COCONUTS CRITICS TABLE – Trendy Jakarta restaurants used to be able to get by with a good location and cool decor while still serving up mediocre food. But Jakarta diners are getting much pickier, with a growing demand for authentic flavors rather than passing fads. Lucky for us, there are plenty of new establishments willing to step up to the plate.
The latest, and one of the most eye-catching attempts, is Mother Monster, a casual dining restaurant, café and bar with an eccentric style.
A collaboration between Biko Group (Füjin, Pippo, Beer Garden) and popular brunch chain Common Grounds, the much buzzed about venue opened last month (December 2017) and is located inside Plaza Indonesia.
While the name might make you think of Lady Gaga, head chef Gloria Susindra said the quirky name symbolizes the merging of two concepts: the comforting notion of the Indonesian ‘Mother’ with the mischievous and indulgent ‘Monster’.
“We nourish you, but then there’s the monster side, where you can go a bit crazy,” Susindra told me, referring to the extensive cocktail list and decadent food options.
Erma Bombeck once said, "Housework can kill you if done right." That woman certainly knew what she was talking about. Bless her soul, that feisty lady. I just love her. • Speaking of housework, my husband and children think I am made for cleaning, washing and cooking. How wrong they were. • If only they know what I am capable of. No. I am not talking about the skeletons in my closet. • I rather dwell on the fact that I can't wait for that stiff drink when everyone's fast asleep.
Despite the dramatic name, Mother Monster looks quiet and unassuming from the outside, located amid a string of other restaurants on the mall’s ground floor.
But once you sit down, you can see that mundane is not what the restaurant has in mind.
Mother Monster’s unique brand of décor somehow blends modern minimalist design and a retro 1970’s-in-Miami vibe. The particular shade of peachy-orange splashed over the walls in the front dining room is quite mesmerizing. In the center of the restaurant stands a well-stocked bar, while the back is an open-air smoking area.
The menu packs an unmissable punch of creativity and style, with the Mother Monster spirit captured in the cheekily-named menu items, from ‘Not Your Basic B**ch’ to ‘Stringer Things’.
Take a look at ‘mother’s liquid libations’ for funky original cocktails like ‘Pleasure Garden’ (gin, black raspberry liqueur, raspberry syrup and fresh lemon juice).
The menu’s staples are quintessential comfort food classics pulled from America’s Deep South (ribs, burgers, fries, doughnuts), redesigned and refined with a flavourful Asian twist.
“The focus is actually new-American,” said Gloria.
“There’s a lot of room to play with other flavors, as long as you stick to [the original] cooking style.”
But there are also more delicate Japanese- and European-influenced elements, such as the starter of wagyu carpaccio with ponzu, parmesan and chives, bringing balance and lightness to the menu.
Filling out the rest of the pages are classics from like Hainanese chicken, aglio e olio and a selection of steak cuts.
We decided on the Crustacean Toast (95 000 IDR) and Rip The Ribs (135 000 IDR) to start.
The former, a take on the Chinese takeaway classic prawn toast, featured delicately deep-fried toasts topped with ‘butter-poached’ prawns, chilli mayo and sesame seeds. The creamy prawn mix contrasted nicely with the crunchy base and hid a nice kick of chilli to bring the flavors out.
The ribs came in a disappointingly small serving for the price, but perfectly captured the Mother Monster concept. The twice-cooked organic lamb ribs were served with a dark and sticky dipping sauce side, but first sprinkled with a flavourful dry Szechuan pepper seasoning that highlighted the kitchen’s sophisticated touch.
Our main, 48-Hour Ragu (95 000 IDR), and side of the Cauliflower (45 000 IDR), were less inventive but very satisfying.
The ragu itself was excellent, with a rich tomato and red wine base, tender mince and all the right herbs, exactly as you’d hope a real Italian nonna would make it. Piled on top of perfectly al-dente pappardelle, this dish was easily a favorite. Despite the restaurant’s ambitious menu, in this case it was doing all the simple things right that really made the dish.
The side of braised and charred cauliflower served with salsa verde and crumbled cashews was inventive but a bit lacking in flavor. Each element on the plate was executed well but needed something extra to punch it up.
Although not one of Mother Monster’s calling cards, dessert really impressed. We ordered ‘Class-A Coco’ (60.000 IDR); coconut cake topped with pandan cream accompanied by homemade coconut sorbet and a coconut wafer. The soft and slightly chewy coconut cake contrasted perfectly with a creamy yet light sorbet while the wafer added texture. The coconut flavors were prominent but not overwhelming and the pandan cream rounded out the plate’s flavors nicely.
So yes, the food is great and is made with real flair.
But what’s important is that Mother Monster hasn’t just focused on the food at the expense of anything else. It’s clearly the carefully executed work of experienced restaurateurs: an extensively-stocked bar, real coffee, stylish décor and well-trained staff all make Mother Monster more than worthy of the buzz it has received. This is one more trendy restaurant that actually lives up to the hype.
Plaza Indonesia, Level One
Jl. M.H. Thamrin, Gondangdia,
Menteng, Jakarta Pusat, DKI Jakarta 10350
(021) 2992 1939
Mon – Sun: 10am – late
Coconuts Critic’s Table reviews are written based on unannounced restaurant visits by our writers and paid for by Coconuts Jakarta. No freebies here.