To describe Saigonsan as a restaurant is like saying that the Vatican Museum is a small part of a church. It is not. it is a magnificent concept, delivered in style, portraying Asian culture and history brilliantly and meaningfully, and allowing guests to simply marvel at the exuberance of real symbols of ancient Asian cultures. It is not “just a restaurant”.

Saigonsan portrays Indonesian-Chinese history in the dining venue, allowing guests to simply marvel at the exuberance of real symbols of ancient Asian culture. Photo by AlistairSpeirs/NOW!JAKARTA

The owner’s concept is to bring forward Indonesia’s significant role in Asia’s cultural history, reminding us, through the outstanding display in the main room, that the astonishing Angkor Wat Temple Complex in Cambodia was in fact conceived by an Indonesian, as well as celebrating the achievements of SE Asia’s leaders in a series of framed articles, portraits and memorabilia. It is a heady mixture of history, culture and cuisine.

But the way in which this is done, through the creation of a magnificent statue dominated main room, a charming second room with a mixture of art objects, paintings and fun things bought at local markets, plus a series of individually themed private rooms celebrating people lives, is simply brilliant. The selection of original, centuries old art pieces, their placement, their decoration, the lighting, the candles, the nooks and crannies filled with surprises, is beyond imagination. Well mine certainly.

After the delights of his Jakarta restaurants: Tugu Kunstkring Paleis, Dapur Babah Elite, Lara Djonggrang & Shanghai Blue 1920, it comes as no surprise that Anhar Setjadibrata’s creative vision is exceptional, his dedication to art and culture unmatched, and his ability to create “real” cultural restaurants probably is the best in the world.

The restaurant is dominated by the color of red, deeply reflecting iwth the Chinese philosophy.

Incidentally the Vietnamese and Thai cuisine is also beautifully presented and of very good quality as is the service. The presentation of the food is in line with the historical and cultural theme albeit a simple menu. But it is the surroundings you will go for and believe me it’s worth a trip to Malang just for dinner. If you even sit down to eat rather them look at every statue, every work of art, everyone will be lucky.

Congratulations Pak Anhar. Saigonsan goes to the very top of my list of restaurants everyone must see.

Alistair Speirs

Alistair Speirs

Alistair has been in the publishing, advertising and PR business for 25 years. He started NOW! Magazines as the region’s preferred community magazine.