As a private dining experience, Oma Elly is very likely to defy expectations for the first-timers. Apart from its location within a dreary building, diners will have to make their way down to the basement before being greeted by the dining area, which is essentially a kitchen where the dinner will be prepared.
Still, like all good things in life, never judge a book by its cover for the six-course meal will easily prove why Oma Elly is fast rising to be one of the most sought-after dining experiences in Jakarta. Headed by chef Andry Susanto, Oma Elly (named after his late Italian grandmother) originally focused on catering services or special orders, but has since expanded into reservation-only private dining that operates from Thursday to Sunday only.
The menu is modified per season, but with recipes handed down from his late grandmother, it’s clear that any course that is presented in front of you bears homage to chef Andry’s Italian root. To wit, Ricci di Mare handmade spaghetti with sea urchin—an ingredient that is often associated as a Japanese signature—is actually a well-known dish from Livorno. The latter is an Italian city on the west coast of Tuscany where Oma Elly was from.
Apart from honing on the authentic taste of Italian cuisine, chef Andry also experimented with popular Italian ingredients for a new experience. For example, one of the desserts features gelato made with olive oil. In a way, the food is also a channel for diners to connect with chef Andry’s memory of his grandmother.
Those who are here to capture good-looking dishes for their social media should think twice. That’s not to say that the presentation of the food is lacking. Instead of fussing over the interior and lighting, Oma Elly is fundamentally about the food or as Chef Andry puts it: “championing the flavours.” And as his guest, expect Chef Andry to cordially converse with you about Oma and the course he’s about to serve next. The result is a greater focus on savouring every course and establishing a connection with fellow diners in the same table, rather than fretting over getting a good shot of the food or interior for the ‘gram.
In addition, the dining experience is also heightened by unforeseen incidents and sudden notification from the chef: water leakage from the ceiling from heavy downpour; turning on the loud exhaust in the dinner. Such circumstances may seem like the dinner at Oma Elly is put together at the eleventh hour. But such “makeshift” quality is what makes the experience more endearing and human.
In a time when dinner affairs are getting incredibly curated, from the food pairings, lighting, interior to music, Oma Elly is proof that dining is not only about great food that excites the palates and thoughts, but it is also about embracing surprises that come your way.