Kikugawa: Nostalgic enduring Japanese restaurant

Salmon Sashimi Yakitori Set
Salmon Sashimi Yakitori Set. Photo: Freddy Wally

IO – Japanese cuisine is one of Asia’s favorite cuisines, enjoyed by cosmopolitans for ages. Since the 2000s, Japanese restaurants have increasingly expanded and have influenced Indonesian culinary styles and arts in various circles, especially with a growing middle class.

Kikugawa prides itself on being the oldest Japanese restaurant in Jakarta, one still busy serving customers today. Since its initial opening, on April 21, 1969, this restaurant, located at Jalan Cikini IV, Number 13 Menteng, Central Jakarta, has continuously operated at its original location, under the same name.

Launched jointly by restaurateurs Kikuchi Terutake and Mrs. Amelia Paat, still impressively maintains the same interior design and atmosphere as when it was first inaugurated, 52 years ago. Visiting guests will still find the small wooden and bamboo bridge as the entrance of the restaurant. Under the small bridge, they will note the sound of trickling water, as if it were near a small river.

Tempura Ju (Tenju)
Tempura Ju (Tenju). Photo: Freddy Wally

“The late owner of this restaurant, Kikuchi Terutake, was truly inspired by the song Bengawan Solo created by Gesang, as the song had become very popular in Japan following World War II,” explained Yoanita Dwi Cahyo, General Manager of Kikugawa, welcoming Independent Observer on a cloudy afternoon in November.

Yoan recalled how the love for the song influenced the couple, Kikuchi and Amelia, inspiring them to open an Indonesian restaurant under the name Bengawan Solo in Tokyo, Japan, before Kikugawa in Jakarta opened in 1969.

“The Bengawan Solo restaurant in Japan closed in the early 2000s, soon after the couple passed away; Kikugawa is now operated and managed by a second generation of the family,” added Yoan.

One of the oldest Japanese restaurants keeps its original interiors. Photo: Freddy Wally

The name “Kikugawa” also represents a profound meaning; Kiku in Japanese means a river that serendipitously shares the same name with the owner; “gawa” in Japanese refers to the chrysanthemum flower, which embodies the philosophical meaning of “everlasting blossoming”.

“ The restaurant was named Kikugawa with the hope that it will stand the test of time and inspire many people, as the flow of Bengawan Solo river did,” said Yoan, meaningfully.

A red Japanese torii or gate is ready to welcome guests at the front door. Entering the long-running Kikugawa restaurant brings you to a time capsule of 52 years ago, when it first opened. Guests would catch sight of the classic floor tiles and attractive decorations from a complete series of classical Japanese wall displays of philosophical values with large kanji paintings on the main wall, tanuki (Japanese lucky raccoon) by the cashier counter, typical Japanese dolls around the restaurants to beautifully folded origami papers.

This 450 square meter restaurant still maintains its rattan chairs and antique wooden tables as a main hallmark. “Our maximum capacity is currently at 65 guests, which is consistent with government’s safety protocols,” said Yoan further.

Yoan claimed that the preferred dish is the Ume Set, taking in Salmon Sushi, Salmon Sashimi, Tempura, Sukiyaki, Yakitori, and Miso Soup – still a favorite of young and old guests of the restaurants. Kiku Set and Kikugawa Set A, B and C also remain as recommended dishes in the restaurant. “Our Salmon Gyoza is a favorite for its unique taste, rarely found in other Japanese restaurants,” convinced Yoan.

Aside from the wide range of Salmon Sushi as Kikugawa’s cherry-picked selection, the place also serves a large assortment of tantalizing noodle menu items, such as Chicken or Beef Soba and Udon. The menu does not stop at noodles; Kikugawa still provides a touch of curry for those who love a different taste of Japanese cuisine. A great variety of curry rice and sukiyaki offer you beef, chicken, shrimp and even vegetables.

As a family-friendly restaurant, a kid’s menu offers Japanese fried rice, Sashimi Tempura and Tamago Sushi, simply mouth-watering for children.

Open two sessions each day, Kikugawa’s operating hours are from 11.30 a.m. to 2.30 p.m. for lunch and again in the late afternoon for dinner sessions, from 5.30 p.m. to 10 p.m. “The operating hours are similar to the original Japanese restaurant, to be more efficient and provide break time for the staff,” Yoan explained, concluding our talk.

Visiting Kikugawa will definitely be an appealing choice to spend the weekend. Guests are advised to follow strict government rules concerning the pandemic: use the PeduliLindungi application to check in and out and conduct 5M safety protocols. (Freddy Wally)