New Years Day in Jakarta is frantic, frenetic, hectic, and every other tic that denotes crowded and intense public spaces. Asians have a tendency to eat out far more than Westerners, and shopping malls in particular attract huge crowds on significant days such as New Years. In Central Park, this was further exacerbated on 1st January 2011 by the fact that the management had opted NOT to have fireworks on New Years Eve but instead to have them on 1st January evening. Perhaps this partially explains my disastrous start to 2011’s gastronomic explorations.

Seafood Platter for Two

The Manhattan Fish Market restaurant had literally just opened (the day before?) and now that the shroud of secrecy had been removed, I couldn’t resist the temptation to try out this promising-sounding (and looking) establishment. A seafood platter, some western cuisine, particularly some chips after a string of Asian meals over the past few days, had mouth-watering appeal.

The waitstaff did a fair-to-muddling job of serving us in appropriate time. Forgiving them for the fact that this was perhaps only their first or second day on the job and they were probably still learning the ropes, I was reasonably happy with their service (I’m conveniently overlooking one poor dear who just seemed completely ill-equipped for the job and carried a rather stressed expression on her face for much of the time we were there).

I decided to share a Seafood Platter for Two – as described on the menu, it sounded great! Battered fish, “our famous flaming King Prawns”, calamari, mussels, vegetables, and garlic rice. Sadly, the description was not in keeping with what was served. The fish was the one saving grace of the whole platter, but the rest was mediocre at best. My partner described it as “edible”, but I hardly think that’s a glowing commendation. The chips (fries) were overdone and a bit like cardboard. The calimari was passable but not dazzling. The prawns didn’t sizzle, and we each argued our way out of eating the last one. And the overall combination was busy, complicated, and confused. It would have fared much better with a few less elements.

The Manhattan Fish Market is not cheap, so they really can’t ask us to go too easy on them – perhaps with a few weeks of practice they’ll sort things out, but I suspect it’s more deep-rooted than just inexperienced staff. The menu hints that quite possibly management aren’t really in touch with quality dining expectations. Essentially, it’s a more expensive, less effective, copy of Fish & Co.

So – on to dinner! With crowds queuing out the doors of almost every restaurant in Central Park immediately after the fireworks display, we headed to Level 3 where there tends to be marginally less hustle and bustle. Ribenkoff I’d heard good things about, and it had been on my “must try” list for the past week or so.

Maybe it was foolish of me to suggest it on probably their busiest day of the year – whatever the reasons, this one certainly bombed.

The husband and wife owners, not wearing anything particularly suited to waitstaff or management, must have just popped in to see how things were going and decided to pitch in at the last minute. Even their young daughter was helping to dry cutlery! Receiving a menu took 5 minutes, but this was just the beginning.

The prices were highly inflated by Indonesian standards, with a ribeye or sirloin steak similarly priced to a typical grill restaurant in Australia.

As we waited for our meal, the party of 10 at the table beside us waited impatiently for a series of dishes to straggle out to their table, so poorly timed and horrendously delayed that one or two guests received their meal 15 minutes after the others had finished eating. After 40 minutes, we enquired whether we could at least receive our drinks, as by now we were thoroughly parched. Shortly thereafter, the owner sheepishly appeared to inform me that my Cordon Bleu I had ordered three quarters of an hour ago was in fact not available, and would I like to order something different?

In desperation, I selected the Fish & Chips, knowing that these should be relatively quick to prepare. In fact, my dish arrived far too quickly – but the chips and microscopic serve of vegetables were stone cold. The owner again took my meal away and returned it to me several minutes later with the chips delightfully hot – but I’m still stumped as to how she did it… did they simply drop the chips back into the hot oil for a moment to heat them? The vegetables were still cold, but by now I wasn’t even going to ask for them to be remedied.

When we’d finished eating, we couldn’t get anybody’s attention to provide us the bill, so we headed to the checkout and asked for it so that we could settle and make our escape as quickly as possible. Although we were not offered any discount, I turned again directly to the owner and asked if a discount would be forthcoming – she begrudgingly authorised a 30% discount on the food, and we were out of there!