Tantra Tobing, a former banker turned entrepreneur, has made a significant impact in both the aviation and culinary realms. Recognized as Indonesia’s most favorite aviation blogger in 2019, Tantra’s passion for flying extends to his love for exploring the world of food. As a Gourmand & Lifestyle Blogger, he has cultivated a deep appreciation for culinary delights. Tantra’s expertise in the food industry led to his role as a judge for Jakarta Best Eats 2019.
As a food enthusiast, he eagerly shares his top three dining places and some of his favorite street food destinations.
Hi! Please tell us a bit about yourself and your day-to-day activities.
I worked as a banker for 12 years before embarking on my entrepreneurial journey a few years ago. Currently, I oversee several successful businesses, including an online food venture called @tgalleybytantra, which boasts a loyal customer base of tens of thousands and operates with resellers in four countries. In addition, I am actively involved with the charity organization @saabshares, where I hold the position of Chief Relationship Officer.
Apart from my business ventures, I am recognized for my airline and luxury hotel reviewer expertise. I had the privilege of hosting my own television show, “Sultan Travel,” which aired for three seasons, and I contributed travel articles to esteemed media outlets in the country.
What do you love the most about what you do?
I love the opportunity to meet new people and build a solid network through my professional work and role as an “Instagram personality.”
What is your favorite type of cuisine?
I’m quite adventurous when it comes to cuisine, although I do have my limitations. I’m a bit of a purist and not particularly fond of too fusion, molecular, or modern dishes.
What is your favorite food?
My top three cuisines, in order, are definitely Indonesian, Japanese, and French. Although I have traveled extensively and, to my last count, dined at 122 Michelin-starred establishments worldwide, I am still a big fan of Indonesian food.
Do you have any memorable food trips?
My trip to Mumbai a few years ago was so memorable and opened my eyes to the richness and variety of Indian cuisines. I was quite skeptical at first, but then I tried Parsi, Goan, Gujarati, fresh seafood, and many other dining places recommended by my local friends, and boy, they were so good and memorable!
What lesser-known food spots or hidden gems have you discovered in your travels?
I recently traveled to Siem Reap, which is not traditionally known as a culinary destination. However, I had the pleasure of trying some of the best restaurants in town, where I discovered the delightful flavors of Khmer Cuisine. I absolutely loved their Amok, curries, desserts, and, of course, the rice! Interestingly, Cambodian Rice has been recently voted the best rice in the world.
To you, what would make a perfect meal?
Good food, good ambiance, good service, and good companion.
What usually draws your attention to a place to eat?
I usually consult my friends who have traveled extensively and experienced various dining establishments to trust their palate and receive recommendations for good places to eat. When I travel, I never rely on browsing the internet but instead prefer to ask either my hotel concierge or local friends.
What is the most unforgettable food experience you have had?
Vue de Monde in Melbourne provided my first true fine dining experience during college. At that time, Vue de Monde was one of the most expensive restaurants in Australia (and yes, I saved up to dine there). The menu consisted of a 12-course degustation, and from that night onward, my interest in fine dining grew.
What is the most unique or unusual dish you have ever tried, and where did you taste it?
I had the opportunity to try many exotic dishes at Wangfujing Market in Beijing, and although it is difficult to describe the taste, all I can say is they offered a delightful combination of crunch and salt. Additionally, I had a unique experience of being served Fugu on my flight from Singapore to Manila. It’s quite extraordinary to be served one of the deadliest foods in the world while onboard a flight.
What is your favorite street food, and where do you usually eat it?
My favorite street food in Jakarta is Nasi Goreng Bhakti, located around Senopati. I have been eating here since high school, and it was one of the first foods I had after returning from a long overseas trip.
Is there any food you can eat every day without getting bored?
I have a weakness for Indonesian traditional snacks, known as Jajan Pasar. When it comes to these snacks, I usually prefer the savory options over the sweet ones. Among them, my absolute favorite is Risoles. I believe I have tried all the best places for Risoles in Jakarta.
Do you have any place you frequently go to for it?
I usually keep a stack of Tgalleybytantra rissoles in my fridge, allowing me to have them fried by my assistant whenever I crave them. However, besides that, Suisse Bakery is also one of my favorite places for rissoles in town.
Where do you usually hang out with friends or go for special occasions with family?
I usually enjoy hanging out with my foodie friends at Kawana Sushi in Blok M, or more recently, I have been visiting Zutto at PIK. In my opinion, Zutto offers the best Omakase experience in town. When I’m looking for a wide variety of options, Arts Cafe at Raffles Jakarta gets my vote for the best hotel buffet in town. And for a lighter option, I love indulging in pastries at Rose Deli, located at St Regis Jakarta.
What are your favorite local dishes, and where do you usually go to eat them?
Although not strictly “local,” I am fond of Chinese Peranakan dishes. My favorites include Sanur, Paramount, and Rendezvous.
What is your go-to comfort food, and where do you usually get them?
My go-to comfort food is the well-made Carbonara Pasta at Le Quartier. Alternatively, I often head to Pabean in Panglima Polim for a satisfying treat, where I enjoy their delectable Bakwan, a savory and flavorful dish that hits the spot perfectly.
Where are your top three dining places that are always on your favorite list? And which food do you recommend getting at those places?
My top three dining places on my favorite list are Zutto, where I highly recommend trying their Tamago, Chawan Mushi, Tsukemen, and Purin. Another favorite is Ebeya, known for its exceptional Teppanyaki set menu, which is elegantly served on Ginori Fine China. Lastly, Angus Steak holds a special place in my heart, as their steaks are consistently excellent, and dining there always brings back cherished childhood memories.