Who doesn’t crave a raw and tender steak now and again? An urge, no doubt, that can be traced back to primordial times, when we were still hanging from trees and the dinner didn’t just magically appear on the table every evening.
But those days are long gone, and even though there are tribes out there who still go hunting with spears and blowpipes, the rest of us will have our carnivorous hankerings handed to us on a plate (quite literally!), either at home or in a restaurant.
In Jakarta the number of steakhouses has mushroomed over the years thanks to rising incomes and changing consumer tastes. Some of them are pretty expensive, but smack bang in central Jakarta on the famous Jalan Wahid Hasyim street, you can find two affordable steakhouses that are located only a few doors apart.
They are the old man on the block, Abuba Steak, and its rival upstart, Alibaba Steak.
So where should you go to get your protein fix?
Well, let’s see how they measure up based on a number of criteria (one to five stars):
Abuba is a very utilitarian affair right down to the endearing vinyl tablecloths and simple (non existent?) décor. Besides the room with aircon they also have a smoking section. But after sitting there, I’m not sure it’s called a smoking area because of the smoke drifting in from the front where the steaks are being grilled, or because you can actually smoke a fag there! Alibaba by comparison is very different. It’s clean and airy but lacks - for want of a better word - “CHARACTER”. Abuba *** Alibaba *
2) The steak itself
On a steak quality scale from “rubbery Michelin tire” to “melt-in-your-mouth heaven”, the steaks at both joints are somewhere in between. Most times when I order a NZ or American sirloin from Abuba I usually get a fair amount of fat. Once I had a really bad rib-eye, although most cuts are passable I’d say. Perhaps the best value option at either joint are the local cuts which are virtually indistinguishable from the restaurants’ Aussie offerings. Abuba *** Alibaba **
3) Side servings/sauces
In the good old days before global foodstuff prices went mental, Abuba would give you a really generous portion of mixed veggies and chips (real chips, that is, and not the thin and stringy MacCrap kind). Those days are, alas, long gone, and the portions are now – it must be said – pretty pathetic. Thank God though for the mustard. Utterly essential for drowning your chips in. Abuba ** Alibaba ***
Prices are low at both joints although Alibaba probably just edges it. Abuba *** Alibaba ****
Service is pretty good at both joints and I’ve never had a problem (although the waitresses are no match for those in Star Deli, Kemang!) Abuba *** Alibaba ***
So there you have it. Abuba’s a clear winner. Unless of course you have a spear in hand and fancy hunting one of the deer a short distance away at Monas!
Ali Baba Steak & Iga Bakar
Jl. KH. Wahid Hasyim No. 112, Jakarta
Phone number: 314 3501
Jl. KH. Wahid Hasyim No. 120, Jakarta
Phone number: 3193 5655