Jakarta Globe: New menu, new look at Puro

Revamping a restaurant can be challenging. To achieve this, Puro Ristorante e Bar has compiled a recession-friendly menu, inviting the challenge of maintaining quality food while cutting both prices and its snooty attitude. The restaurant may have achieved this, but it all depends on the loyalty of Jakarta’s younger crowd.

Two weeks ago, Puro ditched its “Pure” fine-dining theme and attempted to transform itself into a hip and trendy hangout. Transformation efforts included abandoning an all-white decor by garnishing the dining area with plastic vines, vases filled with colorful fruit and most notably brown, cardboard menus.

According to Fina Pardede, a representative of the Ismaya Group that Puro is part of, “We used to only attract people 40 years and up, now we’re trying to attract primarily the younger crowd.”

Puro, tucked away in the back of City Plaza, is out of sight to pedestrian and car traffic, so planning ahead for the night out is a must. Puro’s seclusion — a disadvantage for the restaurant’s management, works to the advantage of diners, creating a quiet escape from Jakarta’s traffic and noise.

Strolling into an empty restaurant at 6:30 p.m., my date and I noticed quaint chandeliers hanging over a large bar and an open kitchen full of idle chefs. The restaurant doesn’t offer an early bird special, to my dismay, but the young, hip and trendy probably wouldn’t take advantage of it anyway.

As soon as we were seated near the open kitchen, complimentary bread arrived. The tomato-based bruschetta was not as fresh as I would have preferred, but warm bread and a light, crispy flatbread made up for that shortcoming. As recommended by our waiter, supervisor Rully, we ordered a variety of dishes: the Insalata di Cesare to start and Spaghetti al Nero di Sepia and Pizza Funghi Prosciutto as mains.

While waiting, we treated ourselves to Ciello and Pure Innocence cocktails. Although these items were not discounted, they were the most innovative and tasty items of our dinner. Ciello was a mix of crushed fruit and rum. A smoothie-esque concoction, the mixture of lime and kiwi was refreshingly pungent.

Our salad was the first item to arrive. Charmingly arranged, it consisted of long croutons wedged between lettuce leaves and topped with bacon, dressing and Parmesan cheese. The finger-friendly take on the usually reliable salad was delectable and fun to eat. Definitely not fine-dining, it should be a winner with younger crowds.

Promptly, our spaghetti with seafood and squid ink sauce, arrived. The al-dente spaghetti mixed well with the black ink sauce and the seafood was fresh and tasty. The pasta dish fulfilled my comfort-food craving, but not much else: It proved appetizing, but not especially flavorful. Next, the waiter delivered our pizza on a wooden board. The funghi and prosciutto complemented each other well. I have never been a fan of pepperoni, so the prosciutto acted as a more delicate version, flavoring the pizza rather than overpowering it.

Though both full by this point, we sampled a Mousse di Cioccolato. It was a reliable chocolate-hazelnut treat, but nothing beyond that.

Good Italian food is hard to come by in Jakarta and coughing up the money for it is even more taxing — but Puro gives patrons a reason to pay out that extra Rp 20,000. It is now a stylish hang out with affordable, refreshing food well worth your change.

Puro Ristorante e Bar

City Plaza at Wisma Mulia
Jl Jend Gatot Subroto Kav 42, South Jakarta
021 5297 1234
www.blowfish-puro-com
Antipasti: Rp 35,000 ++
Pasta: Rp 49,000 ++
Main course: Rp 59,000 ++

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