what is traveling without eating? certainly nothing quite so interesting – and we did a fair bit while in yogyakarta (also written, jogjakarta). I think my favorite part about traveling to southeast asian countries is how (relatively) inexpensive their dining options are – things that would cost an arm and a leg in singapore are more accessibly priced there, and the variety of flavors and cooking styles are immense.
it was the same in yogyakarta, which has a nice mix of both local eating as well as what you might call tourist options. indonesian food is spicey – with more than a hint of spicy – but it’s an intriguing, eat-all-you-can cuisine that is remarkably tasty, what with its lavish use of coconut milk and herbs.
madam tan classic
one in a group of four restaurants, the classic madam tan is housed in an up-cycled old building that looks a little british on the outside, with an interior of homely, sunlight-ed wood furniture. the menu is a mix of what appears to me chinese and indonesian food, most of it under ten bucks a plate, with a whole fish barely on the twenty mark.
I really liked the food – a frothy herbal drink strong with ginger came with syrup on the side, and matched very well our spicy, savory dishes. our dish of prawns came smothered under addictive (though greasy) fried shredded greens, but my favorite dish (possibly of the trip) was the whole fried fish, served with a melange of chopped veg in a sweet-sour sauce. even the slightly dried-out chicken leg had a tasty sambal slathered all over – it can be argued that skinny, slightly dry chicken is more traditional than our dining expectations of plump, moist specimens, but really – I still prefer the latter.
you’d identify this restaurant as one of those tourist-enticing spots serving up refined (read: dainty portions) plates of local food to ready-to-be-awed visitors, and you’d be right. but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the model, seeing as how: 1. the prettily-plated food is still affordable for most tourists, and 2. the food is still very delicious, made even more so with its traditional surroundings.
this restaurant is terribly difficult to get to, with our driver being somewhat lost in the dark (navigation made even more difficult by the lack of proper street lighting) – but when you get there, it feels a little like someone’s house opened up for a dinner party, with al fresco dining on the side and even a pavilion in the back.
the food is definitely expensive by local standards (evidenced very much by the fact that you’d be sitting amongst other tripadvisor-wielding tourists), but it is very, very good. tofu patties came fluffy and soft on the inside, and still crispy on the outside (without any grease), long beans were stir-fried in a very savory pour-on-rice sauce, and a simple curry held tender bits of meat. we also had one of the traditional plates, with rice steamed in a conical banana-leaf packet and rendang (meat stewed in coconut milk) on the side, and that’s a pretty good option (especially if you’re going solo).
definitely recommendable, but it’s not any sort of hard-and-rough local place (if you’re into that).
as strong evidenced by its name, this is a rather hip, trendy hangout (located very conveniently next to the grand aston hotel, where we were staying. this place seems popular with the (moneyed) locals, and serves up surprisingly good western food (by which I mean, steak and more).
we started with a tuna nicoise, and chilli-cheese fries – so filling, with so much cheese and minced beef chilli piled over – before our main of steak and veg. it was surprisingly well-cooked, with my requested medium arriving with a properly pink interior, and I liked that the steak was lean but tender.
service is attentive and prompt, and it’s a good place to get a slab of meat if you’ve had enough local.
yogyakarta’s a relaxing place – there isn’t a whole lot to do apart from the out-the-city sights, and it’s a good place to get a massage and eat very well for very little.
very nice for a weekend trip, especially if you get to sit down somewhere and not think about anything except your pot of hot, aromatic tea.
just in case:
- Madam Tan Classic: JL. Jend. Sudirman 16, Yogyakarta
- kesuma restaurant (reservations recommended): Jalan Sartono No. 827 / Mantrijeron 3, Yogyakarta; tel +62 851-0024-5027
- Holycow! Steakhouse by Chef Afit: Grand Aston Garden, Jalan Urip Sumoharjo no.37 (just ask your cabbie for the Grand Aston Hotel!); tel ++62 858-1408-1408