As newly-opened Italian dining spots continue to mushroom across the city, it seems like a good ol’ plate of pasta is always just around the corner. But for restaurateurs, it presents a challenge: how does one stand out amidst the smorgasbord of competition? Dominica in Menteng answers the question with a French flair and a discerning outlook towards the culinary arts.
“Food technology evaporates the sense of mystery [to cooking],” mused Chef-Owner Chris Winston Sandy, whose stint in the culinary world has taken him from working as a stagiaire at the famed Eleven Madison Park in New York to establishing multiple restaurants in Jakarta, including the Italian trattoria-inspired Emilia.
So for his new venture, the young chef and restaurateur takes it back to basics with seemingly simple recipes—where everything is made with personal attention, “allowing the chefs to be more in touch with their feelings while cooking.” The resulting menu combines 70 per cent French influences and techniques with 30 per cent comforting Italian flavours, as Chef Chris went on to describe, involving traditional methods like charcoal grilling and quality ingredients handpicked irrespective of their short shelf life.
The latter is reflected in the Burrata salad of refreshing cherry tomatoes and basil, in which the pinnacle ingredient of Italian cheese can only last a couple of days in storage. Then there’s the popular Wagyu Flat Iron Steak, a tender and flavourful meat that requires a particular level of skill to cut, quietly mixing well with the seasonal vegetable accompaniment. Here, dishes can be “provocative” too, said the chef, as is the case with the Pig’s Ear Fritter, which can either bring a surprising crunch or a sour twist by adding pickles into the mix—as intended by Chef Chris, the delight lies in the layers of flavours hidden beneath an understated presentation.
This hideaway and unostentatious charm is one that is reflected in the atmosphere of the restaurant too. The u-shaped, whitewashed abode still maintains much of its roots as a private residence; The bar, where diners can order up classic picks like a summery glass of Aperol Spritz, is placed by the open-air dining patio to keep it laid-back and unintimidating. Gardeners roam to take care of the place, and only the trickling sound of water from the small fountain pool masks the chatter of families dining at the next table. Sure, Dominica doesn’t have the typical ‘manicured’ image of a fancy Italian restaurant, but as Chef Chris put it,”The imperfection is what makes it good in a world of uniformity.”