Chinese food can be plenty tasty and plenty of fun.
At least that’s what the Ismaya Group wants people to think when they come to its new eatery, Fook Yew, at Gandaria City in South Jakarta.
With hints of deep red and bright turquoise in the decor, plus a string of red lanterns hanging from the ceiling, the restaurant has a festive ambience. A hawker cart holds the menus at the front of the restaurant, across from the open-style kitchen. The crowds waiting in line watch in amusement as the chefs scramble around preparing the food.
No, you have not arrived in Shanghai (though I was told by another guest that it felt like it), you are at Fook Yew.
And no, I did not just swear at you.
In Chinese “fook” means fortune while “yew” means friendship. Knowing that, it seemed appropriate that we came to dine in a group.
So much about the kitsch-cool restaurant sparked conversation. From the walls scrawled with funny fortune cookie wisdom such as “a full belly conquers all,” to the random, eclectic and quirky cultural elements sprinkled throughout the venue.
The restaurant is divided into two sections — indoors and an outdoor patio. Antiquated black-tea tins and empty cardboard boxes with red writing, “not made in China,” serve as decoration on the walls.
The waiter was kind enough to provide explanations while we carefully dissected the menu.
“The most-ordered items from the menu are the alcoholic bubble teas and the baked rice,” he said, while pointing out some dim sum items.
The bubble tea menu consists of two subcategories: alcoholic and non-alcoholic. The chart boasting the alcoholic choices were arranged according to Chinese zodiac horoscopes on a rotating wheel. Each drink was an interpretation of the personality of each horoscope. For example, “The Nutty Snake” or “The Storming Ox” are each concocted with their own blends of flavors, for your choosing.
The non-alcoholic bubble tea roster was arranged by Chinese pop culture names such as “Tai Chi Master,” a blend of coffee, jelly and tapioca bubbles.
We ordered the xiao long bao (chicken and seafood soup wrapped in a thin wonton dough) and Shanghai chicken. One of my dining companions went with the recommended baked chicken and tomato rice, and it was bubble tea for everyone.
The Shanghai chicken was a perfect blend of salt and garlic, wrapped in a dough that had just the right texture.
Unfortunately, we had to wait a long time for our waiter to come back and tell us they had run out of the sauce for the baked rice. We replaced the order with another item but we were soon hit with another deja vu moment, as they informed us they had run out of that item too.
There seemed to be a lack of coordination or miscommunication between the wait staff and the kitchen. However, other than this small mishap, we were happy to eat and sip our tea.
The busy but casual atmosphere makes Fook Yew an approachable kind of place, where you can hang out the whole night, enjoying some drinks and the company of your companions.
The diners at nearby tables looked like they felt the same way, comfortable and at home.
There was definitely a sense of friendship and good fortune in this place, making the name a perfect fit.