The pink two-story building with a few cars parked in its parking area barely stands out on the dense Jl. Gandaria 1.
Were it not for the big red signboard bearing the title “Pyongyang Restaurant”, I would have taken it for a residential building.
The moment two of my friends and I entered the restaurant, we were immediately surrounded, not by uniformed men or patriotic posters, but by beige wallpaper and orange tablecloths.
Soon after, four young ladies wearing traditional North Korean chosŏn-ot dresses warmly ushered us to our table.
“No English, sedikit [a little] Indonesian,” a waitress told us, shortly after we tried several English words to start a little conversation. We found out later that all the waitresses actually came from North Korea.
Reading the menu, I saw there was not much difference between the two Koreas in the dishes they had to offer. I found minor differences in how the foods tasted, but this was of course based on only one experience of eating in a North Korean restaurant.
The restaurant’s kimchi – fermented cabbage – for example, is sweeter and less spicy compared to that I have tasted in South Korean restaurants.
First, the waitresses served us with the banchan, which is a serving of six small dishes of various appetizers.
I then ordered two main dishes from the menu – a grilled pork dish and roasted Korean trepang, which the waitresses claimed were the restaurant's specialty. The stove where the waitress grilled the entire main course was right in front of me – tempting me with its sights and smells.
For beverages, the waitresses gave us a free-flow of traditional Korean tea. We also tried the soju, as the restaurant claimed it to be genuine soju directly from North Korea.
The unexpected attraction, however, was the singing and dancing performance by all the waitresses, who took turns in singing upbeat Korean songs. After each song, the singers came to the tables and shook customers' hands one by one.
One of the waitresses also played the janggu – a traditional double-headed hourglass-shaped Korean drum.
I had half-expected the place to be filled with North Korean government propaganda, but my experience proved me wrong. It seemed that the restaurant simply wished to promote the various dishes the North Korean homeland had to offer.
Jl. Gandaria 1 no. 58, South Jakarta
Opens daily from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
The restaurant has 20 tables and also private rooms with karaoke features on the 2nd floor.
How to get there
From Gandaria City shopping center, head to Jl. Gandaria and then Jl. Gandaria 1. Upon reaching the intersection with Jl. Gandaria 1, turn right. The restaurant will be on your left side, not far from the intersection. (Jakarta Post)