Though dating is a thing of the past for me, the pursuit of eating out and curiosity of trying something new remains an on going adventure that began in my early twenties. In my youth dating was perhaps the most memorable because, neither of us had money, so eating out consisted of buying 'sate'(grilled skewered meat with rice cakes and peanut sauce) at a street vendor or going for a late night snack on motorbike with the wind blowing through my hair to buy 'roti bakar' (grilled bread with corned beef, cheese or chocolate) and sip warm 'kopi tubruk' (coffee that is made without filtering the residue). What I find so endearing about it is the simplicity of enjoying a night out with just modest means. It is these simple pleasures in life that are most memorable. If the opportunity popped up, I would probably do it again today just to experience the liberating feeling of the night air blowing through my hair once again. Although I'd probably catch a cold, I know it would be worth it.
When I entered the workforce, going out on a dinner date was a whole different ball game - just to decide where to eat was stressful because the issue often became more about 'where' rather than 'what' to eat, for Jakarta was beginning to sprout with a more varied choice of International cuisine. It was the first time I ate sushi, teppanyaki, pasta aglio olio, vol au vent, escargo etc. - It was the beginning of my culinary journey. There was this one odd dinner date - which turned out to be going to a hotel function that offered an international buffet. I thought to myself, Oh - so this a freebie all you can eat dinner date. But what was even more odd about it was that this person who was wearing a suit began stuffing all his pockets with Macintosh apples, Navel oranges and what not as I watched in disbelief and utter embarrassment. When we walked out, I stayed a clear distance from him and saw bulges in places you don't want to know. And no, there was never a second dinner date. I look back and realize that it was the early 80's, imported things were rare and expensive - so bless him where ever he is.
Another dinner date I will never forget was in the late 80's with this soft spoken, scruffy looking hippie guy. He took me to a French restaurant on a seedy street that served provincial French food. I think the name of the restaurant was 'Le Coq au Vin', the owner who was French walked from table to table playing the accordian - it was ecclectically decorated with carpeted walls, a bit dark with a hint of sleeziness but the food was to die for. And it seemed so surreal a place to be in especially when our conversations were deep on spirituality and philosophy. Clearly, taking me out to a seedy place like this was not to impress me - it was simply to enjoy the food and enjoy each others' company, and to no surprise I ended up marrying him two years later.
Jakarta today is unfortunately infamous for it's floods but on the otherhand it is famous for all the eateries that cater to the budget conscious to those on a limitless budget where fine dining here is like anywhere else in the world, it's not cheap. Jakarta offers almost any kind of regional Indonesian food to a wide assortment of Western, Asian and Fusion cuisine. But restaurants come and go, trends change. What's in now is obsolete tomorrow. It's a tough business. What seems to be mushrooming and popular among the affluent are these lounge style restaurants - some are good (not great) and others just mediocre. What they all commonly offer though is this loud thumping lounge music and a place to hang out and be seen, to a point where they even open franchises in Bali. And it seems to work, because the elite will fly out in flocks to go to these 'in' places.
I guess I'm somewhat of an oddball in this mileu of society when it comes to eating out. Still taking pleasure in the quest for eating good food and not caring whether it's at a street stall or however seedy the place is as long as the food is delicious. The ambience is of course important, but loud thumping lounge music kills it for me. I want to be able to listen to the conversation I'm having and also hear my thoughts as I'm speaking. Eating out should not be about the 'show', it should always be about the food and the company you're with (obviously) because if the food is good it will invoke memories one day like; the invigorating night wind blowing through your hair or meaningful conversations that you'll always have to treasure.