“A dish that exemplifies the classic East-meets-West cooking, the Hamburg Steak was made from minced beef turned into a patty topped with steak sauce.”
One of the oldest names in the world of Indonesian culinary, Toko Oen was first established in 1910 when Liem Gien Nio – or Oma Oen – opened a pastry shop in Yogyakarta. The name came from her husband’s name, Tjoen Oen Hok, who is affectionately known as Opa Oen. As time went by, the patisserie got bigger in stature, and it became an ice cream parlour-cum-restaurant in 1922, serving a combination of Indonesian, Chinese, and Dutch delights. It then spread its wings by opening branches in Jakarta, Malang, and Semarang. In 1937, the outlet in Yogyakarta was shut down, while its shop in Jakarta ceased operation in 1973. By 1990, the branch in Malang was acquired by a new owner, which left the Toko Oen in Semarang as the last remaining outlet operated by Tjoen Oen Hok’s family.
Currently overseen by the fourth generation of the family, Toko Oen Semarang still consistently serves treats that are concocted using Oma Oen’s recipes. As I entered the joint, it felt like being transported back in time, with glass jars filled with Dutch cookies furnishing the snack counter. I took a seat at one of the many tables and beckoned for the waiter to come over. An old man who looked he was in his late 60s approached my table and handed me the menu. Garbed in a white shirt with a peci (a traditional cap that has its roots in Islam) covering his head, he reminded me of our former president Soekarno. After exchanging a few words, he then recommended me to sample the Hamburg Steak and Kroket (Indonesian-style croquette), which I agreed to take on.
A dish that exemplifies the classic East-meets-West cooking, the Hamburg Steak was made from minced beef turned into a patty topped with steak sauce. I could taste a strong tangy flavour that is reminiscent of a Worcester sauce from the dressing, which reminded me of my mum’s beefsteak. The Kroket was similar to a French croquette, but with a piece of green chilli served on the side. Very Indonesian indeed.
One aspect of Toko Oen Semarang that I fell in love with – besides its food, obviously – was the ambience. With no loud music playing in the background, I could afford to read a book while I was there, which is a rarity nowadays as most new restaurants tend to crank up the volume of their speakers as loud as possible. Moreover, despite the air conditioner and the credit card machine at the cashier, there are more classic furniture and decorations here that brings about a sense of nostalgia for its loyal patrons – especially those of a certain generation.
Jl. Pemuda No. 52
Semarang, Central Java
T: 024 354 1683
Open daily from 9.30am-9.30pm