“The menu actually offers more than 300 dishes, comprising Cantonese, Indonesian, and Dutch delights.”
When a conversation revolving around food in Jakarta veers to Chinese restaurants territory, it’s safe to say that many would probably have heard of Restoran Trio, one of the oldest of its kind in town. Founded in 1947 – just two years after Indonesia declared its independence! Restoran Trio calls the Gondangdia area its home, and it’s quite easy to spot it, what with the green colour of the building that houses it and its big signboard on the roof.
I paid a visit to the eatery with some time to spare before it went into break mode. With a sincere greet by its staff, I took my seat and was handed a copy of its menu by the waitress. After a few flips through the menu, I was taken aback. It actually offers more than 300 dishes, comprising Cantonese, Indonesian, and Dutch delights. An unlikely combination, but I was up for it. I took a look around, and caught sight of the names of the restaurant’s signature dishes written on the walls in the archaic style of our Bahasa Indonesia. It felt like a trip back in time. I plumped for the Lumpia Udang Trio and Ayam Nanking, which prompted the waitress to ask me whether I’d like some acar (cucumber pickles) to go with my meal. I nodded vigorously to signify my acceptance to her proposition.
As someone who is of Chinese heritage, I find it amusing to judge a Chinese restaurant from its acar, and when it was served on our table, I was not disappointed. Served on a pewter plate, the chunky pickles treaded the fine line between sweet and sour with aplomb. After a few of the lovely acar made its way into my belly, the food made their arrival. The Lumpia Udang Trio was basically minced prawn covered with bean curd sheets, and it was lovely. The exterior was crunchy to a T, while its filling was perfectly chewy and well seasoned. The Ayam Nanking impressed me greatly as well, with the sliced chickens layered with deep-fried minced prawns and the sweet-and-sour sauce – courtesy of the mixture between butter and Worcestershire sauce – firing up my appetite.
From the corner of my eye, I could see the owner of Restoran Trio sitting at the cashier whilst counting the earnings of his venture. My guess is he’s in his early 70s, albeit still retaining a strong and healthy outlook. After paying for my meal, I introduced myself and indulged in a little chat with him.
It turns out that his name is Effendy, and he is the second son of the late Lam Khay Tjioe, one of the founders of Restoran Trio. “My father set up this place together with Tan Kim Po and Tan Lung,” he says. He took over the restaurant from his father in 1963, and during his time here, he has encountered many luminaries including Ali Sadikin, Bagong Kussudiardja, and even DN Aidit, the senior leader of the Communist Party of Indonesia. “The younger generation, such as Butet Kartaredjasa, found out about us from their parents,” he tells us. He then showed his collection of name cards that he has procured from his many customers from years gone by until now.
When asked about the future of the restaurant, Effendy was shook his head and smiled. “My daughter has agreed to continue running the restaurant. She can’t cook to save someone’s life, though, so we’re trying to teach her.” As someone who’s been in the business for the longest of time, we were curious as to what drove him to maintain the restaurant so successfully. “In order to be a good restaurateur, one needs to master the art of cooking. You can’t just rely on the chef; you yourself needs to know the exact measurements of each ingredient to ensure the quality of your food,” he shares.
By Jessicha Valentina
Jl. Rp. Soeroso No. 29A, Cikini,
T 021 3193 6295
Opens daily from 10am-2pm, and 5pm-10pm
Rp.100,000/US$8 per person