In Peru, a longstanding culinary tradition known as Nikkei cuisine blends Peruvian ingredients with Japanese techniques. Developed by Japanese immigrants in the country through generations, it’s a style characterised by a harmonious use of lime, seafood, soy sauce and chilli. That is the core of what is served at Barra in Kramat Pela.
As a culinary enthusiast, co-founder Vincent Pantow sought to bring more diversity to the Jakarta food scene by collaborating with Barcelona-hailed Chef Issam Kouhkouh in developing the menu. But while Nikkei cuisine is decidedly distinct to Peru, recipes here are still rooted in local ingredients. Except for the salmon, Barra sources their line-caught fish from local fishermen in Bali, and the catch will determine the chef’s special served on that day.
Moreover, the restaurant specialises in Robata, a Japanese method of charcoal grilling, which inspired the name of the restaurant (in Indonesian, bara means ‘flaming charcoal’). Prepared in Barra’s open kitchen, among the offerings is the tender Stuffed Chicken Wings, best enjoyed with the sour and spicy Jalapeno sauce.
All this brings about a cultural mash-up that is defined by an interplay of textures and flavours. This is further captured in the Salmon Belly Tartare, which sees the fish diced, drizzled with lime and served alongside a sheet of crispy nori rice. Another highlight is the Beef Cheek Kamameshi; a traditional Japanese kettle rice served in an iron pot, the dish is winning votes amongst diners for its creamy bone marrow that is best eaten with a side of miso butter-glazed broccoli.
Up on the third floor is Bar Barra. Giving a curious contrast to the wood-dominated interior and light ambience of the restaurant below, the dimly-lit bar presents an atmosphere of a classic gentlemen’s bar with its deep red velvet curtains and couches. Served to complement the food at the restaurant, the drinks here range from highball taps to signatures that experiment with Indonesian flavours. Take the Dabu-Dabu, a drink that combines the essence of Manadonese sambal in the classic gin and tonic; surprisingly, the spiciness works well with the refreshing sour from the lime and tonic, enhanced by the lingering taste of ginger torch flower and lemongrass.
Even when the atmosphere between Barra and Bar Barra seems like a clash, switching the mood from easy dining to sophisticated drinking feels like a smooth progression. Reflecting the cultural fusion it spotlights, it goes to show that different elements can work together to create something fresh and exciting. “Those who come here are surprised by what Barra has to offer, our regulars return for the taste and quality of our food,” closed Vincent.