Established in 1820 during the Dutch conquest, Pasar Baru (previously spelled as Passer Baroe, literally means New Market in Indonesian) is one of the oldest shopping districts situated in Sawah Besar sub-district, Central Jakarta. Being the melting pot of different cultures, from Chinese, Dutch, Indonesian and Indian, the area is so-called Little India, since the majority of Indian settlements in Indonesia live there running textile business.
Pasar Baru is an inseparable part of my childhood memory back in 1980’s, where my parents usually bought me black Bata shoes for school uniform and household goods long before shopping malls replace its role as hip places to hang out. I hadn’t been there for the last 15 years, not knowing what’s in there recently, until I signed up for Little India Food Tour with Wisata Kreatif Jakarta (Jakarta Food Tour) Nonetheless, the last trip of the tour was my major reason to join: dining in an Indian vegetarian restaurant I had never visited. Hopefully it would become my new favourite place to eat.
Surprisingly, the rest of the tour members couldn’t join until the last destination of the trip for some reasons, which was so unfortunate. All I can assure you is that it happened not because the tour didn’t run well. In the end, I was the only one left with Ms. Ira Lathief (the founder of Jakarta Food Tour), Ms. Hening Paramita and 2 other Jakarta Food Tour tour leaders.
Previously, an Indian Vegetarian Restaurant named Gokul Restaurant was the designated place to have a dinner, yet since it’s closed on Sundays, finally Waytuki Vegetarian became its replacement.
Situated behind Pasar Baru shopping complex, Waytuki is a South Indian style vegetarian food operating since 8 years ago. Its interior is spacious, cozy with eye-catching wall paintings dominated with yellow colour, depicting scenes of serenity in Asia, that look like landscape in Indonesia rather than that in India, such as lake, mountain, rice fields, elephants and all that.
When it comes to the menu, hunger struck us even more. There were many varieties of vegetarian dish, among others briyani rice, alu gobi, makanvala, panner, bhattura in relatively affordable rate. My first impression of Indian restaurants in Jakarta is “pricey” because many of them are created with fancy atmosphere with the tendency of fine and semi fine dining type that elevates the price, even more expensive than those in neighbour countries like Malaysia and Singapore.
Nonetheless, my visit to Waytuki changes that impression. The average price of main courses, such as rice dishes (including package meal), vegetarian meats, panner (cottage cheese dish) cost about Rp. 40.000 to Rp. 50.000 ($3 to $4) per portion. Roti (flat bread) dishes cost about Rp. 20.000 ($1.5) per portion. Masala tea costs about Rp. 15.000 ($1) per glass. And a bottled 600 ml mineral water even costs you only Rp. 5000 ($0.40). Compared to those at shopping malls and office buildings, those meals could cost Rp. 70.000 ($6) and above (excluding tax and service charge) and the drinks price could be 2 to 3 times higher.
We decided to share the dishes, so we could try more varieties in one time visit. We all agreed that briyani rice is must every time we visit any Indian restaurant. We ordered mutton briyani rice meal served with curry and papad (crispy thin bread of minced flour), additional chicken briyani rice (Indeed, a portion of rice shared with 5 people is definitely not enough!), garlic naan bread (Indian style tortilla bread with garlic flavour), mattar-panner (cottage cheese with spices and green garden) and masala tea for each of us.
For the rice, there’s a choice of basmati and non-basmati rice. We chose the basmati one as Indians use it in daily basis. I think thick Indian curry is best suited with dry and separate grain type of rice like basmati. Of course, all kinds of meat are man-made since it’s 100% vegetarian.
It didn’t take long to wait for our meals since we came at 8 pm and it wasn’t rush hour. The portion of the briyani rice and the mattar-panner were not that big, but not too little either. Or perhaps we were just too hungry after a long walk in Pasar Baru area. The savoury taste of the briyani rice was a bit lighter than I expected, yet overall it was delicious and just in the right proportion. Probably it’s been adjusted to suit the local taste. Well, Indonesian people are used to with strong taste, but the intensity of spices in Indian food is one level higher, probably there are certain types of Indian spices that Indonesian food never use. Therefore, it could be somewhat shocking if it’s too strong.
The vegetarian meat taste was fantastic and didn’t taste fake at all. Compared to real meat, vegetarian meat has softer texture and much less fibrous than real meat.
I love the mattar-panner, by the way. Cottage cheese has mild flavour that doesn’t overpower the curry sauce. It tasted heavenly when we poured the cheese cubes on the garlic naan bread. As garlic taste was not too strong, it blended harmoniously with the cheese and curry. It was a very heavy dish, definitely, and didn’t take long to make us completely full.
Moreover, we all took masala tea, which is a heavy drink since it has a strong taste from the mixture of herbs and spices and sweetness coming from condensed milk. Eventually, I ordered additional mineral water to gargle and neutralize all the strong taste of herbs from both food and beverage that remained in my mouth for quite a while.
Before we knew it, it was 9 o’clock already, which is their closing time, so we asked for the bill. After sharing all the costs, it turned out that we only paid Rp. 60.000 ($5) each. Not so bad at all. Also, we found out that the VAT was not stated there, so we didn’t need to pay tax. Yes, you read me right! I don’t know how it was possible and I was not about to dig it deeper about it.
What I know is that we enjoyed our togetherness a lot and had a great conversation apart from great food, that initiates the idea of sharing and tagging my posts related to my experience in joining Jakarta Food Tour on their Facebook group in the future.
So, the takeaway from my dining experience in Waytuki Vegetarian? It becomes one of my favourite restaurants and one day I’d like to try their other dishes, especially those I haven’t tried or heard of.
Address: Jalan Pintu Air Raya No.28, RT.6/RW.1, Pasar Baru, Sawah Besar, RT.6/RW.1, Ps. Baru, Sawah Besar, Kota Jakarta Pusat, Daerah Khusus Ibukota Jakarta 10710
Phone: +62 21 3814146
Opening hours: 10 am – 9 pm