So often, dining in Sudirman means entering an office tower, making a beeline between fast-walking executives and going through multiple security checkpoints—all at the risk of losing one’s appetite before even making it to the restaurant. Not so with TOMA Brasserie, which sits at the front of new lifestyle compound Chillax just off the wide sidewalk of Jalan Jenderal Sudirman.
TOMA’s location allows the restaurant to showcase its elegant and dark-hued semi-outdoor setup from the get-go, an ambience inspired by 1940s New York. Jazz fusion can be heard wafting gently from the speakers, while the restaurant’s personalised Indonesian floral scent that greets comers upon entering hints at what is to be expected from a meal at TOMA: a sensorial dining experience.
It’s embodied in the menu, for which executive chef and owner Andreas Alnico has come up with a lineup of what TOMA calls ‘Asian progressive’ dishes and drinks. “It’s simple: We take the notes from Asian [influences] like the flavours, recipes and ingredients, then reinvent them by combining techniques from other influences like French cuisine,” explained the chef, who grew up helping out at his parents’ Chinese-Indonesian restaurant in Cirebon.
The execution, however, is far from simple. Not willing to just ‘re-plate’ familiar recipes of different Asian cuisines, the readaptation goes down to how each ingredient is processed and paired in explorative ways—and sometimes that stretches to the method of eating too. A case in point is the Grilled Pork Belly Adobo, which sees the defining Filipino dish served with coriander leaves, kyuri kimchi and fried garlic to be wrapped in pohpohan leaf and eaten as one would with Korean barbeque.
This unique yet comfortably familiar combination of flavours, textures and experience continues throughout the meal and accompanying drinks. The addictingly soft 48-Hour Beef Cheek (inspired by the West Sumatran beef kalio) pairs delightfully well with the Smoky Rob Roy cocktail, which gets its smoky note from Mesoyi wood, a branch off the cinnamon family that originates from Eastern Indonesia. And for a sweet ending, the layered taste of Choco Raspberry takes the cake with an eye-catching arrangement of flexible chocolate ganache, raspberry mousseline, raspberry hibiscus sorbet and berry crumble.
It’s a major undertaking, and while infusing Asian characteristics into a wide-ranging type of dishes can be a bit of a challenge, head chef Kartika Chandra has fun with it. “We can practically do anything. There’s no limit to what element and genre of food we can put inside a dish, as we’re not strictly Indonesian or otherwise.”
Her joy in exploring what TOMA can offer is shared by the quickly growing number of diners, which are just as culturally diverse. At times, the familiarity evoked by Chef Nico and Chef Kartika’s recipes can make one want to forgo decorum and rest a foot up on a chair while eating, while some have been pleasantly surprised by how the chefs’ re-interpretation of an ingredient has helped them overcome their dislike for it. “And that’s exactly what we’re looking for,” gushed Chef Nico excitedly.