On Sunday evening, I attended my friend’s wedding; the main purpose for my trip. My friend, the bride, and I went back to our A-level college days (’04-’05). But it is funny for we became closer after graduation despite us attending different universities (she: Kings, me: Durham). When she invited me to her wedding months ago, I jumped at the chance to attend a wedding in Jakarta. Plus with some of our mutual friends from college days attending, itt was an offer even harder to resist!
My friend kindly put us out-of-towners up at the location of the wedding ceremony: The Ritz-Carlton Jakarta, Pacific Place. To experience a wedding banquet from another culture is always exciting but in this instance, my friend’s wedding was a jaw-dropping and spectacular event. From the over-the-top, ostentatious decorations to the wedding food, the whole event was a memorable one. I was in awe the entire evening as there were so many surprises.
The spectacular event made me feel like a country bumpkin; albeit a euphoric one. From the very minute I stepped into the reception area, I felt underdressed. Wearing a calf-length dress, this seemed casual compared to the beautiful and stick-thin young Jakarta ladies with their perfectly coiffed hairdos and full-length gowns. Don’t get me started on the diamonds. My saving grace was the gel manicure and eye make-up professionally done at the last minute prior to the wedding dinner. If not, I would have felt like I rolled straight out of a village.
Throughout the course of the evening, guests were entertained by a wedding “band”. As will be elaborated below, this “band” sent me into heaven with their performances. You’ll see why I keep adding inverted commas to the word, band. But shockingly, when I could not stop harping on about the “band” to the table mostly filled with locals, one of them waved her hand, and dismissed it as “another typical Jakarta wedding.” Yeah, you bet the jaws of my Malaysian friends and I dropped wide open upon that comment. Besides the opulent decor and wedding “band”, the wedding food was splendid. A sit-down 7-course fusion dinner. I learnt this was uncommon in Jakarta weddings. Indonesian weddings are usually buffet-style as usually above 1,000 guests will be invited. The wedding I attended was a “cosy” 600-guest affair. After dinner I felt very guilty about my Hong Bao to the couple. Let me show you why.
We began with the reception area… There were flowers everywhere and a tree with densed gold leaves decked out with hanging charms to provide even more bling.
In the middle of the reception were two huge bunnies.
Each as cute and as tall as me, this tickled me to no end.
There were a lot of flowers at the reception area. However they were fake. This fact proved to be significant later on..
In the middle of the ballroom was this majestic gold hanging centrepiece that was so bling, it will make a Maharajah shy. And with 60 tables, the ballroom was still unbelievably spacious. Much to the amusement of the Indonesians sitting nearby, my out-of-town friends and I spent a great deal of time posing in front of the blinged out centrepiece before finally making our way to the designated table.
After a short while a charismatic and highly enthusiatic Emcee announced in Bahasan that the wedding was to begin. In Singapore weddings, only the couple will march-in at the start of the wedding. On the other hand, at this wedding, it was a longer and more dramatic affair. Introductions were first made for the couple’s parents and siblings, then bridesmaids and groomsmen marched-in before we finally saw the newly married couple.
The wedding “band” that I keep harping on about in this post consisted of six wedding singers(!) and a harpist backed by a string ensemble. My friend hired Andrew Lee Music. Us out-of-towners were so impressed! Not only were the singers each stunning, they had some serious vocal cords to match their looks. See for yourself…
Throughout the evening, they sang in English and harmonised beautifully. For us visitors too used to music playing from a CD or iPod, this live version was almost too much for us to handle. But we had such a good time singing along and grooving to the hit music. Judgmental eyes from the Indonesians around us were definitely felt but who cares!
After the excessive beginning, the wedding dinner commenced. I like the Indonesian way. The 7-courses were presented in quick succession with no pauses for speeches or dreaded lovey-dovey videos. Just go-go-go! Immediately upon finishing, the plates would be swiftly removed and a new course almost instantly placed before us. But that wasn’t the best part. Check out the menu.
I expected, and would have been contented, with traditional Indonesian food. But no, my friends chose an elegant 7-course fusion dinner with a lot of unusual components in each dish. I could not be more excited upon seeing the menu. Despite my stuffed tummy from the mega lunch before and an extremely buttery Medan chocolate cake for snack, I was eagerly looking forward to dinner. The wedding food was most certainly one of the best I ever had. Both the Western and Asian components were equally executed well.
Bread baskets with butter was provided right from the start. Although I did not have any, the basket was quickly emptied before the first course arrived which was an impressively-plated cold appetizer: Lobster Fruit Salad, Peking Duck, Salmon Confit on a Seaweed Salad and King Crab. Out of all the components, the Peking Duck was the least impressive due to its dry meat. But the other seafood components were fresh and we happily lapped it up.
The second course, Buddha Jump Over the Wall, was not exceptional and tasted exactly like the soup at the wedding dinner in MBS the evening before. However the third course was a sublime and unforgettable, Baked Chilean Seabass, Beurre Blanc Sauce, Potato Gratin, Buttered Asparagus and Osyter Mushroom. This plate I would expect from a fine-dining restaurant so to see it at a wedding banquet, I was floored. It was also mighty delicious. The thick and rich cream sauce went beautifully with the sturdy streusal-crusted fish and sinful potato gratin. None of the guests left behind anything. Even my skinny, picky-eater friends happily cleaned plates with much praises in between bites.
Finally the beef dish arrived. I was most looking forward to this dish due to the lemon curd component. Certainly an unusual component found on a savoury dish. Barbecued Beef Rib, Lemon Curd, Pumpkin Puree and Pomegranate Red Wine Sauce. Supremely tender beef rib, I forgave the tasteless sauce and mismatched Lemon Curd. My friend had a good laugh with the leaf-less bak choy.
For carbohydrates, a bowl of Shaoxing Seafood I Fu Noodles. Expecting a snoozefest; boring, bland brown e-fu noodles normally experienced in Singapore banquets, this was nowhere close to undesirable. For we had a sublime bowl of fried noodles rich with smokiness! Why was the portion so tiny though?! The flat noodles resembled the more-appreciated yellow hokkien noodles. My Hong Kong friend was most impressed with this. For me, I sent this picture straight to my Mum in Singapore and together we prayed I will marry a nice Indonesian boy too. I need this dish at my wedding.
I wasn’t thinking too much about the dessert until my friend pointed out the presence of “chocolate cronuts”. That perked me up measurably so I started eying for my plate to arrive. Thank goodness it was swift after the noodles. As stuffed as I was by then, it did not stop me from having two plates. Warm Lindt Orange Chocolate Molten Cake, Chocolate Cronut, Caramelized White Chocolate, Orange Marmalade Sauce, Raspberry Sauce and Orange Jelly. Each plate was jam-packed with components. They may not have matched but each was pretty good. Except for the cronut that was hard-rock. But the caramelized white chocolate was a thick burnt-brown dollop paired with some biscuit crumbs. Wonderful. No molten cake at the table was overcooked and with the thick orange jelly cutting the richness of the chocolate. Smiles all around the table.
You would have thought we were beyond stuffed at this point. We definitely were but the Petit Fours contained so many delicious-looking components, we could not resist helping ourselves to it. The mini orange madeline sandwiched with chocolate ganache was the best. The large cube of raspberry pistachio nougant fared well too. And the Pocky-looking pistachio chocolated coated biscuit stick was a hit too.
It was a delicious wedding banquet that exceeded all my expectations. Three days after the banquet, I am still in awe. It may have been a short, tiring trip but this dinner was worth every hassle and lack of sleep. My hotel room was next to a Mosque… the Holy Prayers sounded out before the sun rose in the morning.
Before I end off, another detail of the wedding shocked me. From the preceding pictures, one could see large bouquets of flower arrangements throughout the banquet hall. Containing palm-sized roses and peonies, I assumed they were fake; like those in the reception area. Until the very end of dinner when I saw a lot of guests helping themselves to the flowers, I touched and found they were all real! And according to the bride’s close friend, all imported from Europe!
Ah Jakarta, I may not have spent much time with you but I saw more in the two days than the past few months alone. The best part of Jakarta is the people. EVERYONE, no matter how many diamonds around their neck, were impossibly smiley, genuine and warm. It also helps that the best Kueh Lapis and Ambon Cake I ever tasted was from there too! Watch out for the next post. 😉