One of the dining areas that is guarded by Men Shen or Door Gods.

Lara Djonggrang – Dining to the Past

Couple of weeks ago, I was introduced to Lara Djonggrang Imperial Indonesian Cuisine – a restaurant set in the 9th century of Javanese Kingdom era with Prambanan temple atmosphere all around. Entering its front yard, I am instantly brought to the moment when I first visited Yogyakarta; the ethnicity is undeniably viscous with those good old banyan tree with hanging decorative lamps and statues of Ganesh and Buddha greeting us on the entrance.

Passing the door, I can feel the archaic antiques spread the mystique vibe through my skin – not to mention the certain damp taste in the air.

The main door that takes us to the ancient Javanese world and closes the portal to the vibrant modern Jakarta
The main door that takes us to the ancient Javanese world and closes the portal to the vibrant modern Jakarta
The lounge
The lounge

Before you reach the lounge above, the dimmed lighted dining area of Lara Djonggrang can be spotted on the right after the entrance. Lara Djonggrang replica statue – where the original status is located in Prambanan temple – is placed at the far end of the room, with two pillars constructing an alley. They put the light from below, making Lara Djonggrang seems like mysterious goddess. In the very same room, there is also Buddha statue sitting below stack of candles arranged in triangle shape.

The mystique Lara Djonggrang's replica
The mystique Lara Djonggrang’s replica
The Buddha statue
The Buddha statue
Smart touch of shadow of puppets beamed by yelloe light behind white linen, surrounding the upper side of the walls
Smart touch of shadow of puppets beamed by yellow light behind white linen, surrounding the upper side of the walls

The tale behind Lara Djonggrang herself is immensely interesting. It is told that this Javanese princess is cursed into stone after outsmarting the man who killed her father. The man – Bandung Bondowoso – proposes to her but gets rejected. Lara Djonggrang gives one condition to him, if he wants to marry her, he has to build 1,000 temples overnight. Bandung Bondowoso – who turns out to be a prince who has the capability to practice magic – uses demons to help him build those 1,000 temples. Worrying that he will succeed, Lara Djonggrang then tricked the demons that the dawn is coming by asking her maids to pound rice to wake the rooster. She successfully sabotaged Bandung Bondowoso’s effort in perfect timing – Bandung Bondowoso has built 999 temples which left him 1 more temple to be able to married to Lara Djonggrang. Unfortunately, it seems like if Bandung Bondowoso cannot have Lara Djonggrang, no one else will either, as she is cursed into stone.

Even with the strong presence of Javanese culture, the owner of Tugu Hotels seems to be a bit versatile on his small paradise of culinary located in Menteng. You could also find hints of  Chinese and Middle East influence in certain parts of the restaurant.

One of the dining areas that is guarded by Men Shen or Door Gods.
One of the dining areas that is guarded by Men Shen or Door Gods.
Men Shen are drawn after two generals in Tang Dynasty who guards imperial gates when Tai Zong - the 2nd emperor of Tang Dynasty - is grievously sick. Their presence is greatly effective that the emperor orders their pictures to be posted permanently.
Men Shen are drawn after two generals in Tang Dynasty who guards imperial gates when Tai Zong – the 2nd emperor of Tang Dynasty – is grievously sick. Their presence is greatly effective that the emperor orders their pictures to be posted permanently.

The versatility goes on around other parts of the place. Entering the La Bihzad bar, the Persian style speaks loudly in that bar. Several paintings of the 15th century Persian painter Kamal-udin Bihzad can be found in this area (unfortunately, due to the level of darkness of this room, I couldn’t take any decent pictures of the paintings). In the left side of the bar, you could spot a big mural on the wall that told the story of the punishment of the devil was painted by Bihzad’s student Al-Marshad. In my opinion, the right side of the bar, where small stalls are located, is a bit too dark. It gives me vague chill to be around that side of the bar.

Although this bar is influenced by Persian style, green and red colors are still consistently seen.
Although this bar is influenced by Persian style, green and red colors are still consistently seen. However, the pillars and the ceilings in this bar are the remains from a 200-year old temple in Malang which was about to be demolished.
A gorgeous lamp-shade
A gorgeous lamp-shade
The mural of blah blah blah
The punishment of the devil’s mural
In reality, this room has poor lighting. I don't know the reason, but probably because there is currently no one occupied this area. Also, there are frames of Hollywood's artists in the wall which I don't think are consistent with the whole area.
In reality, this room has poor lighting. I don’t know the reason, but probably because there is currently no one occupied this area. Also, there are frames of Hollywood’s artists in the wall which I don’t think are consistent with the whole area.

And then, there is this room dedicated for the remembrance of Soekarno – the first president of Indonesia. This room is consisted with paraphernalia of Soekarno such as his photographs and this big mahogany table which once was owned by none but Soekarno himself.

Collages of Soekarno photographs
Collages of Soekarno photographs
Soekarno Room
Soekarno Room

Outside those dedicated rooms, there also some Javanese trinkets such as Wayang (paper puppets), paintings, statues and sculptures. I asked one of the staffs in Lara Djonggrang about all the properties located in that place and turns out that the owner of this place, Anhar Setjadibrata – owner and designer of Tugu Hotels – is really passionate about collecting historical pieces from all over the world.

Wooden statue of Dalang (puppeteers) and theirs Wayang (paper puppets)
Wooden statue of Dalang (puppeteers) and theirs Wayang (paper puppets)
One of rare stuffs that I found there which is probably made in the 20th century
One of rare stuffs that I found there which is probably made in the 20th century
Gunungan - a depiction of mountain and its contents which are the palace's gates guarded by two giants holding swords with a bark surrounded by dragon.
Gunungan – a depiction of mountain and its contents which are the palace’s gates guarded by two giants holding swords with a bark surrounded by dragon.

Lara Djonggrang is certainly not an average restaurant – from its value of history and value of money. But it is a tremendously interesting place to spend a calm afternoon, hidden from hustle bustle of Jakarta. And of course, it comes with a price to earn that.

Au revoir!

4 thoughts on “Lara Djonggrang – Dining to the Past

  1. What I imagine of this restaurant is an eerie yet cozy place to be at. However the fact that it has some historic artifacts really caught my attention. I might want to try this place one day.

    1. Indeed Bam. I was there around the afternoon, I cannot imagine going there in the nighttime. It’s not the most affordable place to eat or drink, but it totally is different.

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