Gado-Gado should be your dish of choice for lunchtime if you’re a vegetarian or simply a fan of vegetables. It’s not that difficult to get your hands on the dish, but it can be a very arduous task to find one that’s good enough for one’s palate. One place that may be able to satiate your hankering for Gado-Gado is Gado-Gado Cemara.
Founded in 1947 by one Niawati Setiawan, there are two Gado-Gado Cemara branches that you could pay a visit to here in Jakarta: either in Tanah Abang or the one inside Setiabudi One Building. Despite having been in business for decades now, Gado-Gado Cemara still utilises the very same recipe that was concocted by its founder to ensure its authentic and original flavour.
I popped by its outlet in Setiabudi One and ordered its signature Gado-Gado Cemara along with some Lontong (rice cake). Although of considerable size, it doesn’t look quite attractive presentation-wise. Served with Kerupuk (crackers) and Emping (melinjo nut crackers), it is topped with a deluge of peanut sauce that engulfed the vegetables underneath it.
Its looks, however, wasn’t representative of its taste. One bite was all it took for me to understand why this restaurant has been dubbed by many as the best Gado-Gado joint in Jakarta.
What makes Gado-Gado Cemara stands out from its peers is its peanut sauce. Made from a mixture of peanuts and cashew nuts, it features a dense texture and is very flavourful – sweet, yet slightly savoury. Combined with the potpourri of fresh vegetables–comprising cabbages, spinach, long beans, cucumber and bean sprouts – and the Lontong, it became the perfect concoction for my lunch.
The only drawback that I found with this eatery is its sambal, which I found to be incompatible with the Gado-Gado, since they are served separately. It is too watery and a wee tangy in taste – akin to the sambal used for Soto (meat soup). It feels a bit like mixing bottled sambal into a bowl of Bakso (meatball) soup – there’s nothing wrong with it, but it’s not advisable. On the upside, at least you have the freedom to adjust the level of spiciness according to how you see fit.
Setiabudi One Building, Unit A211,
Jl. HR Rasuna Said, Kav. 62,
T: 021 252 4383
Open daily from 10am-10pm
Rp.40,000/US$3.08 per portion