Finding a Japanese restaurant in Jakarta is almost as easy as navigating yourself into an authentic Indonesian eatery. After all, it is the city filled with Japanese white collars and a bustling Little Tokyo. But the recent wave of Japanese restaurants are bringing about a fresh twist to the classic dishes. While sushi and ramen will always be a foolproof treat, it is undoubtedly interesting to level up from there.
Henshin, one of the city’s latest culinary additions, is all about introducing an adventurous kind of Japanese cuisine. Serving Nikkei food, a fusion between Japanese and Peruvian, the restaurant and rooftop bar is set to shake up the local culinary scene. Nikke cuisine itself is first developed by Japanese immigrants in Peru. The most classic menu is ceviche, often served with Japanese ingredients that result in a dish that packs a punch.
While the food concept takes a while to digest, Henshin is indefinitely attractive for its prime location. Perched atop the 67th floor at The Westin Jakarta, the restaurant and rooftop bar is the tallest of its kind in Jakarta. The entrance is a kind of a “secret door” leading to a dedicated lift, bringing guests to an other-worldly setting with a dark path that is strategically lit. The venue spans across three floors – the dining area, private dining rooms and the rooftop bar. The best time to enjoy the bar is after sunset, when all the lights are on, bringing the facade of the building to life. It truly feels like Shinjuku at night.
The interior of the restaurant is posh and modern, but loaded with traditional elements that add soul to the place. The open kitchen is accentuated with stones inspired by those seen at Peru’s Machu Picchu. Another features dragon artwork inspired by a Japanese chef’s tattoo. In the same spirit, the carpet is decorated with traditional Japanese motifs.
We sit down with Chef Hajime Kasuga, a third-generation Japanese in Peru, who previously helmed Hanzo in Lima. Now leading Henshin, he recommends four dishes to sample at the restaurant, ones that best represent the heart of Nikkei cuisine.
1. Octopus & Sea Bass Cebiche
A Nikkei staple, the cebiche (also known as ceviche) is basically raw seafood, thinly cut, and soaked in lemon juice as a way to “cook” it. The Nikkei twist to it is the “tiger’s milk” juice, made of lime, lemon, coriander and chilli. The milky yellow liquid is traditionally believed to be an aphrodisiac, also a cure for hangover.
2. Henshin Nikkei Rolls
At first glance, Nikkei rolls look like your ordinary sushi. But the difference lies in the way it is eaten. While sushi is typically dipped in soy sauce and wasabi paste, Nikkei rolls incorporate the sauce in the rolls, so they are to be eaten as is. Henshin Nikkei rolls combine western and eastern staples – foie gras and unagi – on a bed of rice and sesame seeds.
3. Pulpo Henshin
Those who enjoy octopus most probably eat it with minimum dressing. At Henshin, such normality is about to change. Pulpo Henshin is an octopus tentacle that has been marinated for 24 hours, to then be slow-cooked. What’s unique is the marinade, which brings to mind the taste of rendang.
4. Lomo Azul
A treat for meat lovers, Lomo Azul is coffee and spice-rubbed cuts of beef tenderloin, served with teriyaki blue cheese sauce. Another interesting accent in the dish is the star anise paste, which pairs really well with the meat.