I woke up a tad early today, a Sunday, for a trip to a diagnostic clinic for a blood test. On my walk back to look for a convenience store to buy bottled water and for a breakfast nook, I found a large black door with the word “Monks” painted in white on it. There was a square sign in red letters flashing “eat well. drink well. namaste.” Thinking it was a spa and wellness joint, I peered through its glass wall but it doesn’t look like one. It’s a cafe!
I pushed the heavy door, it revolved, and a pair of ladies putting on make-up appeared behind it. Embarrassed, they stopped for a sec and welcomed me in. Once I was seated and browsing over the menu, they resumed their beautification projects.
Monks, five odd months old, is one of the newest cafes in Kelapa Gading, North Jakarta. I found the interior spacious, relaxing, zen-like, earthy, modern, and comfortable (despite the unassuming exterior). The rattan chairs are notably the statement of the place, and the strategic use of live (read: real) potted plants for decoration is noteworthy. There are three levels: the bar, kitchen and dining area at the ground floor; a loft-like set-up with a work space on the second floor; and a more intimate arrangement for some serious studying or out-of-office work on the third storey . There is also a smoking area on the third floor. For the millenials, this cafe is Instagrammable.
Breakfast is served at Monks from 7:00 am til 11:00am, and lunch, dinner, desserts, kids meals, and all-day menu are served thereafter. Since it was half-past seven in the morning, I ordered eggs Benedict, cappuccino, and a mousse for dessert.
Ben-Benedict is poached eggs on creamed spinach on grilled baguette with hollandaise sauce with seaweed salad (menu said seasonal salad) and French fries on the side. The eggs Benedict lacked the runny texture of the yolk and the hollandaise sauce was practically missing (taste-wise) but, overall, the dish tasted good. Monks’ cook need more practice in making poached eggs. The wakame salad was done well, with just the right flavor. However, the French fries were sad. They probably cried over a broken heart overnight and the tears solidified. The fries were salty, too salty.
What is a cafe without coffee? And Monks delivered. The cappuccino was to my liking but I felt that the milk was overpowering the bitterness of the coffee. I give Monks additional points for serving the cappuccino in a Japanese tea cup (huggable!) and for a low acid brew.
A must-try is Monks’ selection of cakes. I ordered a stone cake. Yes, a stone cake! The milk chocolate & caramelized banana mousse that resembles a smooth stone was a revelation for a non-banana-lover like me. It was two notches sweeter for my tooth but it’s a perfect pair for a cup of joe or tea (they have nine tea blends to choose from). But, I would like to see it served more beautifully. I suggest that Monks serve it on a plate without the black cardboard on which the mousse is set, and add some greens or flowers on the dish for a more Japanese feel to it (just like what I did, see photo). I think it would appeal to the customers more. There are more cake and mousse selections, and they are not on the menu. The cakes are outsourced and one has to go behind the bar to find them or ask the waiter.
If you ask me if it’s worth a try? Yes, it is. I still have to try the tea, the cakes, more coffee and some interesting items on the menu.
Here are some notes about this cafe:
- I describe Monks as having a blend of modern and oriental vibes with hints of the west. Menu is a mix and/or fusion of (mostly) Japanese, Asian, and western dishes.
- Monks doesn’t come cheap and not too expensive either. My breakfast was IDR150,150 (USD11.29; PHP500), inclusive of tax and service charge. It is still worth a visit for some chillax moments.
- It looks like a nice place to study, work, or do something creative in the morning towards the afternoon. However, I can envision the place to be quite chaotic late in the afternoon ’til late night, knowing that Indonesians can become loud and noisy when in places like this. Otherwise, just chill.
- For an early morning visit, the background music was loud enough to wake up one’s sleeping muscles and one’s cells would start swaying to the beat. They were playing some chill dance/electronic music. Thumbs up!
- The staff and waiters were nice and attentive (was it because I was the only customer?) but some of them needs to learn how to smile.
- I wish they could make adjustments on their menu for people with special needs, e.g., decaffeinated coffee, low fat or skim milk choice, no sugar option for some drinks.
- Monks is open from 7:00am to 10:00pm, every day of the week. No day off.
- Monks is located in Graha Boulevard Timur ND1/51, Jl. Boulevard Timur, Kelapa Gading, Jakarta. It is situated across Al-Azhar School. [call: +62.21.22452487; FB: facebook.com/monksjakarta ; IG: @monksjakarta ]