While the term hidden gem is often overused, Sudestada does still merit that moniker. Set snugly between the high-rises of Jalan Thamrin and the old Jakarta neighbourhood of Menteng, the restaurant may appear unassuming at first glance. Large windows shine with sombre light, yet most of the time, the restaurant is hidden under the shadows cast by trees and buildings.
Stepping closer, the mood lights up with Sudestada’s lively design. The light inside clearly shows the fiesta and theatrics, from the bright red bricks, the fiery asado, the full-wall painting and the window murals, to the traditional decorations like polo uniforms, ponchos and a poster of Diego Maradona – all taking us to the streets of Buenos Aires.
Executive Chef Victor Taborda came to Indonesia around a decade ago, working in fine-dining kitchens in Bali before relocating to the capital city in 2013. Still working in high-profile restaurants, along the way he dreamed of creating authentic flavours from his home country. Sudestada started as a food truck, built on the back of a VW van, serving Argentine-style barbecue cooked the way it should be – medium-well.
When the opportunity came to open a restaurant, Chef Victor didn’t hold back. He pulled out his whole repertoire: from Argentinian-style pizza to appetisers with eclectic choices like matambre (rose meat), octopus, lengua (beef tongue) to homemade sausages. With Argentina heavily influenced by Italian immigrants, Sudestada also serves impeccable pasta dishes, including spinach ravioli, scallop risotto, and spicy squid ink.
Taking the authentic Argentine asado as its main DNA, there are too many beautiful steaks to mention here. If you have time, try them all, because they are nothing like you’ve tried elsewhere. But if you have to pick, just ask for the classic Chuleton or the best-selling ribeye. Rounding up Sudestada is its dessert corner, which has everything from traditional Argentinian to modern concoctions, all carefully curated by Chef Victor’s wife, Claudia, the restaurant’s pastry genius.
E: Would you tell us about your background and why you opened a steakhouse?
A: It all started in my father’s restaurant, which made me decide to go to culinary school in Buenos Aires. My last year was in Spain, where I discovered a new culinary world with restaurants bearing Michelin stars. I worked for 10 years in Malaga, San Sebastian, Barcelona and Marbella, then moved to Bali with Ritz-Carlton. After that I decided to open my own restaurant and cook from my Argentinian roots with a touch of everything I learned along this beautiful trip. That’s how Sudestada was born. Being an Argentinian chef, it is normal to have a steakhouse, called parrilla in Argentina. Having a steakhouse is a way to show my customers the food and history behind every dish.
E: What is the difference between Argentinian and other steakhouses?
A: The biggest difference is that we grill using charcoal and wood that gives a particular flavour to the meat and that the food we serve is much more varied than a traditional steakhouse.
E: In your opinion, what does it take to be a great chef?
A: To be a great chef a good work ethic is essential; I personally think this is the key. You have to work in different kinds of kitchens with different styles so you can create your own work ethic and style.
E: What has been the most memorable moment in your career?
A: My most memorable moment in the kitchen was when I got my first job in a Michelin-starred restaurant – Tragabuches. Nothing has compared to that moment.
E: What advice would you give to those who would like to get into the culinary industry – especially in a vibrant city like Jakarta?
A: My advice is to enjoy what you do because becoming a good chef is very hard. Try to create your own style because if you follow trends in a city like Jakarta you will be eaten alive by those who are looking for something new all the time. Enjoy the ride; this is more than a job, it is a lifestyle.
- Tres leches