Back in the ‘70s, Tanah Abang was a booming area, popular as home to the first discotheque in the city, Tanamur (Tanah Abang Timur). A big catalyst in Jakarta’s party scene, for over two decades the nightclub continued to pull a mixed crowd—students and businessmen to expats on work trips filled up the dance floor and even roped in names like Mick Jagger and the Bee Gees.
Today, the area is characterised by less buoyant energy, but new arrivals like Smriti are slowly bringing back the thrill. Standing just a few blocks away from what used to be Tanamur, Smriti stands out to first-timers with its eclectic design. Infused with historical touches, the interior features wooden walls and antique paintings (and weapons) propped around the rooms, resembling an archive museum more than a restaurant.
While one might be drawn to the spectacle of it all, it’s the food that makes you stay and return. Here, local culinary standbys such as Sate Maranggi and Ayam Goreng Bumbu Pepes are modernised in a way that is new while still clinging to familiar flavours.
“At Smriti, it’s about bringing a different experience to the dish, not taking away or changing the original flavours. We try to develop the taste notes familiar to us Indonesians and present them in new, exciting ways,” detailed head chef Harum Indra Adi Saputra.
The highlight, Steak Saus Rendang—Josper-grilled ribs served with grilled eggplant and fried cassava—reimagines the celebrated dish and suggests new ways of enjoying rendang: shredded into small chunks as a topping, and also as a dipping sauce to the steak.
A new addition to the menu, the Salmon Sambal Matah is glossy with the aromatics from the Balinese sambal, balanced in a way that adds a kick to each bite without overpowering the smoked salmon. Saving room for dessert will also reap rewards through favourites like the Klepon Cake, a light pandan sponge cake with caramelised grated coconut glazed in coconut mouse, held together with the soft crunch of lidah kucing (cat’s tongue biscuit).
Dining here, it quickly becomes clear that what ties the menu together is the manner in which head chef Harum Indra and the team lean their explorations on a deep understanding of Indonesian food and flavours.
Right at the front, the whiskey room greets with bespoke cocktails. A second bar is also available in the main dining area, serving unique signatures that keep the focus on Indonesian ingredients, like the Pare-Pare (walnut whiskey, bitter gourd, apple, eau de vie and bubbly). For those looking for a little more privacy, the VIP rooms on the second floor will comfortably accommodate a large party. There’s also the mezzanine, where one can enjoy their drinks overlooking the dining area.
It’s the type of establishment that serves lunch meetings, date nights as well as family get-togethers over Indonesian dishes that are at once new and familiar. With so much on offer, it’s easy for diners to leave with different experiences, but hopefully not without a renewed appreciation for the cuisine.