Behind the Blok M bus terminal, amongst the seedy hotels and bars, lies one of Jakarta’s hidden treasure: Little Tokyo, an authentic culinary heaven that is popular with Japanese expats, foodies, and families.
True, Blok M has a seedy reputation for being wild at night, but when the sun is out, families flock to many of the mom-and-pop Japanese restaurants for authentic nosh. From fresh and affordable sushi to authentic izakayas, here are our favourite dining spots in Little Tokyo.
The best place to start is Honoka, located on the outskirts of the Blok M Plaza complex. Honoka serves awesome bentos and sets, our favorite is the Salmon Set, which will please even the most hardcore salmon addicts, and the Chirashi Set (rice topped with various sashimi). Insider tip: if you’re coming with a crowd, ask for the off-menu tuna head. It’s delicious and big enough to feed six people. Don’t forget to wash down your meal with Honoka’s cold sake, it’s served in a wooden box with salt on the side.
Honoka, Jl. Panglima Polim Raya No. 5B, Kebayoran Baru, South Jakarta, p: 62-21/720-2883. Hours: Sun-Sat 11:30am-2pm, 5:30-11pm.
Craving ramen? Echigoya takes pride in their homemade noodles and here’s why: the noodles have a perfect bouncy texture, whether they are served warm or cold. In fact, Echigoya’s tonkotsu and chasiu ramen are famous in town among pork connoisseurs. We love adding toppings like butter, horenso (Japanese spinach), pirikara negi (spicy onion leaves) and even kimchi to our bowls. The flavour combinations are endless!
Echigoya, Jl. Melawai VIII No. 2A, Kebayoran Baru, South Jakarta, p: 62-21/739-5962. Hours: Mon-Fri 6pm-1am, Sat 11:30am-2.30pm, 5pm-12am, Sun 11.30am-2.30pm, 5pm-11pm.
Papaya Fresh Gallery
Head to Papaya Fresh Gallery on Jalan Melawai Raya for authentic Japanese desserts, including Azabu Sabo Hokkaido ice cream, mochi (rice cake), and baumküchen (layered cake). Warning: You will be tempted to pick up some of Papaya’s deep-fried snacks, yakitori (grilled skewered chicken), sushi, and even their to-go bentos (and you thought you were full).
Papaya Fresh Gallery, Jl. Melawai Raya No. 28, Kebayoran Baru, South Jakarta, p: 62-21/7279-3777. Hours: Sun-Sat 9am-9pm.
The Komugi Boulangerie just outside Papaya’s cashier area also beacons with a sweet selection of puddings, choux pastries, and cakes. But their French bread is the main attraction. Our favourite is the bacon-and-garlic loaf.
Komugi Boulangerie, Jl. Melawai Raya No. 28, Kebayoran Baru, South Jakarta, p: 62-21/7279-3777. Hours: Sun-Sat 9am-9pm.
Kira Kira Ginza
Little Tokyo puts on a different face at night, reminiscent of the trendy Shibuya district of Tokyo where people swarming to izakayas, or bars that also serve food. The most authentic izakaya in Jakarta is Kira Kira Ginza. The rich, wood-paneled space, complete with private tatami rooms in the back, is so authentic that you’ll have a hard time believing you’re still in South Jakarta. Our favs here are the katsudon (pork with egg) and butadon (pork with ginger). For halal diners, their omurice (rice wrapped in a thin omelet and smothered with a sweet tomato sauce) is a must-try.
Kira Kira Ginza, Jl. Melawai IX No. 30, Kebayoran Baru, South Jakarta, p: 62-21/726-2611. Hours: Mon-Fri 11:30am-10pm, Sat-Sun 11:30am-11pm.
Got a special craving for sashimi? Miu, the only Indonesian-Japanese restaurant in all of Little Tokyo, has you covered. Not only do they serve top-notch sashimi (with beautiful presentation, we must add), Miu also serves Indonesian seafood, a testament to the owner’s love for his adopted country. Another unique Miu feature is the traditional Indonesian dance performances that take place on the weekends. The restaurant is definitely the No. 1 destination in Little Tokyo if you’re looking for dinner and a show.
Miu, Jl. Melawai VI No. 17, Kebayoran Baru, South Jakarta, p: 62-21/3218-6333. Hours: Sun 5-10pm, Mon-Sat 5-11pm.
Tamba serves up delicious teppanyaki (pan-fried dishes), but unlike other teppanyaki restaurants, Tamba’s chefs don’t work on a cook station in front of you. Instead dishes are brought out from the kitchen on personal-size hotplates, very cute! We love their tansuji demi sauce (beef tongue with demi-glace sauce) and their veggie teppanyaki. Craving for both curry and sushi? They have a hand roll that will do the trick: chicken or prawn with fried curry rice.
Tamba, Ambai Building, Ground Floor, Jl. Melawai VIII No. 4, Kebayoran Baru, South Jakarta, p: 62-21/7279-8463.
Little Tokyo won’t be called Little Tokyo if there weren’t many sushi joints around, but our top pick is Kaihomaru. Sure it’s spendy (expect to pay IDR 40,000 for two pieces of sushi), but hey, there’s a price to pay for quality. We usually come on Tuesdays or Fridays because that is when the restaurant receives its fish deliveries. Call them up to make reservations and ask whether their supplier is on schedule or not. If it’s delayed, the friendly staff will let you know. The restaurant gets a little noisy on Friday nights, so we always opt for one of their private tatami rooms. What? We like to gorge on gorgeous fish in peace!
Kaihomaru, Jl. Melawai VI No. 23, Kebayoran Baru, South Jakarta, p: 62-21/739-8741. Hours: Sun 11:30am-11pm, Mon, closed, Tue-Sat 11:30am-2.30pm, 5-11:30pm.