The Trendy Tastemaker
When Potato Head first opened its doors in Jakarta’s Pacific Place mall in 2009, it quickly won acclaim for its quirky interiors, inventive cocktails and delicious spins on western comfort food fare. The F&B group followed up the success of the original with their sophomore establishment, Potato Head Beach Club, which has become one of the hottest venues in Bali for hanging out, eating well and being seen. For its third effort, the brand went back to Jakarta’s SCBD to open a steakhouse unlike any the capital had seen before.
The move was something of a gamble. A few select steakhouses have managed to carve out a place for themselves in the capital’s restaurant scene, but none of them could be considered trendy, which is a crucial element to the survival of any major new opening in Jakarta these days. But the instincts guiding the Potato Head brain trust proved to be right on the money once again, as this Garage has been buzzing with activity since it opened.
Potato Head Garage is full of quirky contrasts. Set in an immense space that formerly housed an indoor stadium, it marries the industrial look of an unfinished warehouse with the posh accents of an art deco mansion. Polished black and white tiles lead guests into the huge dining room, where a constellation of twinkling chandeliers cast their light all the way up to the bare metal rafters girding the 25 metre high ceilings. Potato Head’s usual quirky touches go upscale as well, with a grand piano, a Rolls Royce and an immense piece of Russian religious iconographic art helping to fill out the ballroom like space. A huge bar dominates the centre of the room, while tables decked in white linen and sofas in white upholstery stud the dining and lounge areas. Many of Jakarta’s most popular bars and restaurants take their design cues from the imagery of 1920s era America (see Immigrant, Union, the late Jackrabbit, etc). Potato Head Garage takes that trend to its logical end point, creating a setting fit for a party straight out of the Great Gatsby, the book which best encapsulates the enthusiasm for excess in that era.
So Potato Head Garage definitely scores high in the style category, but does it have food to match? Being their take on the classic steakhouse concept, the prime beef does take centre stage on the menu. They have an extensive array of cuts sure to intrigue any true carnivore, some of which are almost impossible to find elsewhere in Jakarta. One of the most rarefied is the Australian Blackmore 100% full blood Wagyu, which epitomises many of the best qualities of beef, featuring rich marbling, intense flavour and a buttery texture. The difficulties of Indonesian beef import laws mean that some of the steaks you’ll find here have to be hand carried into the country by the restaurant’s dedicated team of procurers. The steaks are cooked on a wood fire grill that burns wood from the local rambutan fruit tree, amongst others, imparting a uniquely nuanced smokiness. They come with a choice of sauces, some with an Asian accent such as one composed of yuzu and chili, though it is questionable whether you should adorn steaks of this calibre.
The excellent beef on hand is used for more than just steaks, including an impressively juicy Wagyu burger topped with a mound of crispy onions and a pasta dish of broad pappardelle noodles blanketed in a luscious Wagyu ragout. Other dishes reflect steakhouse classics with a twist, such as their take on crabcakes which see the moist and lightly fried mounds of crustacean meat paired with a green curry.
As with other Potato Head establishments, the cocktails served in the Garage are given almost as much attention as the food and décor. Mojitos are the speciality of the house, muddled with lychee, ginger and other refreshing additions. A sommelier is also on hand to help you find just the right wine from their stock of some 7,000 bottles.
The Potato Head team managed to take a barren and dusty old stadium space and transform it into something charming and elegant. They managed to take the tired steakhouse concept and transformed it into something trendy. It will be very interesting indeed to see what they manage next.
Party at the Garage
In addition to being one of Jakarta’s finest steakhouses, Potato Head Garage has also become one of the city’s most happening nightlife spots, having already hosted a number of memorable, must-attend events for the capital’s glitterati crowd. PHG’s semi-regular “Peaches & Cream” hip hop music nights have proven to be especially popular, pulling in thousands of guests to fill up the massive venue to party all night long. The Garage also recently hosted Jeff Bell, ranked as America’s number one bartender, who recreated his uber-trendy New York cocktail bar, Please Don’t Tell, at a pop-up event for Potato Head. To find out what’s coming up next, check out www.facebook.com/pttheadgarage.