Back in Bangkok

April 13, 2009

Our flight from Jakarta to Bangkok was pleasant. Though we had about six hours delay. We arrived in the evening after 9 pm. From the Internet we knew that there were violent clashes between the armed forces and the red-shirt demonstrators in the centre of town. As long as the airport is not occupied…, we thought, it should be fine for us getting home. And so it was. The streets were deserted and it took no time to reach Thonglor, Soi 17. The family had come back from Krabi island the same day. Reunion, what a joy.


Easter Monday is an official holiday in Germany. Now that the family was together again, we did one of our normal Sunday routines: reading, listening to music, doing some sport and eating together. After about a week on Asian food, I longed for a pasta and a pasta it was to be! (rigatoni ricotta spinaci).


No better wine than a Thai wine, I thought; it would go well with this meal. I chose a bottle of ‘2006 Fiori Unwooded Chenin Blanc’ from Gran Monte Family Vineyard in Asoke Valley. Chenin Blanc is usually not one of my favourite white varieties but I knew that Gran Monte produces a decent one.

The wine has a nice golden colour, not much of a nose though, but typical Chenin Blanc flavours with a well- balanced acidity. The tropical fruit flavours went well with the pasta. This is a nice wine.

The sun was shining, four people were digging in, hungry like construction workers and busy telling stories from the holidays on Krabi and the elections in Indonesia.


Restaurant review: Seribu Rasa, Jakarta

April 12, 2009


We had a business lunch at a restaurant which was non-existing during my time in Jakarta. It’s right in the centre of town, and its name is “Seribu Rasa” which translates as “a thousand flavours”. The place was officially openend only on January 5, 2009.

We arrived early for lunch and the restaurant was only sparsely occupied. That, however, should change fast. The place was packed when we were having our meal.


The main entrance

Coming from the street, the place look rather odd, because the entry leads down to a parking in the basement. To the left is a little footpath which leads to the gates shown on the picture above. There is a lot of glass but also a lot of wood, pillars, window shutters, window frames as well as wooden furniture. I loved the garden, the fountains and the small walkways linking the different parts of the buildings.


The wall consist of white washed bricks. The mirror above gives it a more spacious feeling. I also loved the various colourful lamps and the lamp structures.


Unfortunately, I have only one picture of the food. The business atmosphere was not conducive to the taking of photos somehow.

Moreover, I messed up and only one of the photos I took is somehow presentable. It shows the “Kankung” ( a kind of water spinach) with seafood dish and the beef, both were very delicious. Furthermore, we had steamed fish, a dish of crabs, some chicken, squid and some lobster. The other remarkable vegetable was the Batak stype singkong leaf stew.


The “kangkung” and the beef dishs

The good news is that there are great photos of the various fusion cuisine dishes on a blog called “Daily What Not”. Please go there and admire the excellent shots.

Regarding the drinks I could not detect wine on the menu. My Indonesian friends all ordered Semilir Brastagi, a local strawberry variety from Sumatra which is served as an iced strawberry punch with pieces of fruit.

I will definitely come back another time to explore further the menu and the many Indonesian delicacies. If you are in the centre of Jakarta near the Grand Hyatt Hotel and the Deutsche Bank building you should just go around the corner and dive into the peaceful atmosphere of Seribu Rasa, an oasis in the city jungle.

Seribu Rasa
Jl Haji Agus Salim 128
Menteng, Central Jakarta
Tel.: +62-21-3928892

Freedom triumphs

April 11, 2009

That I love Indonesia is an open secret. It’s people are creative and extremely friendly. I love Indonesia for its multiculturalism, its tolerance and its pluralism. Despite a revamped conservative movement, freedom of expression is something deer to many, and these people do not let themselves been deterred as the following video clip shows:

Restaurant review: Elbow Room, Jakarta

April 11, 2009

By default I had some time for myself. I took the opportunity and strolled through Kemang, the area in Jakarta where my hotel, the Grand Flora, was located. The other day, I had briefly met friends at the “Elbow Room”, a brand new place to hang out in Jakarta but we only had a couple of beers.

I was impressed by the shiny new décor of solid wood panels and the copies of paintings by classical and modern artists. Also the high ceilings appealed to me, so did the non-smoking ban which provides the air of freedom in a world which more and more subdues private lives to the wisdom of a certain kind of political correctness. I consider myself a non-smoker despite my occasional cigar burning rituals I perform with great gusto.

Last night I went there again, this time for tea, as we say in Australia, which translates for non-Australian as “dinner”. Apart from the wood beams and wood panels, the bar contains also some type of ship-features, in golden metal colours. At first sight the large round window on the first floor gives the impression of a porthole. The smaller inner-circle is more reminiscent of an eyeball though which you can look through and out to the street. The toilets are done in ship-style too.

I choose a table on the first floor near the window and sat in the big and solid country-style leather chair, I like so much. I was not very hungry. Actually, a glass of wine would have done it for me. From the earlier visit I knew that you can only order whole bottles. The waiters are extremely friendly and helpful (great service). The jazz music gives the place a flair of intellectual sophistication. The lights are subdued, in fact the place is rather dark.


My little digital camera could not cope with the general darkness of the place. This is why I cannot show you pictures of the interior and of the food I consumed. I ordered bruscetta and fried zucchini, both quite tasty snacks. The Australian Shiraz (Penfolds) was out, so I settled for a bottle of ‘2004 Geoff Merrill Cabernet Merlot’, from South Australia, the only other red wine on offer.

I had not heard of this wine and this producer before. The Cabernet Merlot blend is a medium bodied wine with a wonderful dark red colour (14.5 % Vol). The black fruit aroma was quite nice, and the wine tasted also like black fruit. The mid-palate weight was very remarkable, the finish was OK but nothing spectacular, in short a solid wine. When researching the wine, I did not find it on the Geoff Merrill website (there is no cuvée of this type). But the wines are reasonable priced (16 to 30 A$). The Elbow Room charged INR 469,000.-, about € 30 for the bottle which I find to be a bit on the dear side.

I asked the waiter if I could take the bottle home in case I could not finish it and he kindly agreed (otherwise I would have left the place). I smoked some kretek cigarettes and had a jolly good time.

If you want to know what the interior of this bar-cum-restaurant looks like, you have to go yourself and find out. I personally prefer to eat in more lit up places. The prices for the snacks mentioned above were very reasonable. I recommend to the Elbow Room management to consider introducing a wine-by-the-glass policy. Check the place out if next time in Jakarta, it’s worth visiting. I will definitely visit again.

Elbow Room Restaurant
Jl. Kemang Raya No. 24 A
Jakarta, Indonesia
Te.: +62-21-7194274

Keliling Jakarta, dari TPS ke TPS

April 9, 2009

As election observers we toured the city today from polling station to polling station. It was the third time in 10 years that I did this. As always it was a wonderful opportunity to get to know the locals. We were warmly welcomed at every place with open arms and smiles; we were invited to join and see what was happening. People were so proud of their democracy and rightly so. Indonesia is a beacon of democracy in Asia.

We also visited the neighbourhood were I had lived during my time in Indonesia. When the neighbourhood chief saw me, he ushered my “in” (the voting booth is in front of the mesjid) and I had to sit with him on the steps of the little mosque for a long chat. It was as if I had not been away. He invited me to join the polling station team for lunch which I had to decline because of other commitments.

Only much later did I have time for a coffee, my favourite: “kopi tubruk”, a thick sweet brew. In addition a kretek (clove) cigarette, and I felt as a “wong cilik” (normal or ordinary person) again. It is so good to be back. And the parliamentary elections will certainly be a success. Hidup demokrasi.


Home coming – Jakarta

April 9, 2009

It’s more than six months now that we moved and left Jakarta for Bangkok. The parliamentary election provided the perfect opportunity to return to the country which was my home for 10 years. There is, however, just not enough time to catch up with all the friends, and because my professional life is so much ruled by plans, time schedules and meetings, I am somehow averse to making appointments beforehand. I rather leave it to chance and mood, drifting can be so liberating.

Tonight we arranged on very short notice a get together with old friends, friends (Jasmin, Florian and Nelly)
I had passed my last evening with before leaving Indonesia for good. Sebastian came along as a “ring in” as we say in Australia. We had dinner, surprise surprise, at the Gourmet Garage. It was as if no time had passed at all. I was home again (one of the many homes my life provided me with).


Although we had left behind an empty house six months ago, we had also left with a heart full of love, a bag of mystical stories and friendships for a lifetime. It’s a good feeling to return home. Thanks folks for all the kindness and the warm welcome.

PS: By he way, I found an article by Fitri Wulandari which she wrote for Reuters on wine consumption in Indonesia to which I had the opportunity to contribute a little.

Riesling-Traminer Cuvée from Saale-Unstrut, Germany

April 6, 2009


“In all things there is something of the marvellous”, Aristotle, 384-322 B.C.

Four days ago my colleague and friend Christian brought us a bottle of Riesling Cuvée from Saale-Unstrut, the most northern wine region of Germany. It did not last long. The first occasion was excuse enough for us to open this rare bottle of German wine. The ‘2007 Riesling Traminer Saale-Unstrut’ from the Winzervereinigung Freyburg-Unstrut (a type of co-operative) was a most amazing wine, a treasure here in Bangkok.


Saale-Unstrut is not only the most northern wine region of continental Europe but also one of the smallest in size (below 700 ha). It takes it’s name from two rivers: Saale and Unstrut. Grpae growing and wine production, though, go back a long way. The earliest prove dates from around 998 A.D. and covers the wines from Memleben Abbey.

The climate in the region is generally rough and very cold. Only in very warm years can good wines (Spaetlese, Auslese) be made. Yields are usually very low in comparison with other German wine regions. About 75% of the grapes grown are white varieties, among them Mueller-Thurgau, Silvaner, Pinot Blanc, Riesling, Traminer and other white varieties. However, given global warming more and more wines from Saale-Unstrut are of outstanding quality and find eager consumers.


We had this Riesling-Traminer Cuvée with Sunday lunch. I must admit that I never before heard of such a cuvée blending Riesling, my favourite white wine, with Traminer. Both are aromatic varieties but of a very different nature. The Cuvée displayed a honey aroma and tasted like peaches and apricots. The finish was acidic and sharp but not unpleasant. The wine has 12% alcohol, is very young but well balanced. Unfortunately, we had only this one bottle. It matched the food perfectly. So what was the food?

Well, it was a recipe from my favourite cooking book, the Philosopher’s Kitchen by Francine Segan which contains recipes from ancient Greece and Rome.

“Grouper with herbs and pecorino” (originally the fish in the recipe was ray fish, Francine uses skate, but any white fish will do) was the plate of the day.

The dish is accented with fresh fragrant marjoram, a herb that “Aristotle believed was an antidote to most poisons”. You take the following ingredients:

– 1 ½ cups of white wine
– 2 pounds skinned grouper, cut into 4 pieces
– Salt and freshly milled pepper
– 2 tablespoons minced assorted fresh herbs, such as parsley, mint, dill, and chives, lots of majoram
-1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
– 2 tablespoons grated pecorino cheese

How is it done?
Well, first bring white wine to a boil over high heat until reduced to half (5-6 minutes); season the fish with salt and pepper.
Then add marjoram and minced herbs, oil and mix with the hot wine, add fish and cook until firm, about 3 minutes. Serve topped with the cheese and a sprig of marjoram. The recipe can be found in the above book of Francine Segan page 97 (From Life of luxury, Archestratus).

We had it with potatoes and a salad (cucumber with orange and walnuts).


The potatoes


The fish with the herbs


On the plate

Needless to say, the food was very yummy. The four of us gobbled it up in no time. Especially my children were amazed (usually they prefer meat) that fish can taste that good. It is only the second recipe I know of where fish and cheese are successfully matched together.


After lunch it was espresso and Averna and some Belgian chocolates. I followed up with a cigar (a Casa de Torres, CT, Nicaragua, hand made).


What a beautiful smoke!