It may seem, at first glance, unusual to most Jakartans for an izakaya to offer porridge as its signature menu. But such commitment from Okayu Ōshō, founded by the esteemed Chef Mandif Warokka and co-founder Resva Conita, is not without its rationale.
Diners at Japan’s izakayas are used to ordering ochazuke, a common quick meal made by pouring hot green tea over rice and toppings, such as pickles, seaweed and flaked salmon. Given that ochazuke is commonly eaten as a hangover cure or to wind down during the evening, Chef Mandif took the creative liberty to strike a balance between his idealism and catering to the local palate by serving congee or bubur, a quintessential dish that offers the same comfort to locals as ochazuke would to a Japanese.
What truly elevates the humble dish in Okayu Ōshō is the uncompromising attitude in utilising the best ingredients and letting them do all the talking. Take for example the gyukotsuzui that is assembled with premium Nishiki rice and bone marrow broth that was cooked overnight as the main star of the dish, or the blue fin toro porridge, where the savoury bowl of warmth is amplified by the quality tuna that melts under the slightest pressure of the tongue.
The congee also goes well with yakitori lest one feels the meal is incomplete without additional protein. Take your pick among negima (grilled chicken and scallion), hatsu (chicken heart), kawa (chicken skin) or even reba (chicken liver). Through yakitori, Chef Mandif taps into a familiar custom for locals who are used to enjoying bubur with a side of chicken innards satays.
The dining atmosphere is also heightened by the compact space and minimal seating (reservation is highly recommended) overlooking the idyllic waterway connecting the two reclaimed islands at Pantai Indah Kapuk. The pandemic has no doubt increased the anxiety of dining in a tight space, but the experience at Okayu Ōshō highlights what dining used to be like in a not so distant past, and what awaits once we’re out of the epidemic—a sense of intimacy that can’t be replicated through quick takeouts.