Jakarta’s premier special occasion French restaurant misses the mark
It is never a good sign when entering an eating establishment at the beginning of dinner service, which is usually around 7pm, and the dining room is empty. Granted, it was refreshing we were given everyone’s astute attention from the moment we stepped through the doors, but the stark contrast between a crowded open kitchen and the hollow echo of an empty dining room is a disturbing one to me.
This was not our first visit to Amuz, as we had fond memories of a delicious dinner with good friends when we first arrived in Jakarta, where the menu enticed and the food executed with panache. The service at the time was quite undisciplined, but forgivable. This time, we were met with more formal collaboration; from the moment we made our reservation online to our departure, there was a polished professionalism that indicated some scrutiny had been paid to the front-of-house.
However, a clear lack of attention to detail or just plain recklessness by some staff killed the otherwise perfect effort. During one change of service plates, one staff member seemed to notice something defective (or dirty, most likely) and walked away a few metres to brush it off with his fingers. He then walked back and place the same “clean” plate in front of me. Needless to say, I requested a new one by another staff member immediately after the incident.
Whether it was dust or a piece of food leftover from the dishwasher, it does not matter. The fact that the staff member did not have the decency to walk away to do this beyond my line of sight was shocking and profoundly unprofessional. What he should have done was excuse himself and bring a brand new plate. The question begs to be asked: are they inspecting their plates, and polishing glass and cutlery before service? Do service staff care at all?
Servers definitely weren’t inspecting the butter served to the table. We were presented with a lovely bread basket with an unfortunate pairing. After lifting the label sitting atop the chilled butter indicating its provenance, we saw a prominent spot of black mould sitting atop our expensive, imported, French butter.
Another seemingly small detail, but one that irked me nonetheless, was the aforementioned empty main dining room and our placement in the room. Amuz uses an online reservations service provider called Chope to assist with online reservations. Once a reservation is confirmed, you are immediately provided with a confirmation number and email. This system then provides your details to the restaurant staff to mind. One would think that the hostess or restaurant manager arranging the reservations for the day would select better tables for the few who make the effort considering an otherwise slow evening. Yet, we were sat in a corner of the restaurant, with no visibility of the open kitchen, which is premium seated for foreigners. There were only four other tables in the main dining room from 7pm until about 9:45pm. To me, this just screams lack of actual forethought in dining room management and planning.
Amuz prides itself on being one of Jakarta’s best French restaurants, for connoisseurs and those who enjoy luxurious dining experiences. True to form, they also have quite an extravagantly priced food and wine menu to match this claim. Apart from the special truffle menu that is a part of the seasonal celebration of this wonderful ingredient, we were a bit surprised by the more banal and classical selections on the main menu. It turned out the most interesting and delicious items were surprisingly un-French: a Spanish tapas sampler and the Iberico de Bellota Pork Pluma, both of which are Spanish in origin and inspiration.
The classical approach of steamed white asparagus and beef prepared two ways were uninspired and lifeless. Although cooked well, with no fault in preparation (except for perhaps a light-handedness in seasoning), it was difficult to reconcile the price tag for a couple of dishes that any average French bistro could have dished up and put in front of me for considerably less.
In fact, nothing impressed much. The presentation was a bit pedestrian for four-star dining.
Perhaps my days spent sampling and conducting tastings at a premier French culinary school with Michelin-starred chefs have ruined me for life when it comes to luxurious French dining, but I did expect just a tad bit more. Chefs have to understand, it is difficult to pull the wool over the eyes of sophisticated diners. Time and again, I have stated that diners are starting to realize the true value of food as palates become more cultivated and dining out happens more frequently.
Habitual diners of fine-dining establishments such as Amuz easily and quickly become cynical, and the claim of being “one of the best” needs to be supported by a really outstanding meal with cooks who can finesse expensive ingredients and staff who can deliver excellence upon every rupiah paid.
The highlight of our evening was the soufflé infused with Grand Marnier. Standing tall and light, with the perfect custard interior, I relished every bite. It was a pure taste of France. My dining companion’s cheese platter was an afterthought.
An empty dining room is the first sign for any restaurant that something is not working well. Perhaps Amuz can still save itself by finding new inspiration and paying attention to the details.
Amuz Gourmet Restaurant
The Energy Building, 2nd Floor SCBD Lot 11A
Jalan Jendral Sudirman Kav. 52-53 Jakarta 12190
Telephone: 021 250 5064