Umaku, the friendly neighborhood kitchen

Good things do not always come in fancy packages and Umaku Sushi Resto is evidence.

Walking along the City Walk Area in housing complex Citra Gran Cibubur, east of Jakarta, you may not expect to find a good Japanese sushi restaurant in the area until you pass by and notice the sign on the glass door.

The interior is simple and unpretentious. The walls are covered with Daily Jakarta Shimbun newspaper and city maps in Japan. Lampions hang on the ceiling. There is a sushi bar with several stools encircling it.

The menu, however, is serious.

Owned by two Japanese food lovers, Gatot Purwoko and Chef Slamet “Uki” Basuki, the restaurant offers a variety of sushi, sashimi and other Japanese foods, including makimono fusion roll (contemporary sushi), agemono (deep fried dishes), menrui (noodles), washoku (hot side) and yaki mesi (fried rice).

Some of the choices are not even available in a big sushi restaurant. Take toro or fatty tuna for example. It is a rich section of tuna enjoyed by many sushi lovers around the world.

In most cases, toro refers to the belly of blue fin tuna, which has a higher fat content than the rest of it. The tuna belly is classified into three sections; chutoro (medium), toro (regular) and otoro (supreme). These sections are expensive compared to other fish since they only consist of about 15 to 20 percent of tuna.

However, in Umaku, two pieces of delicious toro sushi only costs Rp 39,000 (US$ 4) while a serving of toro is only Rp 79,000.

“Toro is our specialty, and we will try to keep it on the menu,” Chef Uki said.

The prices at Umaku are quite reasonable and you may wonder whether the restaurant earns a profit. The lowest price is chawan mushi (seafood custard), priced at Rp 9,000. The highest price goes to Jyo Sushi Moriawase, consisting of eight types of sushi, chawan mushi and miso soup and priced at Rp 59,000.

The chef can also whip traditional Japanese home cooking such as su miso ae, made from blanched scallop and onion leaves, drained and left to cool in a refrigerator. To accompany, the chef mixes vinegar, miso, mirin (Japanese sweet cooking wine) and sugar into a mixing bowl and stirs until well blended. Scallops and onion leaves are added.

Gatot said that they decided to open the restaurant because they shared the same passion for Japanese food, which is rich in taste and tradition.

“Umaku means *skillfully’. It is rare to use adverbs as restaurant names. We choose it because it plays on the Javanese word omahku *my home*,” he said.

While other Japanese restaurants offer fancy interiors, Umaku Sushi Resto simply aims to create a neighborhood kitchen ambience.

“We see that Cibubur is a deve-loping area, there are young families. We want to be a neighborhood kitchen. We want to grow with the community. It turns out that neighborhood children have grown fond of seafood after they have eaten it here,” Gatot said.

He said that there were Japanese people living nearby that frequent his restaurant.

“They are really supportive. When we said we were looking for Japanese music to create ambience in the restaurant, they provided us with several CDs,” he said, showing a Shinji Tanimura CD.

The restaurant is open from 12 a.m. to 3 p.m. for lunch and from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. for dinner. It is closed Monday.

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