Inspired by the mysticism of Central Java’s folklore Lara Djonggrang —a gorgeous princess from Boko Kingdom in Prambanan area during the ancient Hindu period and her endless devotion to her father King Prabu Boko— the four-star restaurant in Menteng, named after the legendary figure, serves the most authentic Indonesian cuisine in a rich traditional Javanese ambience that transports everyone back to its glorious past.
Once you step in to the restaurant, you will suddenly find yourself in an oasis, surrounded by green trees. Even the building itself is historic as it used to be the home of the personal physician of the first Indonesian president, Soekarno. In 2015, hotelier and restaurateur Anhar Setjadibrata took over and turned it into this current establishment. While maintaining the original Dutch architecture of the house, Anhar also installed his own antique collection into the restaurant, such as the original stone-based reliefs of Prambanan Temple, a Buddha statue and a life-sized wooden replica of the wayang character Semar. The result is a rich Javanese cultural experience. In the Lara Djonggrang chamber, the centuries-old three-metres tall wooden statue of the princess herself, found in the ruins of Prambanan Temple during its excavation in the 1980s, warmly greets guests. Also in the same room, the ceiling is covered with a long white layer of animal skin and numerous wayang puppets lining beneath it, reminiscent of a traditional wayang kulit performance. Then, of course, comes the food. If one is passionate to try authentic Indonesian food or ever wondered how it would feel like to have a fine dining experience in the middle of a museum, Lara Djonggrang must not be missed. Here, every meal is an adventure that has been beautifully planned and presented.
Take, for example, the restaurant’s signature Nasi Brongkos Demak, translated into brown rice served in the shape of a wayang head alongside complimentary dishes that are each placed on a small clay plate crowding a large round clay platter. The exotic vegetable stir fry Oseng Petai Daun Pepaya comes in a clay bowl, paying homage to its Javanese heritage, while the assorted meat sates that make Pasar Sate Tugu are served on a big heavy grill modelled after an Indonesian ethnic boat, with more than four kinds of dipping sambal placed on oyster shells. To cut the heat of the spices, try the refreshing iced tea Es Teh Raja Gula. Chew on the chopped sugarcanes to truly indulge in its natural sweetness. The name Raja Gula (Sugar King) comes from the prominent Chinese-Javanese businessman Oei Tiong Ham, who lived in the early 1900s and was also known as the Sugar King. All in all, only at Lara Djonggrang will one find history coming back to life, in an edible form.