Izakaya Kai, a new restaurant from husband-and-wife team Chef Adhika Maxi and Chef Karen Carlotta, in collaboration with Japanese Chef Hitoshi Kimura, is a defying presence for those who think that north is devoid of top-notch restaurants.
In the midst of a close-knit neighbourhood in Pluit, among a mixed bag strip of family-owned restaurants and grocery stores on Pluit Kencana Street, is where Izakaya Kai lodged in. With the understated yet inviting façade of the building, the warm glow that emanates from the restaurant’s logo easily draws attention. You’ll also find the large windows, which provide passers-by a quick peek into the first floor of the establishment. But little do they know that the real business takes place on the second floor.
Despite the posh atmosphere one would feel once on the second floor, the restaurant is in fact, all about keeping it casual just like how authentic izakayas do it in Japan when it comes to dining. Choices are easy here, but customers are often glued to the “House-Specialty Tempura” section. The assorted tempura selection (prawn, chicken, squid, fish, veggie) is recommended; each is lightly battered and fried to reach the desirable crunch, a recipe perfected by Chef Kimura, a tempura specialist, with 30 years kitchen experience.
The Ebi Bacon Yakitori is also an equally delicious choice that shouldn’t be missed on your visit. But the yakitori comes in a delicate morsel, so it’s only right to continue with the mains: a bowl of Nozaki A5 Wagyūdon with thinly-sliced wagyu beef, and, should you prefer to, add foie gras and Hokkaidō Uni (sea urchin) on top of it. If you’d like to have a taste of this uni in all its glory, it’s recommended to dive straight for their special menu that features the season’s best.
Whereas the second floor is where the main izakaya is, the first floor is “bistro and café” with familiar dishes such as pasta and rice bowl as well as sweet delicacies from Chef Karen Carlotta, who is famous for her flair in infusing Indonesian influence into her desserts. Her famous Red Velvet Cake receives a slightly different treatment here, resulting in a flavourful and rum-infused Chocolate Red Velvet Cake. Other option such as Goma Cake is less sweet but fluffier option than the latter, in case you prefer to end it with a lighter note.
Bear in mind that this establishment is usually packed over the weekends, so it’s best to reserve a spot and avoid visiting without planning. Dismiss any thoughts of avoiding North Jakarta when it comes to planning your “culinary jaunt” list. The time and distance it will take to get to Izakaya Kai is only a small price to pay compare to all the pleasures the place has to offer.