By Brian Johnston


 Each month we shine a spotlight on a different destination: a gastronomic paradise of diverse cuisine executed with style. This month: Bangkok. | Mengupas tujuan yang berbeda setiap bulannya; surga kuliner dengan berbagai menu yang disajikan dengan gaya. Bulan ini: Bangkok.

Astylish crowd heads to the 17th floor of the Zen Department Store for this ever-trendy restaurant, which gathers together the dishes of a variety of well-known Bangkok restaurants, presenting them all under one roof.

The menu is seemingly endless, allowing diners to browse through Italian, Japanese, Indian and Thai food, and is matched by an extensive selection of fine wines, champagnes and innovative cocktails. Try the signature Big Juicy Collagen Lipz (tequila, passion fruit, vanilla and lime) as you mingle with Thai starlets and seriously chic people in surrounds where dramatic architecture rules.

Whether dining inside or at the outdoor deck and lounge bar, guests get a great view over downtown Bangkok, accompanied by the latest chill-out music. www.zensebangkok.com. Bangkok mengukuhkan dirinya menjadi kota kuliner Asia, tak hanya menyajikan kelezatan kuliner khas Thailand, tetapi juga restoran yang inovatif dan memikat.
Segala macam restoran terkenal di Bangkok berkumpul dalam satu atap yang terletak di lantai 17 Zen Department Store. Menu-menu yang disajikan di tempat ini begitu beragam sehingga Anda dapat memilih mulai dari masakan Italia, Jepang, India dan Thailand, lengkap dengan daftar wine terbaik, sampanye dan koktil.

Jangan lupa untuk mencicipi minuman andalan Big Juicy Collage Lipz (yang berisi tequila, markisa, vanila dan jeruk) sambil membaur dengan bintang-bintang Thailand dalam suasana interior yang dramatis. Pemandangan Kota Bangkok yang indah dapat dinikmati para tamu sambil mendengarkan alunan musik saat bersantap di ruang dalam, outdoor deck, atau lounge bar.

Fifty-Five has an emphasis on quality wood-fire steaks, with specialities such as Japanese Kobe and Maezawa beef, Australian wagyu and prime-aged American steaks. It has a two-storey wine cellar where the sommelier flits on wings (with the help of some handy suspension wires) like an angel. Adjacent Red Sky martini bar is the spot for passion fruit or chocolate martinis before you head through to the restaurant which, curiously, is actually on the 54th floor.

LE BOUCHON – Food style | French Website | www.lebouchonbangkok.com Price | $$$

Steik masak kayu bakar berbahan daging berkualitas dari Kobe dan Maezawa, wagyu asal Australia dan prime aged American steak adalah hal yang menjadi perhatian utama Fifty Five. Restoran ini memiliki tempat menyimpan anggur setinggi dua lantai, sehingga sang pelayan, dengan bantuan kawat-kawat penarik, tampak bak bidadari yang terbang saat mengambil botol wine yang diinginkan. Di Red Sky martini bar, Anda dapat menikmati passionfruit atau chocolate martinis sebelum menuju restoran yang terletak di lantai 54.

Ultra-modern Breeze offers Asian seafood dishes with some rather inventive twists: crispy prawns with wasabi cream, lobster with chilli cabbage and jellyfish salad (well worth a try: much better than it sounds), or silver cod caramelised with Laurent Perrier champagne. If you can’t decide on dessert, munch your way through Breeze in Ice, an assortment of small desserts served up on crushed ice. Head upstairs afterwards to the 63rd-floor Sky Bar for perhaps the world’s most spectacular after-dinner drink.

Breeze yang super modern ini menawarkan masakan Asia dengan sedikit inovasi: udang renyah dengan wasabi, lobster dengan kol cabai dan salad ubur-ubur (menu yang wajib dicoba), atau silver cod yang dilumuri Laurent Perrier champagne. Jika sulit memutuskan menu pencuci mulut, Anda bisa mencoba Breeze in Ice, yang terdiri dari beragam dessert yang disajikan di atas es. Anda bisa menuju ke lantai 63 Sky Bar untuk sesi after-dinner.

Popular and casual French bistro Le Bouchon – rather surprisingly located in Bangkok’s red -light district – has a candlelit romantic and intimate atmosphere thanks to having just seven tables, plus a small bar often buzzing with conversation from the hopefuls who await a seat. On the menu are classic French country dishes, from beef cheeks in red wine to cassoulet (sausage and bean casserole) and steak tartare. The decadent can finish with a crème brûlée, pears poached in wine or mousse au chocolat.

Restoran Le Bouchon yang populer dan kasual ini – entah mengapa memilih lokasi di red-light district Bangkok – menyuguhkan suasana intim nan romantis, bercahayakan lilin dengan tujuh set meja serta bar kecil yang diramaikan para tamu untuk mendapat kesempatan duduk. Menu yang ditawarkan adalah menu Perancis klasik mulai dari beef cheeks in red wine hingga cassoulet (kaserol sosis dan kacang) dan steak tartare. Sebagai hidangan akhir bisa dipilih crème brûlée, pears poached in wine atau mousse au chocolat.

Popular and casual French bistro Le Bouchon – rather surprisingly located in Bangkok’s red -light district – has a candlelit romantic and intimate atmosphere thanks to having just seven tables, plus a small bar often buzzing with conversation from the hopefuls who await a seat. On the menu are classic French country dishes, from beef cheeks in red wine to cassoulet (sausage and bean casserole) and steak tartare. The decadent can finish with a crème brûlée, pears poached in wine or mousse au chocolat.

 

Restoran Le Bouchon yang populer dan kasual ini – entah mengapa memilih lokasi di red-light district Bangkok – menyuguhkan suasana intim nan romantis, bercahayakan lilin dengan tujuh set meja serta bar kecil yang diramaikan para tamu untuk mendapat kesempatan duduk. Menu yang ditawarkan adalah menu Perancis klasik mulai dari beef cheeks in red wine hingga cassoulet (kaserol sosis dan kacang) dan steak tartare. Sebagai hidangan akhir bisa dipilih crème brûlée, pears poached in wine atau mousse au chocolat.

FEEDING THE NATION

Arriving at Labuan Bajo airport you could be forgiven for thinking you had landed somewhere in Jamaica. Dreadlocked and afro-haired drivers were part of the greeting team in the small arrivals room; the only things missing were guitars, drums and a reggae tune. Our driver appeared from the group with a smile (and neat hair), and we followed him obediently, ready for our Flores adventure, humming ‘Buffalo Soldier’.

Our hotel, the Bintang Flores Hotel, is just ten minutes from the airport and located on a stretch of private beach near the centre of town. It’s the perfect base for all sorts of sightseeing. Our room overlooks a spectacular panorama of turquoise-blue ocean, lofty mountain ranges, coconut trees and distant islands. It’s hard not to be spellbound by its beauty. I fall in love immediately.

Our first meal: lunch at the Bintang Flores Hotel. We order nasi goreng, which is surprisingly good, and fish soup, tender chunks of white fish in a delicate pool of turmeric, lemongrass, tomato and chilli. I detect a squeeze of lime juice, which adds a refreshing finishing touch.

We head off to explore, which for me means finding the local market. As we drive into town across a mountain-top road, the expansive harbour comes into view. It is majestic and breathtaking in its movie-set perfection. There is a sense that this charming port has enjoyed a vibrant past of trading and exotic characters. I have been told that Hobbit-style people once lived in this region, and in this Lord of the Rings mystical mountain country it certainly seems possible.

Perched on the edge of the harbour near the pier, the market is located on just about the best real estate in town. It’s small as markets go but has an extraordinary range of glistening fresh fish in all sizes and colours, as well as fruit, vegetables and other provisions.

Labuan Bajo still feels like a fishing village, although every article I have read says that, on the contrary, it is now a bustling epicentre of tourism. I’m wondering how they define ‘bustling’? Laid-back and quiet comes to mind.

At sunset we head to the Lounge Bar in Jalan Soekarno-Hatta, and from the rooftop witness the harbour in all its twilight glory. One of Sea Trek’s elegant pinisi-style boats is moored among others, adding to the romance and glamour of the high seas. We laze about on cushions and marvel at this extraordinary destination and the diversity of Indonesia.

A local making tradition rice

A local making traditional rice cake near the marke

It’s hard o keep me away form the market, so I return the next moring. It’s time to get to know the locals and learn about their food!

While gazing at the stars I start cooking up an idea and dream of an island cruise.

For dinner, we visit a humble eatery called Philemon next to the market on the water’s edge. I’m feeling a little overdressed in my high heels, but the menu is promising and that’s enough for me. We order a banquet of grilled fish, wok-fried kangkung and sour fish soup served with a full-bodied tomato-chilli sambal, a plate of fresh lemon basil, slices of cucumber and fried aubergine. All supremely delicious.

It’s hard to keep me away from the market, so I return the next morning. It’s time to get to know the locals and learn about their food! We buy all sorts of sticky rice cakes that are layered with coconut milk, palm sugar and grated coconut,

similar yet different to those I eat in Bali. I’m still dreaming about the lapis-style rice cake I bought that was like dreamy crème caramel in a slice. I chat to a friendly Ibu at the market about making sambal. She’s a passionate cook and waxes lyrical about local chilli and her favourite dishes.

I promptly jot down her grilled squid in banana leaves recipe (I will let you know when I’ve made it). Next visit I will ask her to cook for me.

I buy papaya flowers (I’m in love with these), a bunch of watercress and sometiny squid strung on a bamboo ring, with a plan to sweet-talk the chef at Hotel Bintang Flores to cook them up. On the way home, we stop at Café Selini, one of Labuan Bajo’s most charming Greek-style cafés, for a cup of Flores coffee. I am told it’s Robusta, but the flavour is pleasantly lighter than I expect, not so earthy. Just what I need after a morning at the market. Mission accomplished and the chef agrees to cook the lunch. The menu includes wok-fried papaya flowers with watercress, braised squid in a delicate lemongrass and tomato broth, more fish soup (because I love it) and fresh tomato-cucumber-chilli sambal. Recipes now in hand!

For dinner we return to town and dine at the harbour-side night market for yet another feast of snapper, grouper, bream and baronang, some lightly basted and grilled, others braised in a clear tangy broth with lemon basil, all served with wok-fried beans, sliced cucumber and sambals and washed down with chilled Bintang beer. When you’re surrounded by fresh seafood, no other food matters. This popular seaside eatery has all the romance of any Asian food bazaar with its communal eating, displays of sparkling fresh fish, colourful food stalls, casual under-the-stars dining, and the scent and smoke of grilled fish fanned over coconut coals.

Time to go Komodo hunting and we speed across the turquoise-jade seas to Rinca Island to see these dragon-like creatures. Most sensibly, they are sleeping in the shade, and after a few snaps we take a short trek through the jungle and savannah and then head for Kelor Island for a swim. I don’t think I have been to a more beautiful beach. Picture a small cove, white sand and pristine sea with a view of the dramatic velvet-green misty mountain ranges of nearby islands. An expanse of land, sea and sky. I’m planning my return while I float on the water.

Afternoon tea and we drop into La Cucina on the main road for more local coffee, cakes and home-made ice cream. La Cucina has that Sophia Loren ‘let’s ride around town on a Vespa’ feel about it with its Italian accents and Mediterranean colours. The sun is starting its descent, and the view from the picturesque terrace offers yet another magnificent vista of the harbour, boats bobbing in the afternoon sun.

That night we venture back into town and have our final meal at Treetops Café. This multi-levelled treehouse-style restaurant has a chilled ambience that’s hard to beat. Our table, restored teak from old local boats, has a sweeping view of the bay, and the menu is the most extensive we have seen yet. We splurge on sour fish soup, grilled snapper, sambal with tiny anchovies, wok-fried greens, braised squid and melt-in-your-mouth tuna satay. Mattheus, the charismatic owner, gives us the royal treatment and presents us with an enormous platter of fruit fritters and ice cream for dessert. We leave feeling well fed and blissfully happy.

Four days in this charming town have left me smitten. Some places get under your skin, and this is one of them. My dream of a Sea Trek Sailing Adventure around the islands won’t leave me alone. Stay tuned, Labuan Bajo, because I am definitely coming back!

similar yet different to those I eat in Bali. I’m still dreaming about the lapis-style rice cake I bought that was like dreamy crème caramel in a slice. I chat to a friendly Ibu at the market about making sambal. She’s a passionate cook and waxes lyrical about local chilli and her favourite dishes.

I promptly jot down her grilled squid in banana leaves recipe (I will let you know when I’ve made it). Next visit I will ask her to cook for me.

I buy papaya flowers (I’m in love with these), a bunch of watercress and sometiny squid strung on a bamboo ring, with a plan to sweet-talk the chef at Hotel Bintang Flores to cook them up. On the way home, we stop at Café Selini, one of Labuan Bajo’s most charming Greek-style cafés, for a cup of Flores coffee. I am told it’s Robusta, but the flavour is pleasantly lighter than I expect, not so earthy. Just what I need after a morning at the market. Mission accomplished and the chef agrees to cook the lunch. The menu includes wok-fried papaya flowers with watercress, braised squid in a delicate lemongrass and tomato broth, more fish soup (because I love it) and fresh tomato-cucumber-chilli sambal. Recipes now in hand!

For dinner we return to town and dine at the harbour-side night market for yet another feast of snapper, grouper, bream and baronang, some lightly basted and grilled, others braised in a clear tangy broth with lemon basil, all served with wok-fried beans, sliced cucumber and sambals and washed down with chilled Bintang beer. When you’re surrounded by fresh seafood, no other food matters. This popular seaside eatery has all the romance of any Asian food bazaar with its communal eating, displays of sparkling fresh fish, colourful food stalls, casual under-the-stars dining, and the scent and smoke of grilled fish fanned over coconut coals.

Time to go Komodo hunting and we speed across the turquoise-jade seas to Rinca Island to see these dragon-like creatures. Most sensibly, they are sleeping in the shade, and after a few snaps we take a short trek through the jungle and savannah and then head for Kelor Island for a swim. I don’t think I have been to a more beautiful beach. Picture a small cove, white sand and pristine sea with a view of the dramatic velvet-green misty mountain ranges of nearby islands. An expanse of land, sea and sky. I’m planning my return while I float on the water.

Afternoon tea and we drop into La Cucina on the main road for more local coffee, cakes and home-made ice cream. La Cucina has that Sophia Loren ‘let’s ride around town on a Vespa’ feel about it with its Italian accents and Mediterranean colours. The sun is starting its descent, and the view from the picturesque terrace offers yet another magnificent vista of the harbour, boats bobbing in the afternoon sun.

That night we venture back into town and have our final meal at Treetops Café. This multi-levelled treehouse-style restaurant has a chilled ambience that’s hard to beat. Our table, restored teak from old local boats, has a sweeping view of the bay, and the menu is the most extensive we have seen yet. We splurge on sour fish soup, grilled snapper, sambal with tiny anchovies, wok-fried greens, braised squid and melt-in-your-mouth tuna satay. Mattheus, the charismatic owner, gives us the royal treatment and presents us with an enormous platter of fruit fritters and ice cream for dessert. We leave feeling well fed and blissfully happy.

Four days in this charming town have left me smitten. Some places get under your skin, and this is one of them. My dream of a Sea Trek Sailing Adventure around the islands won’t leave me alone. Stay tuned, Labuan Bajo, because I am definitely coming back!

Saat menginjakkan kaki di Bandara Labuan Bajo, bisa dimaklumi jika Anda merasa seperti berada di Jamaika. Para pengemudi berambut keriting terlihat di antara para penyambut yang berada di ruang kedatangan, hanya kurang suara gitar, drum dan alunan musik reggae. Sambil tersenyum, sopir yang akan mengantarkan kami pun maju memperkenalkan diri, dan kami langsung berada di belakangnya, bersiap untuk bertualang di Flores.

Hotel kami, Bintang Flores Hotel, hanya sejauh sepuluh menit dari bandara dengan lokasi di tepi pantai, tak jauh dari pusat kota. Kamar kami menghadap ke laut berwarna biru-hijau toska, dengan deretan gunung, pohon kelapa dan pulau di kejauhan. Sulit rasanya untuk tak tersihir oleh keindahan panorama ini. Saya pun langsung jatuh cinta.

Yang pertama kali saya nikmati; makan siang di Bintang Flores Hotel. Kami memesan nasi goreng, yang ternyata enak sekali, dengan sup ikan, daging ikan putih dengan bumbu kunyit, serai, tomat dan cabai. Saya samar-samar bisa merasakan perasan jeruk nipis yang menyegarkan.

feeding_the001
A fish seller at the market

Kami pun beranjak untuk menjelajah lebih jauh lagi, bagi saya ini artinya mengunjungi pasar tradisional. Dalam perjalanan kami ke kota yang melewati daerah pegunungan, kami melewati sebuah pelabuhan besar. Sepertinya, dermaga ini pernah menjadi tempat perdagangan yang ramai. Saya pernah diberitahu bahwa orang-orang seperti hobbit pernah tinggal di daerah ini dan di daerah mistik mirip Lord of the Rings ini, hal seperti itu tampaknya mungkin terjadi.

Berlokasi di pinggir pelabuhan dekat dermaga, pasar yang kami datangi ini tak jauh dari lokasi real estate terbaik di Labuan Bajo. Pasar ini tak begitu besar tetapi memiliki ikan segar dalam beragam ukuran dan warna, buah, sayuran dan banyak lagi. Labuan Bajo masih terasa seperti sebuah desa nelayan walaupun dalam setiap artikel yang saya baca, daerah ini dikatakan merupakan pusat rekreasi yang ramai. Saya sedikit bingung dengan definisi ramai, karena menurut saya di sini suasananya santai dan sepi.

Cafe selini
Cafe selini

Ketika senja tiba, kami menuju ke Lounge Bar di Jalan Soekarno-Hatta. Dari rooftop, tampak pemandangan pelabuhan yang berkelip indah. Perahu-perahu bergaya Pinisi yang sedang membuang sauh menambah romansa dan glamornya lautan. Kami bersantai di atas

sofa dan terpesona dengan keberagaman dan keindahan tujuan wisata Indonesia. Sambil menatap indahnya bintang-bintang, saya pun membayangkan indahnya tur keliling pulau.

Untuk makan malam, kami bersantap di rumah makan pinggir laut sederhana bernama Philemon, tak jauh dari pasar. Saya merasa berdandan terlalu rapi malam itu dengan memakai sepatu hak tinggi. Namun hidangan yang disajikan cukup menjanjikan dan hal itu sudah cukup bagi saya. Kami pun memesan ikan bakar, tumis kangkung dan sup ikan asam dengan sambal tomat, kemangi, irisan timun dan terung goreng. Semua sangat lezat.

Bagi saya, tak mudah berada jauh dari pasar, sehingga akhirnya saya pun kembali lagi keesokan harinya. Kali ini, saatnya mengenal lebih dekat penduduk lokal dan makanan mereka. Kami pun membeli berbagai kudapan dari ketan yang dibubuhi santan, gula aren dan kelapa parut. Tampak mirip tapi tak sama dengan yang biasa saya makan di Bali. Saya masih terbayang kue lapis dari beras yang saya beli. Bak karamel yang lembut di setiap lapisnya.

Saya pun mengobrol dengan seorang ibu yang ramah di pasar tentang bagaimana membuat sambal. Ibu itu suka memasak dan bercerita mengenai cabai dan menu kesukaannya. Saya pun langsung mencatat resep cumi-cumi bungkus daun pisang yang dia berikan (saya akan bagikan bila sudah berhasil membuatnya). Pada kunjungan berikutnya saya akan memintanya memasak untuk saya.Saya membeli bunga pepaya (ini sayuran favorit saya), seikat selada air dan sotong dengan irisan bambu muda untuk saya diskusikan dengan seorang juru masak di Hotel Bintang Flores bagaimana cara memasaknya.

Dalam perjalanan pulang, kami mampir di Cafe Selini, salah satu kafe paling menarik di Labuan Bajo dengan arsitektur bergaya Yunani, untuk menikmati secangkir kopi Flores. Kopi yang saya minum adalah Robusta. Rasanya lebih encer daripada yang saya bayangkan. Pas seperti yang saya butuhkan setelah berkeliling pasar pagi ini.

Rencana pun terlaksana dan sang koki setuju memasak sotong yang saya bawa untuk menu makan siang. Menu yang ada terdiri dari tumis bunga pepaya dengan selada air, sotong dengan serai dan saus tomat, lalu sup ikan kesukaan saya dan sambal dengan tomat dan ketimun. Semua resepnya sudah saya kantongi!

feeding_the003Untuk makan malam, kami pun kembali ke kota dan bersantap di pasar malam yang berada dekat pelabuhan untuk menikmati sajian kakap, kerapu, nila dan baronang, ada yang diberi sedikit bumbu dan dibakar, sedang ada pula yang dibumbui dengan kaldu bening yang beraroma jeruk nipis dan kemangi, semua disajikan bersama tumis kacang, irisan timun dan sambal serta minuman dingin. Jika makanan tangkapan hasil laut segar ada di hadapan Anda, makanan lainnya jadi terasa kurang penting.

Tempat makan yang berlokasi di pinggir pantai ini cukup terkenal dengan ciri khas tempat makan di Asia, yaitu makan beramai-ramai, ikan segar yang dipajang, tenda pedagang yang warna-warni, makan di udara terbuka dan aroma serta asap dari ikan yang dibakar dengan arang batok.

Akhirnya tiba saatnya kami ‘berburu’ komodo. Dengan perahu motor, kami menuju Pulau Rinca untuk melihat sosok binatang serupa naga ini. Mereka tampak sedang tidur di bawah pohon. Setelah beberapa kali memotret, kami mengambil jalan pintas melewati hutan dan padang rumput menuju Pulau Kelor untuk berenang. Rasanya saya belum pernah melihat pantai seindah ini. Teluk kecil, pasir putih dan laut berlatar belakang pegunungan yang hijau dramatis. Di atas perahu motor, saya berjanji dalam hati untuk kembali lagi ke tempat ini.

Setelah minum teh, kami menuju La Cucina yang berada di jalan utama untuk menikmati kopi, kue dan es krim. La Cucina memiliki nuansa ‘mari berkeliling kota dengan vespa’ khas Sophia Loren dari namanya yang berbau Italia dan warna-warna Mediterania. Seiring bergesernya arah matahari, pemandangan yang tampak dari teras sungguh menakjubkan. Suasana pelabuhan dengan perahu-perahu yang ditambatkan.

Malam itu kami kembali ke kota dan bersantap malam di Treetops cafe. Restoran bergaya rumah pohon tiga lantai ini memiliki nuansa yang luar biasa. Dari meja tempat kami duduk, yang terbuat dari kayu jati bekas perahu, kami dapat melihat keindahan teluk. Menu yang tersedia di sini cukup lengkap, kami pun memesan sup ikan kuah asam, kakap bakar, sambal teri, tumis sayur, sotong, dan sate tuna yang lembut. Mattheus, sang pemilik kafe, memberikan kami sajian spesial, buah-buahan goreng tepung dan es krim sebagai pencuci mulut. Kami meninggalkan kafe itu dengan perasaan puas dan senang.

Empat hari di kota yang menawan ini membuat hati saya tertambat. Ada beberapa tempat yang tak mudah dilupakan, dan Labuan Bajo salah satunya. Keinginan saya untuk berlayar mengelilingi pulau terus mengganggu saya. Labuan Bajo, tunggulah, saya pasti akan kembali!


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