Despite its cornucopia of distinctive seafood dishes, there is still a lack of restaurants in Jakarta that specialises in Palembang cuisine – especially when compared to the number of Padang joints, for example. Putra Sriwijaya is one amongst a handful of such eateries. Found on Jalan Proklamasi, it can be slightly difficult to locate due to the absence of a signboard and its entrance that is far from the main road. The clock struck 8pm as I entered the near-desolate establishment. As I wondered whether the place was still open, a waitress finally came around and showed me to my table.
Putra Sriwijaya has been in existence for more than ten years and welcomes a steady stream of customers – a sign that its presence has been greeted warmly by the many Palembang cuisine enthusiasts. Founded by the late Bapak Johnny Wahab – who was once a major general in the Indonesian army – the eatery is now run by his son Nine Wahab, who is also the owner of Warm Mee in Cikajang and Parish Cake Shop.
It didn’t take long for my food to arrive as the place was pretty empty at the time. The first dish to show up was its Sup Pindang Patin (iridescent shark fish soup). Dark in colour and topped with basil leaves, it consists of one large piece of iridescent shark meat and cuts of pineapple. Its rather tangy taste that probably originated from the basil leaves and pineapple slices gives off a refreshing feeling and reminded me of Thailand’s Tom Yum. The fish meat itself is soft and savoury, and a dollop of sambal with pineapple bits was served to accompany the soup.
The next dish that I tried was obviously Palembang’s signature Pempek (fried fishcake). The Pempek Kapal Selam (submarine-shaped fishcake) is quite sizeable and is dished out with vermicelli, cucumber slices, and a sprinkle of dried shrimp. It tasted flavourful, while the egg inside the fishcake felt firm on the palate. The best thing about it is the cuka (vinegar sauce), which was sweet, sour, and savoury. In conclusion, one of the finest Pempek I’ve ever sampled.
Graha IJW, Jl. Proklamasi No. 91,
Menteng, Central Jakarta
T: 021 3755 4554
Open daily from 9am-9pm
Rp.60,000/US$4.60 per person