A highly artistic eatery located in the heart of a sprawling metropolis, Negev offers distinctly international fine-dining with the finest design, art and music to match the ambience.
Entering the main entrance of Negev, my attention was immediately drawn to a massive stump of wood sitting at the centre of the room. Upon closer inspection, the magnificent centrepiece turned out to be the root of a century old tree, rightly symbolizing natural beauty and longevity. Much like this natural decoration, the interior of this high-end venue is adorned with numerous paintings and sculptures, all of which added to the feel of elegance and warmth in the eatery.
I had the privilege of being accompanied by Executive Chef Ivan Tarrago himself during my visit. A very creative and friendly leading figure, Chef Ivan kindly walked me through the relatively newer cuisines of Negev.
“We have different menus for lunch and dinner. The lunch menus are simpler without comprising quality, and the food we have for dinner is a lot more complex, with a longer preparation time so that the guests can really enjoy the food. However, I have to emphasize that both menus are wonderful. We can’t say one is better than the other.” As the chef introduced the menu, I realized that this is an approach that guests can very much relate to. Being located in one of Jakarta’s busier area, most of Negev’s mid-day walk-in guests are upper level professionals. In the evening, however, visitors are most likely looking for a complete dining experience, as well as a more sociable time.
I was treated to several of Negev’s newer additions on the menu, one of which included the finely decorated Tuna Cutlets. It is a Ceylonese-inspired tuna and potato dumpling served with turmeric mayonnaise and deep fried crunchy noodle. The noodle—presented standing up in resemblance of the restaurant’s lush tree logo—made for quite the show. Another fine serving is the Fresh Goat Cheese Salad, a savoury vegetarian-ish entrée, which consisted of roasted vegetable salad served on rich tartlets with lentil dressing.
To wash the dishes down was a refreshing beverage coming from Negev’s latest adventurous cocktail line, also called the Scientific Cocktail. Not your average mix, the Lychee-licious cocktail brings vodka, foamy lychee liquor, blue curacao, grenadine syrup and bubbly “caviar” that imbue a sharply sweet sensation when chewed. Again, the presentation stood out, as the cocktail looked exactly like something you could order in Ten Forward up on Deck 10.
The experience was great so far, but what Chef Ivan conjured up for dessert took me completely by surprise. First he sat us down at a table of four, and then out came a sterile piece of white silicone, the size of our table, or “the canvas”, according to Chef Ivan. Then he brought a metal bucket filled with what looked like dry ice and water, but was actually a form of liquid nitrogen. And then he began to “paint”.
Colourful basic components of mango, strawberry and chocolate coulis were followed by several types of macarons, garnished on the side by bitter almond and macadamia cookies. Also added to the “canvas” was an assortment of fruit—some freshly sour, others teasingly sweet. For the finishing touch, Chef Ivan took a huge spoonful of strawberry foam and dipped it in the nitrogen, which almost instantly froze the compound dessert and turned it into this swirly, solid-yet-soft ice cream-like treat; and please forgive my unsophisticated vocabulary to describe this new experience. He did the same with the cocoa foam and placed it neatly atop the now colourful table.
Interestingly, every Finale Dessert is a unique serving. “This is what we use today, and this is how I like to present it. We have a handful of chefs here that I’ve personally selected and trained to perform the Finale Dessert, and because they have their own style and creativity, what you get will be different each time you order this.” The Chef humbly refused to accept full credit for the invention of this one-of-a-kind dessert, but I believe a unique dining experience like this is what makes people return for more. I highly recommend ordering the Finale Dessert for an artistically elegant way to close your fine-dining experience at Negev.