A Night At Negev
‘How’s your dinner?’
A man who is obviously the head chef of Negev Jakarta asked us in his happy Indonesian-English accent. Luckily for him (and unfortunately for me), I was disappointingly chewing down my pizza and could only gave him a too enthusiast nod (you can see why after reading this whole post). It was Saturday night and logically Negev should be filled with Jakarta’s socialite and cool youngsters. But that night was an exception, we freely glided around and chose our table without having to ask politely (tricky business) to the servant where can we sit or can he score us a seat at non-smoking area.
Negev is a perfect high-class restaurant when it comes to atmosphere. It is filled with artistic statues and cool lightning. You know, those kinds of lamps that don’t produce yellowish shadow across the room and ruin your photos (and make your food-photos become something similar with poo). In the middle of the room you can find giant tree-bubble-like sculpture which gives the restaurant a modern yet strange artistic vibe. I like it though, Negev is a perfect restaurant to sit around and enjoy a quality night with yourself or your friends. I know in one glance that Negev is definitely not a place to bring your kids and wife. Time for youngsters to say goodbye to family dinner I guess.
I had this strange feeling when flipping the menu though. Maybe it was because I usually don’t have dinner so late at night or the menu’s design, but I feel nothing except boredom. The name of each dish is just plain without something exciting or, at least, advertising. I usually hate dishes with strange (or too long) name, but Negev definitely changed my perception. We settled for Carne De Lux thin-crust pizza, Ice Cappucino (I felt really sleepy and alcohol was out of my league that night), Springs Baby Chicken, Strawberry Sunrise and US White Sea Bass.
While waiting for our dishes to come, the servant happily (they always look happy and calm. I don’t know why) came and gave us a complimentary (big, fat, crusty) bread and sleek plain butter. The bread was good enough for me, but the butter was really plain. I mean, plain butter is great, but I thought it could be much more delicious, if they chose salty butter.
Ice Cappuccino and Strawberry Sunrise
Silly me for not asking what kind of ingredients the Strawberry Sunrise has because it tastes awesomely fresh. Well, it was much fresher when my sister asked for extra ices. The juice is thick and strangely warm, a sign that it is fresh from the blender (not a really good drink for a hot summer night though). My Cappuccino on the other side, is really strong. It is topped with plain (again!) whipped cream and chocolate powder but even after mixing the entire whipped cream into the Cappuccino, it is still bitter and more like coffee than synthetic sweetener I used to drink. Yes, I asked for more sugar. And yes I felt bad. But at least the Cappuccino tastes much better with extra-extra-sugar. Shame on me.
Carne De Lux Thin Crust Pizza
Pizza is never a great advantage of a high-class restaurant. I know it, but I couldn’t resist the urge of ordering one after the chef put a tree sign (aka recommendation sign) right beside Carne De Lux. The menu said that it is a thin crust pizza with warm tomatoes and slices of whatever beef. Sounds good. Tastes….weak. Some restaurants want to make an elegant presentation by giving their customers an elegant tasted menus. I understand the theory and praised the act. But Carne De Lux is just weak for me. The dough is thin and quite crispy, the beef slices are unsurprisingly really thin and the tomatoes are deliciously warm and sour. But the overall taste is just not there. It was a boring eating experience and the big size is not even an advantage, more like a torture stomach-filling device.
But I found something that tastes right in this disappointing dish (and I really thanked God). The tomatoes. The chef sliced it into two complete half-round pieces and scattered them across the pizza, when I bit those tiny warm tomatoes, I was surprised with their sour juices exploding inside my mouth like a tiny nuclear bomb, and their warm skins wrapping up my tongue softly. Definitely the best tomatoes topping that I have ever had, but not that good until I classified this dish as ‘good’ more like ‘almost good’. I could have a much more decent pizza with half of the price. In short, Negev really failed me with their ‘de lux’ pizza. My opinion? Just put down the recommendation sign ASAP.
Springs Baby Chicken
After the disappointing pizza experience, the grilled chicken came and I have to admit the size is not a ‘diet people portion’. Negev surely know how to ruin your diet. The chicken looks oily and completed with fresh vegetables (you can change the veggies into mashed potatoes or creamy spinach though) and I was drooling for the chicken. When my sister finally gave me a chance to taste it I was literally jumping with excitement. One small bite and the chicken really kicked my big fat pizza’s ass. It tastes awesome! The fat is dripping from the crispy skin and slowly making it’s way to fresh warm meat. The veggies are fresh and quite moist. I didn’t taste anything unpleasant from this dish. Maybe this is what they call a ‘plate of heaven’. At this point my pizza looked nothing more than an empty beacon of hope. An expired beacon of hope.
US White Sea Bass
Remember when I told you US has everything that is good? That’s proven to be true because even their seabass is amazingly delicious. The fish is really moist and feels right from the pan which gives the hot-warm sensation in my mouth and the spice is just right. Sadly, this is all I can tell because I only tasted one small slice of it. But the side dish looks quite good, the chef sure knows how to create a beautiful, delicious and expensive dish.
I had these perceptions in my mind whenever I come in a restaurant. For example: if the atmosphere is good, the food must be bad or if the service is bad, the foods must be good and things like that. Negev puts me in this situation where my perceptions are all wrong for the first minute (good place also comes with good grilled chicken!) then out of the blue, my perception is right again (high-class restaurant never really high when it comes to pizza!). I don’t want to say that this is a perfect restaurant, some of the menus look boring and not really get on my nerve (in a good way), but I can’t deny that they have one of the best grilled dishes in town. Maybe I didn’t have a perfect night, but after seeing the bills (plus taxes!), I surely just had an overpriced night.