use the benefits, usually a one-year period.
In general, within the Indonesian culture, the person who invites others to dine out pays the bill. It would be more common for an Indonesian friend or business colleague to invite you to a restaurant for a meal than to their home. There are several reasons for this - inability of their staff to cook international cuisine, lack of space in the home for entertaining, unwillingness to show their 'private sanctum' to others, and a preference to dine out to show their good financial standing. Don't be offended if you are not invited to your Indonesian colleagues' homes to meet their families, it is just not customary. On the other hand, there are many westernized Indonesians who wouldn't hesitate to extend an invitation to a colleague or visiting expat to dine in their home; accept the invitation as an honor rarely given.
More common amongst young people is the practice of 'going Dutch' or everyone paying their own way - known in Indonesia by the acronym BSS - bayar sendiri-sendiri (everyone pays for their own). If you expect everyone to pay for their own meal, make that VERY CLEAR when you invite colleagues to eat together with you. If not, you may find that when it comes time to pay the bill - you, the 'wealthy' expat, are expected to pay. You may have thought that you 'suggested' or 'arranged' to eat together with the staff ... and they thought you were inviting them out at your expense!
Indonesians also have a custom of traktir (treating others) where someone invites their friends out for a meal at their own expense - most commonly done when it is YOUR OWN birthday!
Good restaurants offer catering services for your business and personal entertaining at home. Call your favorite restaurant to see if they can cater your next home event.
Night Clubs, cafes and bars in the major metropolitan centers, like Jakarta, see their share of good times with lively fun-seeking crowds letting loose on the weekend and partying till 2:00 a.m. If you like night life ... there are plenty of clubs in which you can eat, drink, dance and hang out. Some clubs offer pub food in a limited seating area up till 10:00 p.m., after which time only light snacks are available.
Private clubs also offer excellent dining experiences, at competitive prices. They boast world-class chefs, more privacy than public restaurants, and a staff makes it a point to know your preferences.
At the other end of the scale from those world class restaurants, are the gerobak/kakilima carts that roam the city selling local fare. Their approach is heralded by a specific sound for each food item, be it the ting-ting of a spoon on a bowl, the tock-tock of a stick on a block of wood or the whistle of a steam kettle. Food from a gerobak is often a preference with Indonesians and provides a great mid-morning snack or meal.
In general, it is only suggested to eat from these food carts, if the food cart is serving dishes that are thoroughly cooked on the spot, to help prevent food-borne illnesses. It would be advised, to provide your own dishes and silverware as the food vendor's dishes are washed in a single bucket of water over and over again throughout the day.
To avoid most stomach ailments due to lack of good hygiene in road-side food preparation: 1) eat only fruit that has been peeled, 2) drink only commercially bottled water or drinks, and 3) only eat food that has been thoroughly cooked - no raw vegetable salads off the streets are advised!
Read before ordering off the street - How Safe is it to Eat Street Food in Jakarta?
One step up from the roaming food carts is the semi-permanent warung, or food stalls, found along the side of major roads. Due to the low overhead, if any, warung offer cheaper fare than restaurants. Some Warung sprout up in the late afternoon and evening on roadsides, in parking lots, on sidewalks or any open space (including outside your front fence) to provide meals to passers-by. Each warung offers a particular menu, often featuring regional specialties. Indonesians are very knowledgeable about where their favorite warung are and will travel across the city to dine at these establishments, for the food obviously, not for the ambience. Some of the best food in Jakarta is available in warung - for those adventurous enough to seek it out!
Traditional/common warung consist of a simple tent structure tied to poles and/or the nearby fence, which can be quickly set up with wooden tables and benches. A spanduk (cloth with ads or the menu printed on it) serves as the wall between the dining area and the street or nearby warung. Most upscale warung display a bit more flair and attention to the design and surroundings of the warung using bright colored umbrellas, potted plants and more.
While dining in warung, don't be surprised to be solicited by peddlers who are selling their wares, wanting to shine your shoes or someone wanting to provide musical entertainment ... for a small contribution. Bring small change to be prepared.
Whatever your pleasure - Jakarta offers its residents enough restaurants to keep you busy trying new places for weeks on end, with no shortage of new adventures. Of course, you will soon develop your own favorite restaurants - that you go back to again and again.
Jakarta has it all - formal dining venues with haute cuisine to simple, down-to-earth roadside stalls with great food. Whatever your pleasure is - be adventurous and savor the many dining experiences available. The natural hospitable spirit of the Indonesian people overcomes any lack in service - just come on in, sit down and enjoy the food and the fun. The choice is up to you!
Last updated March 12, 2018