Souk El Attarine: a souk (market) in the medina quarter of Tunis, capital of Tunisia, that is filled with with perfumes and beauty products.
Attarine, a brand new restaurant by one of the main players in Jakarta’s lifestyle constellation, The Potato Head group, is Jakarta’s youngest dining spot, located in one of the trendiest neighborhood of Gunawarman street. The heavy use of ‘spices and fragrant ingredients’, was inspired by the above-mentioned spice market in Tunisia.
The restaurant’s facade is very simple, with its logo printed on simple brown awning at front, and 4 tables are located in the patio. Inside, the restaurant occupies a partition-less open space that seats about 100 people, that would fit sitting elbow to elbow. As with a lot of Potato Head’s design idea, the eye feasts on a mish mash of decor, floating plants, an antique micro-car centerpiece, artworks (most sourced from the owner’s personal collection), colors, and energy of people. Great start.
After being seated, I took quick look at the menu and was happy to see both a reasonable price and one page of food menu. It is such a remarkable relieve to not have to flick through pages and pages of menu that you just didn’t want to be bothered with. Attarine also as a completely different set of menu for dinner (6pm-11pm) and lunch (11 am-4pm), which is what I was there for.
For appetizer, we were served with two of their sourdough rye toast variations; the first batch has a mixture of fish, beetroot, cashew and dill. Tasty and undoubtedly healthy, I wish I had this for breakfast instead. The cashew gives it a creamy & nutty texture that reminds me of hummus, and the beetroot gives nice sweetness in addition to that beautiful bright pink color. The second batch has a mix of ‘veggie’ & fresh white cheese , with radishes, cucumber and herbs.
Third appetizer was one of the few items that was on the ‘menu of the day’ board–which changes every day–:cooked Brussels Sprouts mixed with homemade aioli and katsuobushi or ‘bonito flakes’, an intensely umami condiment that is liberally sprinkled on many Japanese comfort food like takoyaki or okonomiyaki, which interestingly has made the Brussel sprout taste exactly like. Intriguing!
For the mains, we were served another Menu of The Day of wood-fire oven snapper fish, served with roasted zucchinis, sea salt, and Mediterranean tomato spread. The condiments are clearly Meditterannian, yet the whole fish on the table will remind you of a Scandinavian family dinner. “We don’t want to classify our food to certain regions; it’s about all that mix of herb and spices.”, Deri Jendhar, a representative of the restaurant told me.
Most of the mains are also to share, such as the next food we tried: the skillet shrimp curry, cooked a la massaman, with just a hint of strong spices like clove, star anise, and cinnamon, and more use of tamarind and palm sugar, the sauce is both sweet, sour yet refreshingly fragrant. This is probably one of my favourite dish in the table.
Another mainstay is the braised and deep fried lamb ribs, topped with whipped garlic aioli and pink radish pickles. The deep frying has made the meat slightly crisp on the outside, and the braising rendered the meat very-very tender.
We were also served with two different meat balls: one that is mixed with cumin and topped with white sauce, served on a cast iron pan, and another that is mixed with rice, and stuffed into onion, slow-cooked, and topped with spicy sauteed kale leaves. To enjoy these meat dishes, a spiced biryani butter rice was served to our table.
After all the protein-rich mains, I was still looking forward to their Desserts options. Three plates (for our table of 5) came at once, tickling my taste-buds at once. First a deconstructed bannoffee pie: with salted caramel base, butter cookie crumbs, topped with Chocolate ice cream, with a side of caramelized banana, whipped cream, and Bali Tabanan chocolate ganache. This was my favourite. It was such a decadent medley of taste and texture.
The carrot cake was incredibly moist, served also with walnut ice cream. Although I am honestly not all that gung ho about carrot cake anymore, I’d probably order this again if I’m in the mood for it.
Lastly, I finally tried what’s the hype-y Australian lamington cake is all about, made from squares of sponge cake coated in an outer layer of chocolate (or sometimes raspberry) sauce and rolled in desiccated coconut.
Two weeks after it’s opening, the restaurant has created a great wave of energy around the clock; with long tables, tall ceiling, with large tropical plants afloat, it’s like a big merry dinner party at an artsy friend’s car garage. That’s why probably the food is ‘all over the place’, meaning it breaks the boundaries of ‘where’, and delivers on ‘what’.