There are many reasons to love Jakarta, chief among them is the fact that Indonesia’s capital is a microcosm of culinary delights found throughout the archipelago (we still have, of course, delightful foreign imports like burgers, French/freedom fries, and even amazing ‘secret’ pork specialty restaurants where you can really pig out).
Even more so than global fast food chains, restaurants serving Padang food (well, technically, Minang food, as it is a culinary tradition passed down largely from the Minangkabau ethnic group in West Sumatra) are the most ubiquitous kind you’ll find in Jakarta.
While people tend to consider all Padang cuisine a single culinary style, there are actually some subtle and not-so-subtle regional variations, all of which can be found throughout Jakarta. So, if the thought of rendang (beef slow cooked in coconut milk and a numerous array of spices) and sambalado (chili paste) is making you crave the sweet burn of spice on your tongue, check out our list of the best Padang restaurants in Jakarta:
The title of “best Padang restaurant” in Jakarta is probably tossed around a bit too lightly these days, but in the case of Sepakat, few who have eaten there would deny the honor.
Sepakat is kind of a well-kept secret since it’s rarely mentioned in the media (sorry), but therein lies its charm. Located on the second floor of a run-down building next to Blok M Square in South Jakarta, you’d hardly suspect to see such a space regularly packed with customers, who, like we did, have learned about the restaurant via glowing word-of-mouth and are there for no reason other than the food (the decor is nothing to write home about).
A must-try here is the rare delicacy known as gulai gajeboh (unadulterated cow fat served in spicy Padangnese coconut milk curry), a specialty from Nagari Kapau in West Sumatra’s Agam Regency, which, if you can look past the dish’s description, will have you asking for more, cholesterol levels be damned.
Rumah Makan Sepakat, Jalan Melawai 9 no. 165
Sederhana (near Grand Indonesia)
We understand that it might be contentious for us to include the huge Padang restaurant chain Sederhana on this list, but this particular outlet is here on merit.
For many foreigners, Padang food’s generous (some might say excessive) levels of spice can be something of an acquired taste. That’s why the Sederhana restaurant near Grand Indonesia mall in Central Jakarta can be the perfect stepping stone — it serves milder versions of Padang dishes that are more tongue-friendly to the many expats and foreigners that come through the neighborhood.
But by toning down the heat level, the subtle flavors of Padang cuisine come to the fore in this restaurant, reminding you that you don’t have to literally break a sweat to enjoy Padang cooking.
Rumah Makan Sederhana, Jalan Kebon Kacang Raya no. 19
But if you’re already ready to handle the level of spice enjoyed by big boys and girls, there is probably no restaurant chain more liberal in their use of chili peppers than Putra Minang.
Putra Minang is also a testament to the fact that Padang food is usually best when taken to go and wrapped in banana leaves (bungkus). The richness of the spices are locked inside the all-natural food wrap, adding a fresh, leafy aroma by the time you unwrap your meal and eat it.
There are too many Putra Minang restaurants to count in the Greater Jakarta Area, but the one that is consistently great is located in Pesanggrahan, South Jakarta. Be sure to try their fried dried paru (cow lungs), a salty, more aromatic alternative to the beef jerky, while you’re there.
Putra Minang, Jalan Kesehatan no. 15
Sate Padang Ajo Ramon
Indonesia has many versions of sate (grilled meat on wooden skewers), but Padang’s take on the popular dish is unique because of its use of a thick, spicy gravy instead of the more usual sweet peanut sauce or sweet soy sauce. Beef cubes and ox tongue almost always make up the skewers, making them chewier than other kinds of sate.
The legendary Sate Padang Ajo Ramon has been serving delightful sate Padang for decades every evening out of a tent restaurant pitched right outside the popular Pasar Santa in South Jakarta. Though the restaurant’s founder sadly passed away last year, the quality of the food remains top notch and there’s still no better sate Padang restaurant in Jakarta (not even Sate Padang Ajo Ramon’s other chains).
Sate Padang Ajo Ramon, Jalan Cikajang Raya no. 72
The thing about popular Padang restaurant chains is that they exist because there’s a huge demand for them. That is true of Pagi Sore, one of the most famous Padang franchises in Jakarta.
Pagi Sore’s best branch is arguably their consistently packed restaurant in Cipete, South Jakarta. It’s more upscale than the usual Padang restaurant and it shows in their food’s prices, but still, no one would complain about them being overpriced.
If you make it here, make sure to try their martabak (Indonesian omelette), which is given a Padangnese touch and is thicker – but less greasy – than regular Indonesian martabak.
Pagi Sore, Jalan Cipete Raya no. 2
Sari Indah is owned by the same people who own Pagi Sore, and there’s not much telling the two chains apart beyond their restaurant signs.
That said, from our experience, Sari Indah’s food is milder than Pagi Indah’s. As mentioned before, that is not always a bad thing, with Sari Indah’s gulai daun ubi tumbuk (pounded cassava leaves in coconut milk stew) being an absolute vegetarian godsend in this chain.
Sari Indah’s Bintaro chain offers a really comfortable, relaxed atmosphere, but it can still get really crowded during lunch or dinner hours.
Sari Indah, Jalan Kesehatan Raya no. 27
In keeping with the popular Padang restaurant chains theme, few Jakartans are unfamiliar with Simpang Raya, which is found on practically every major street in the capital.
Simpang Raya deserves to be on our list for one tasty reason: they are the kings of ayam pop (fried skinless chicken with a spicy dip). Sure, pretty much every Padang restaurant serves ayam pop, but Simpang Raya’s dip, perfectly balanced between hot and sweet, sets it apart from all the others.
Perhaps the most famous Simpang Raya outlet is the one on Jalan Kramat Raya, Central Jakarta. Be warned: You may find it difficult to get a seat at this restaurant.
Simpang Raya, Jalan Kramat Raya no. 71
Garuda is a restaurant chain that originated in the North Sumatran capital of Medan and has spread throughout Indonesia, including Jakarta, for its delicious fusion of Minang and Malay cooking. But, at its core, Garuda is still an authentic Padang restaurant chain.
The most famous Garuda chain in Indonesia is located in Pondok Indah, the restaurant being a rather upscale establishment in the wealthy neighborhood. The restaurant’s manager is a friendly bloke who often strikes up conversations with customers (especially if you’re of Minang descent), and likes to suggest dishes you’ve never tried before, so you’d be wise to listen to him.
Garuda, Jalan Sultan Iskandar Muda
Moving on to private, independent Padang restaurants, there’s perhaps none as well-known, while still remaining under the radar, as Bopet Mini in Bendungan Hilir (Benhil), Central Jakarta. Located inside the Benhil traditional market, one must traverse damp, dark alleyways in order to get to Bopet Mini (asking around for directions is advisable).
The food is as traditional as it is delicious in Bopet Mini. Trying out all the best dishes Padang has to offer at the restaurant won’t really put a dent in your wallet, and there are definitely many to choose from.
It must be noted that space is quite limited in this restaurant, so be assertive in securing yourself a table if you decide to eat in, because queues don’t really apply here.
Bopet Mini, Jalan Bendungan Hilir Gg II no. 1A
Rumah Makan Surya is another independent restaurant well worth your time. Also located on Benhil, Surya has been around for decades and the quality of its food is the main reason for its longevity.
The restaurant is spacious and the tables are large, so if you want to see the iconic display of Padangnese servers perform the tricky task of juggling small plates of every single dish available at the restaurant and carry them to your table, this is an ideal place for it.
If you eat here, make sure to try the gulai otak (cow brain in coconut milk curry). It definitely sounds more repulsive than it tastes, because soft brain tissue is simply heavenly when cooked Padang style.
Rumah Makan Surya, Jalan Bendungan Hilir no. 7
This feisty little hole-in-the-wall eatery is surprisingly famous, largely due to the fact that it’s located near the office of the largest media company in Indonesia, Kompas Gramedia.
But while there are many other Padang restaurants in the area, none enjoy the popularity that Si May has. That is because Si May holds no punches with its use of chili peppers and other spices, making this restaurant a perfect place for veteran heat seekers.
Rumah Makan Si May, Jalan Palmerah Utara 3 no. 61
Padang Merdeka recently opened in the Kota Tua (Old Town) district of West Jakarta. This Padang restaurant is an unusual one due to the modern touches of its decor, making it feel more like a cafe for millennials than a traditional Padang restaurant.
True enough, the place is usually teeming with young people, and with it, pre-eating Instagram snaps of the food. But this place is growing in popularity in large part thanks to its food, which is mostly as delicious as other great Padang restaurants. We’re particularly fond of Padang Merdeka’s gulai nangka (cut-up jackfruit shells cooked in spicy coconut milk curry).
Padang Merdeka, Jalan Lada no. 1
Marco by Chef Marco Lim
In theory, fine dining and Padang cuisine shouldn’t go hand in hand, the latter being a culinary tradition accessible to the common folk. But the renowned Marco by Chef Marco Lim is a notable exception to this theory.
Whereas most Padang restaurants have set menus every day, at Marco, diners can regularly expect different Padang-influenced inventions — which obviously come at a price. That said, some signature menu items are to die for, particularly the martabak kelapa (traditional crispy pancake sprinkled with grated coconuts and granulated sugar), a dessert you won’t find anywhere else.
The coffee at Marco, roasted in a traditionally Padang method, also reaches levels of near-perfection.
Marco by Chef Marco Lim, Grand Indonesia Mall
This place is famed for its rendang sapi bakar, which is rendang that has been put on the grill, giving the legendary dish a smokier flavor and producing cuts of beef that are less tough to chew.
But our favorite item here is undoubtedly the gulai kepala kakap (head of snapper fish cooked in spicy coconut milk curry), an acquired taste for the squeamish but an absolute fan favorite for true Padang connoisseurs.
Serbaraso is located near the food haven that is Jalan Pecenongan in Central Jakarta. It’s a perfect choice for a main course before you go on and have the famous martabak manis (Indonesian dessert pancake with various toppings such as chocolate, cheese, and nuts) of Pecenongan.
Serbaraso, Jalan Batu Tulis Raya no. 41
Depot Es Durian Nan Salero
This list is incomplete without a place for dessert — and yes, the Padangnese can do dessert, too, contrary to popular belief.
Head on over to Depot Es Durian Nan Salero in Grogol Petamburan, West Jakarta, where you can have es durian (durian paste blended with ice cubes, topped with chocolate condensed milk), a dessert that does the seemingly impossible task of elevating the taste of the king of fruits.
Despite primarily being a dessert restaurant, Depot Es Durian Nan Salero also serves light Padang meals, such as sate Padang, soto Padang (traditional Padang soup composed of vegetables, rice noodles, and fried mashed potatoes), as well as gado-gado khas Padang (Indonesian salad served with egg noodles, boiled eggs, crackers, and peanut sauce).
Depot Es Durian Nan Salero, Jalan Dr. Muwardi I no. 18
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