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Where the Chefs Dine: Java Bleu

Okay, I know that this particular new 'white' kid on the block, a French restaurant called Java Bleu located in Golden Plaza, on R.S. Fatmawati 15 Blok E-31, has been reviewed by a number of local magazines. So, what's new, right? Been there, done that, yawn!

But wait a second - do you know that they change their menus almost every week? It is a very clever move, suiting Jakarta's 'foodie' society perfectly, where the flock continually moves to newer, greener and fresher pastures.

When I read the advertisement for Java Bleu on an aggressive and tireless lifestyle update email sent to my Inbox, I felt hesitant to visit the place. What is it - another pathetic attempt by a local conglomerate to create yet another monument to French gastronomy by putting shrivelled sad-looking escargot in the menu?

After climbing what seemed to be a never-ending staircase - especially for a first timer - I finally reached the restaurant on the third floor. Lured by the familiar aromas and the sweet French ballad coming from the restaurant's stereo system, I guess I shouldn't have complained about the stairs. A rectangular room dominated by the sky blue colour of the walls, basic fixtures and furniture - with one side of the room occupied by the service bar, that's Java Bleu. The restaurant's familiar crowds that night made me smile and convinced me that I was in the right place. Beside my husband, who basically grew up in world-class kitchens in Sydney, there was the Executive Chef of the Mercantile Athletic Club, and of course, Antoine Aubran, the chef and proprietor of Java Bleu. Where do you go to eat - to a place where the city's best chefs go, absolutely.

Antoine, who has previously worked in several five-star establishments around the world, personally prepared the guests' orders. "I love cooking, it's a fun thing for me and I only open the restaurant at certain hours in the evening for the people who really appreciate my food," explained Antoine.

And the show began. First, the bread arrived. Knowing how bread has always been an important part of the French diet, I was a bit disappointed by the rather cold French bread served with individually packed butter on the table. I was truly expecting warm, fragrant bread fresh from the oven. It was too much of an expectation I guess. But I didn't feel blue for long! Heaven was waiting!

From Les Entrees list - among other delicacies - Java Bleu offers Escargot Champignon & Persillade en Papillotte, which is a dozen baked escargots with sautéed mushrooms 'Papilotte' style, served in a garlic, parsley, butter and white wine sauce. The escargot had a slightly fruity flavour, tasted delicate but firm, complimented by the deep flavour of the chopped garlic and parsley. For people who are not familiar with the tradition of snail-eating, it might be useful to know a bit of escargot background, which actually is far from slimy. Some snail species, the most commonly eaten are Roman or vineyard snails and Petit-Gris or garden snails, are highly priced in the gastronomy world and in France they are called escargot. Prepared boiled, baked, grilled or a la bourguignonne, escargot are usually eaten before or after dinner. Snails collected from the wild need to be starved for about 10 days to ensure they are rid of the effects of any poisonous leaves they may have eaten. In fact in Provence, instead of fasting, the snails are put on a diet of thyme which helps the mollusc to eliminate poisonous material and also flavours their flesh.

I ordered Les Moules 'Poulette' but ended up sharing the dish with the neighboring tables because of the ample portion. The baked mussels were immersed in a sinful cream-based garlic, parsley and white wine sauce. The mussels were fresh and soft, full of flavour but not too rich. Presentation aside, the only setback was that both shells of each of the mussels were intact. Originally, Mussels a la Poulette was served with one shell of each of the mussels removed - just to make them easier to consume.

Le Foie Gras Chaud & Pommes was another entrée on the menu. Considered a rare delicacy, the duck foie gras was pan-fried and served with apple and honey sauce. The liver was plump and full of flavour - it is generally known that before cooking the liver is plunged into a bath of milk and honey - the foie gras melted beautifully right on my tongue.

For the main course, Le Carre d'agneau roti & puree 'Flageolet - Pomme de Terre' was served. The oven roast rack of lamb, basted with butter and meat juice during the cooking process, was tender, juicy and firm, sitting on a bed of sautéed beans and accompanied by a bowl of fluffy mashed potatoes. The meat was cooked perfectly, the flavour was excellent and the accompanying mashed potato and beans were down to earth.

Les Coquilles Saint Jacques & Grosses Crevettes 'Daniel', pan-fried sea scallop and jumbo prawns were presented with chopped mushrooms and tagliatelle topped with shaved cheddar cheese. The fresh scallops and prawns were cooked just briefly, thus creating tender, juicy morsels of exquisite flavour. The herb-infused honey sauce added a touch of fullness to the plump scallops.

And as a finishing touch for a little French indulgence, what could be more perfect than a sweet bite or two of Les Crepes 'Suzette'?