Lara Djonggrang

Lose yourself in this exquisite imperial cuisine escapade and relive the glorious era of Majapahit Kingdom.

Back in late January, I had the pleasure of the company of a not-so-ordinary friend who was visiting Jakarta for holiday. For Star Trek fans, the name Roger Nygard surely rings a bell. He is a Hollywood Film & Television Director, most noted for his wildly successful documentaries: Trekkies and Trekkies 2. As a culinary enthusiast himself, he invited me to join in his food escapade, which brought us to Lara Djonggrang.
Such a fine choice I must concede, as Lara Djonggrang’s range of Imperial Indonesian cuisine was inspired by the royal journeys made by King Hayam Wuruk of Majapahit Kingdom back in the 14th century. And the name Lara Djonggrang itself was inspired by a famous local legend about a princess of the Prambanan Kingdom, by the same name.

Legend has it that Princess Lara Djonggrang’s ethereal beauty had bewitched her father’s murderer, a warrior by the name Bandung Bondowoso. Despite Bandung’s marriage proposal, the princess made an oath never to marry the man who had murdered her dear father. So she demanded an impossible marriage dowry, which required Bandung to build 1,000 temples for her overnight. Bandung realized it was an impossible task, so he sought help from the genies.
To Lara Djonggrang’s utter horror, she realized that Bandung had completed 999 temples. Before Bandung and his genies could start making the last temple, Lara Djonggrang ordered her maids to pound rice in the barns. He trick woke the roosters up and as soon as they began to crow, the genies who thought that the day had come, fled the whole endeavor with just 1 more temple to build.
Bandung failed to deliver his wedding dowry to the princess, and found out the trick that Lara Djonggrang had pulled. Furious, he cursed the princess into a stone statue. Today, the entire complex of 999 temples is what we know as Candi Prambanan.

Lara Djonggrang is part of Tugu Hotels Group and Dapur Babah Restaurants. The former being the group name for the hotels located in Bali, Lombok, Malang and Blitar, whereas the latter is the group name for the chain of fine Peranakan restaurants in Jakarta such as Samarra and Shanghai Blue. Just like Dapur Babah, Lara Djonggrang is a restaurant and a museum, housing priceless antiques and artifacts from the Kingdom era in Indonesia. Its prime location in Menteng, Jakarta makes it a truly precious gem among culinary enthusiasts from all over. Inside Lara Djonggrang, is the La Bihzad Bar, which operates in the evening.

Meticulous details were visible in each and every corner of the “house”, where there are many rooms with different themes. For example the China Blue, the main dining area in the building. This room is dominated by blue and red color, with statues of Chinese Gods and other oriental accents. Despite being only a single storey high, one may easily get lost inside, not only because of the many rooms, but also from being awestruck by the eerily beautiful replication of the ancient kingdoms. For those who enjoy dining outdoors, you could request to be seated near the fish pond or around the bale-bale.
The cuisine itself is equally intricate, like the décor, and fit for the royals. The royal expeditions made by King Hayam Wuruk and hundreds of palace troops were followed by the imperial kitchen staff who meticulously prepared the meals for the King using what ingredients they could gather from each location they visited.

Feast upon Lara Djonggrang’s house specialty, the Udang Swarloka as an appetizer. The finely minced shrimp balls with the palm chilli sauce are exquisite teasers to start your imperial meal. Another specialty is the Sate Lilit Ikan Gianyar (Bali), which is minced Balinese fish satay marinated and grilled to perfection.

Even during the day, you can feel the majestic charm of the place. And the darkness after sunset only amplifies the mystery waiting for the patrons to uncover. Be warned that once you set foot here, you’ll be left wanting more.