Jakarta and Medan
This website is a treasure-trove for up-to-the-minute restaurant reviews/ratings for Jakarta. Most of the comments are in Indonesian, but you can refer to the ratings by the viewers, or get your Indon friends to translate:
However, it's very much Jakarta-centric though (the only entry for Medan is for Starbucks Cafe!!)
Thanks for the suggestions.
This won't be my first time in Jakarta (kura kura is Indonesian for turtle, by the way), and I've done Cafe Batavia before. I am more interested in Indonesian cuisine than international. I am careful with street food, but I have lived in and traveled throughout Asia, so I am not a novice. I have eaten street food in Jakarta before with locals.
For this trip in Jakarta I'll be staying with locals, not in a hotel, and want to be able to suggest restaurants to try. If I head over to Medan, I'll be in a hotel.
re: kura kura
I can only recommend Jakarta scene as I have never visited Medan before.
For dinner, if you want to focus more on the food, I think the best bet is Pondok Laguna. It is well know and busy all the time. And the food is really good. Recommend you to try the ikan gurame goreng (fried fish), tahu kipas (tofo), kang kung (vegetables), udang bakar(grilled giant prawns), kari kepala ikan (fish head curry), sayur asem (vegetable soup). If you think the ambience is important, you may look at Lara Jonggrang or Dapur Babah. I have never been to both but the review is quite good.
For lunch, any of the Padang restaurants listed above is good. For comfort food, you may want to try the bakmie ayam or nasi goreng at Bakmi Gajah Madah.
Understand you are well traveled in this region, but still suggest you to be cautious on street food. Recommend you to go to the shopping mall at Taman Anggrek instead. I think on the 4th or 5th floor, there is a huge food court that sells all types of local street food. I think the hygiene standard is better there than on the road sides.
I will not recommend you to eat street food. I love it but I have witnessed a few foreigners that end up with food poisoning or terrible diarrhea that I would advise you against such adventure.
Maybe you need to be more specific if you are looking at Indonesia or International cuisine. For Indonesia cuisine, Jakarta has a wide diverse and varieties of food from all the different provinces. Some places just focus on one dish. For first timers, I will just recommend a few that I think is "safe" (in terms of cleanliness, and ambience) for foreigners. Another cautious advise is that traffic jam is a serious problem in Jakarta. I assume that you will likely stay around Jln Sudirman area, where most hotels are located, so that is where most of my recommendation will focus on:
For general Indonesia food: Bumbu at Landmark Centre. Food is ok, but it is clean right at the heart of business district. Another choice is Waroeng Podjok at Plaza Senayan.
For Sunda food, Pondok Laguna is very popular with Indonesians and foreigners. I think this one should be on top of your list. Another choice for Sunda food is Sunda Kelapa, serving the best grilled giant prawns with chilli sauce.
For Padang food: I will recommend Sari Ratu at the basement of Plaza Indonesia Mall. It is convenient and clean for tourists and the standard is quite good as well. My own favorite is in a small shop at Menteng but it is not really convenient for most. Natrabu, recommended by klyeoh, serves the best rendeng (beef) and a favorite of former Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir himself.
If you stay in Hotel Borobudur, you should try the Sop Buntut (oxtail soup with rice) in the coffee shop. The place is famous for its Sop Buntut, a common Javanese dish. If you are staying at Mulia Hotel, I recall the coffee shop there served a few pretty good Indonesian rice dishes as well.
If you want to try Indonesia Chinese food, one popular one for the Chinese business community is Sanur at jln Djuanda in Pecenongan area.
Many Indonesians like to eat noodle with chicken (known as Bakmie Ayam) as comfort food, and one that is real popular in a convenient location is Bakmi Gajah Mada at Jln Sunda infront of Sarinah Jaya. Another convenient location is at Pondok Indah Mall. The Nasi Goreng (Indonesian style friend rice) is very good too. My own favorite is at a narrow alley at Gang O Pak but that will probably cost you 2 hours of traffic jam so I will advise you against that.
If you are adventurous, you can try the lesser known Menado food. Beautika and Waroeng Chamoe Chamoe are both my favorites. Beautika is more convenient at Kebayoran Baru.
If you are staying for more than 1 month and ready to try street food, then you will be expose to even more varieties such as Sop Kaki Kamping, Soto Betawi, Nasi Uduk, Martabak, Gado Gado, Soto Ayam, Asinan..........
In Jakarta, I find Natrabu and Saribundo to be good for Padang food, with its delicious plethora of spicy dishes.
For Sundanese/West Javanese cuisine, I always go back to the old faithful, Pondok Laguna.
Try the beautiful Dapor Babah for something different - Peranakan-Chinese food in a grand setting: an atmospheric restaurant filled with antiques.
Other fine-dining must-visits are Oasis (set in a restored Dutch-colonial manor, for rijstaffel, an elaborate rice-curry banquet served by a parade of 12 beautiful waitresses), and Cafe Batavia (for mod-Oz cuisine in an incredibly beautiful historic building in Taman Fatahillah).
I have heard some good review on Dapur Babah but have not tried it before.
Another higher end Indonesian restaurant with pretty cool ancient Javanese ambience that I have not tried is Lara Jonggrang at Menteng area.
I find Oasis to be good for tourists for the colonoal atmosphere but not for serious foodies.