[Jakarta] A Jaw-Dropping Wedding Banquet @ The Ritz-Carlton, Pacific Place

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.

Made a new friend at the wedding 🐰 #ohyeahbringingthishome

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There were a lot of flowers at the reception area. However they were fake. This fact proved to be significant later on..

After spending a long time in the reception area, taking pictures with bunnies and oogling at the opulent decor, we managed to tear ourselves away and entered the banquet hall. My jaw dropped…

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.

It may have been an unusually long march-in. But midway through, I realised the music accompanying them were sang live! Here is a short video posted on my IG earlier.

The wedding march-in to a soundtrack sang live!!! #stillinawe

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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.

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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. 😉

A French-Asian Wedding Banquet @ Capella: WOW

Last night, my dear friend from way back in Secondary School got married at Capella Singapore in Sentosa. Her husband is Italian so it seemed natural for a fusion-course wedding banquet. Also needless to say, half of the ballroom were Italians. They sure were passionate! Days before the wedding, my friend asked us to choose between “Quail” and “Beef”. I went for Beef because her “money was on it” What a way to build up anticipation! During the banquet, she spoilt us all with a scrumptious 7-course French-asian fusion wedding banquet. Us guests were blown away with everything. To top it off the band, 53A, played us upbeat music that got us dancing for hours. It was a fantastic evening!

The table setting. 

We began with a bread basket containing a surprising wide assortment carbohydrates. We couldn’t get enough of the bread sticks and crisps.

Our first course was an extremely fresh and light Hamachi Carpaccio with Asian Slaw and Sesame Ginger Dressing. Thinly sliced Hamachi with a light dressing – perfect start to the huge dinner.

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Next up was a rich Potato and Leek Soup with Truffle. As the soup bowl lid was lifted, a burst of truffle hit us in the face. You will either love or hate this dish. This turned out to my least favourite dish of the evening. I could not get on board with the textureless thin soup. Although savalged by the generous truffle bits.

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Next up was a superb Oven-baked Soy-Glazed Cod with Braised Daikon Raddish, Hon-Shimeji and Bonito Sauce. It still hurts whenver I recalled I did not finish this dish. But there were a lot of courses including a supposedly-epic Beef course so holding back was the way forward.

Refreshing palate-cleanser Mango Sorbet to prepare us for the meat course… (Excuse the blue photo from the spotlight)


Finally, the mind-blowing Pot-Braised Beef Short-Ribs Ala Bourguignon with Carrots, Caramelised Figs, Roasted Yam and Mushrooms. Fork-tender beef in a heavenly thick sweet-savoury sauce. The Bride was right, this dish was perfect in every aspect. Everyone raved about this dish. It was rude not to finish the perfectly-braised beef despite our stuffed bellies!

My friend’s stuffed Quail Roasted Papeton of Quail Stuffed with Potatoes Parmentier with Green Vegetables and Natural Poultry Jus looked good too.

For dessert, we were served a Pandan Creme Brulee with Lychee Sorbet and Coconut Tuile. The addictive strong pandan flavour paired with a crisp tuile with shredded coconut bits – so good!

To end it off the night, an assortment of Petit Fours comprising of Shortbread biscuit coins, mini Dark Chocolate Tart, Fruit Pastilles, and Hazelnut Chocolate Truffle. It was wayyy tooo much.

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With amazing Italian Red Wine, we danced our heart’s out into the early morning. 🙂

A Wedding Feast at The Grand Salon, Grand Hyatt Hotel

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On Saturday evening, I attended a good friend’s wedding dinner at The Grand Hyatt and it was an unforgettable evening. Aside from the traditional Chinese eight-course feast that contained a little twist, there was a Martini Bar before dinner, and after, Whiskey and Cheese with a dancefloor to burn off the calories.  My friend really knew how to throw a party! I’m also pretty sure it was not GH’s standard wedding package and my friend must have definitely paid more for the extra frills. And I was only too delighted and lucky to be invited to her celebration.

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The wedding began at 7pm at the Bar just outside the Grand Salon Ballroom with an open kitchen. A couple of mocktails for the teetolers and three types of Martinis were on offer: Passion fruit, Lychee and Espresso. I found the Passion Fruit Martinis especially refreshing and in all, I had six glasses even before dinner had began…

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At the same time, canapes were served to whet our appetites; Peking Duck Pancakes and mini Truffle Risotto Balls. The Peking Duck Pancakes with it’s thin duck filling and doughy pancake was forgettable but the Truffle Risotto Balls served in little cupcake liners were a different story. They were delicious! Served piping hot, the little gems were crisp on the outside and inside tender with the al dente risotto generously filled with mushrooms and cheese. The thick truffle cream on top was truffly-rich and especially addictive – my friends and I could not get enough. Each tray was quickly emptied even before half the waiter could reach length of the bar was reached.

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For the dinner feast, it was supposed to be a typical eight course dinner. However for that evening the seven savoury course were Chinese but the dessert option was a unexpected Pistachio Panna Cotta! I was so excited. And could not wish for dessert to come quickly enough so as to get my hands on them but first I had to conquer seven courses…

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For the appetizers, each waiter carried out a huge silver tray with five big plates and placed it on a rack near to each table. They painstakingly portioned out into ten plates. When all ten plates were portioned out, they were served together per table. This process took a while but the risotto balls and martinis before had filled us all very nicely so no one minded. Appetizers consisted of five elements: spicy marinated jellyfish, broiled prawns, prawn balls rolled in thin roasted almonds, chicken strips in a spicy appetizing peanut sauce and a sweet beancurd roll filled with an assortment of vegetables. The chicken strips in peanut sauce were the best on the plate for I especially love peanut-based sauces.

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For the soup course, a large lobster piece swam in a thick well-seasoned stock filled with crab meat.

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The first protein was the Crispy Chicken. The thin brittle skin was crisp but it was the large piece of prawn cracker that accompanied the chicken that reallly shone. It was piping hot and I got the impression it was freshly fried. I quickly finished the cracker and my guy friend was only too happy for the extra chicken.

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For the seafood course, a little claypot on a little burner was served to each of us. It was unusual and looked inviting. It could have been a little theatrical but the flavours within were anything but. It was extremely appetizing and the huge abalone was fresh and juicy.

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I did not try this steamed fish and the scallops dish because I was waiting for…

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THIS! Black Pepper Wagyu Beef with Crystal Noodles (cellophane noodles). My friend loves wagyu beef and this dish had her name written all over it! Generous cubes of wagyu beef fried with mushrooms in a thick and dark peppery-soy-laden sauce and the chewy crystal noodles were gleefully swimming in the appetizing sauce. I mixed in the surprisingly spicy Hae Bee Hiam (dried shrimp sambal)  condiment and sheer delight ensued which caused me to happily lap it up and the flavours lingered on to the next day.

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And finally the dessert, Italian Pistachio Panna Cotta! I was so looking forward to this but it was a tad disappointing. The berries compote overwhelmed any pistachio flavour but the custard below was thick smooth and rich – it reminded me of a soy beancurd pudding and I could not detect the italian flavours. Still this little twist to the traditional Chinese dinner was well worth the wait.

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After dinner, guests were usherred to the dancefloor across the hall. For the next few hours, popular hits were played non-stop. This caused us to break out some serious dance moves.

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When we needed to refuel (for strange reasons unbeknownst to mankind…), one would simply walk to the next room and be greeted with this!

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The huge cheese table featured an impressive spread of cheese and the wedding cake. The cheese were displayed on wooden chopping boards and there were more than seven variety on offer. Each were also thoughtfully labelled. Also on offer were trays of crackers and ryvitas as well as baskets of three types of sliced bread; wholegrain, sesame and white. As if it wasnt enough food already, six little mason jars of assorted nuts, dried apricots and figs were provided for us to pair with the cheese.

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The wedding cake was surprisingly good! A simple moist and sweet Vanilla Chiffon Cake was layered with fresh tart raspberries encased in whipped fresh cream. The lightness of the cake was appreciated given the rich cheese surrounding it.

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What a splendid evening and I was sad when it all ended and good times stopped.

Wedding Banquets: Mandarin Oriental vs Summer Pavilion, Ritz Carlton

In less than 24 hours, I attended two wedding ceremonies: dinner at Mandarin Oriental (“MO”) and an afternoon ROM at Summer Pavilion (“SP”) in Ritz Carlton, the next day. Coincidentally both banquets featured 8 courses. I was only too excited to compare the two spreads for research purpose (still single with no prospects but one can never predict these things 😉 ). So join me as on this battle of the banquets as I nitpick every dish, ingredient, taste and texture. Let’s go!Read More »