Abuba Steak exists – literally – in that smoky grey area between restaurant and warung. However, it doesn’t really matter how you classify this establishment because if you use the bums-on-seats measuring stick, it is the most successful of either class in Jakarta. It is so successful it has its very own traffic jam – as anyone who has attempted to drive through Jalan Cipete Raya, especially in the evening hours, will tell you. Why is it so successful? The simple answer is I don’t know.
Abuba is truly a rags-to-riches story. The owner, Bapak Haji Abubakar, served a long apprenticeship, starting as a dishwasher with the Kemang Hotel. He spent that time – six years in total – closely observing the resident cooks before becoming a cook himself at the same hotel.
Ten years on, he moved to an offshore company where he was able to work alongside cooks from that steak-searing capital of the world, Texas.
After these professional cookery experiences he decided to go it alone, opening a small warung on the sidewalks of Kemang where he served steak, soup and gorengan (local fries). To his surprise, the sale of steak far outstripped the more obviously local food, so from then on he concentrated almost exclusively on steak dishes. In 1994 he moved to his present location on Jalan Cipete Raya and has never looked back.
The restaurant is actually an old opened-up house. A large barbeque is set up out the front, where a number of cooks toil almost continuously to satisfy the steady stream of customers.
The smoke from the barbeque goes where it wants – across the road and back into and through the restaurant and there is no air conditioning to hinder its journey. However, there are plenty of fans and the smoke is more of an atmosphere thing than a nuisance. The furniture consists of 15 simple wooden tables seating four people each. The décor then is most definitely minimalist and the atmosphere is warm and crowded.
And I mean crowded. This place gets through 300 guests daily during the weekdays and 500 on the weekends. And the guests have included such VIPs as Megawati Soekarnoputri and Amien Raiz as well as the usual bevy of Indonesian celebs. You can’t argue with those figures.
The food, for the average Westerner, is not mega-special. But it is simple and sometimes you just can’t beat simple. You get a well barbequed steak (with various sauces, should you so desire) served with chunky, homemade-like chips and the standard mixed vegetables of carrots, green peas and sweet corn. I suppose, if you’re a steak and chips man or woman, what more could you ask for? The steaks are local or import and the prices range from Rp 25,000 to Rp 70,000. You can get a very nice New Zealand T-bone for Rp 45,000.
The drinks are the normal Indonesian fare and no alcohol is served, although you can bring your own – it certainly is a good place to work up a serious thirst.
And you are permitted to smoke including the tobacco variety.
Okay, nothing I experienced there really explains why the almost continuous full house. If I actually believed in that magic/spiritual stuff, I’d put it down to a cosmically connected dukun, but I suspect it’s just the well priced, well cooked and well simple meals that have, over time, turned the Abuba into one of the places to go.
It has changed very little over the years and the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ axiom applies here in spades. And don’t ask why – check it out for yourself – it won’t cost much and you’ll get a square meal for a round price.
Jln. Cipete Raya No 6, Kebayoran Baru,
Jakarta -12410 - Telp: 021-7512337