It’s early–but not too early–in the tenure of Rafa Gil to say that an exciting talent has arrived in Jakarta.

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As the incoming Director of Culinary for The Keraton at The Plaza, Rafa has made a spectacular bow at the Bengawan Restaurant with “BLOCO DE CARNAVAL – A Touch of Brazil’s Sunday Brunch”.

Chef Rafa, who comes to Jakarta by way of Ozone at The Ritz-Carlton, opened the now-defunct (but widely praised) Spanish restaurant Catalunya at the Fullerton Pavilion in Singapore. Before Asia, Rafa made his bones at two Michelin-starred eateries in Basque country: Martin Berasategui in San Sebastian and Evo in Barcelona.

For Rafa’s inaugural brunch on Feb. 24, there were nothing but standouts on offer. Take, for example, the feijoada, based on a recipe handed down by chef’s father.

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Deemed the Brazilian national dish, feijodoa mixes black beans stewed for a few hours with sausage as well as chunks of pork and beef. A trio of traditional sides deliciously complimented the filling, flavorful feijodoa, which was served with jasmine rice: slender slices of deep-fried sweet local cassava, chunks of deep-fried bananas and a kale sauteed in garlic. Chef recommends adding a healthy portion of his arroz farofado, or jasmine rice with vegetables and cassava flour.

Another station was given over to a host of diverse and delicious thick Brazilian sauces, again served with rice. (Brazilians love rice almost as mich as Indonesians, chef says). There was a creamy camarao na moranga, or pumpkin stew with king prawns, as well as a lighter moqueca baiana, delicately mixing barramundi and coconut with a stronger palm oil and vegetables.

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Must try among the sauces was Chef Rafa’s bobo de frango–featuring a creamy fried cassava that deceptively resembles mashed potatoes, given a boost by coconut and palm oil, with chunks of chicken.

Amid the serving bowls, I thought I spied pepes ikan. Wrapped in banana leaves, peize na folha does indeed look like the traditional Indonesian delicacy. What’s inside, though, was a surprise: steamed fish mated with sweet, golden grilled bananas and elevated by a coriander pesto that added a soupçon of citrus taste.

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Toward the end of brunch, chef sat down with us at table, digging with obvious delight into a plate of feijodoa as he chatted with guests. Feijodoa is something that Rafa says he rarely cooks at home, as it’s typically made in huge pots for huge dinners with family and friends on Sundays.

Snacking on brigadeiros–chocolate Brazilian truffles, popular at children’s birthday parties, according to chef–we at the brunch sat with full bellies.

Appetites sated, we were hungry for even more from Chef Rafa.

“BLOCO DE CARNAVAL – A Touch of Brazil’s Sunday Brunch”
Sundays in March and April
Keraton at The Plaza, A Luxury Collection Hotel, Jakarta
Facebook @keratonattheplazajakarta
Instagram @KeratonJakarta

Written by Christian Razukas March 2, 2018.