When I’m in another country (besides the U.S.), I like to eat local. That’s not always the case with Westerners visiting Southeast Asia, who often seemed compelled to search out the nearest Hooters, or Starbucks, or even McDonald’s. So, since I’ve been in Batam, the only Western restaurant I’ve eaten at has been Goodies at Smiling Hill, where I worked for 2 1/2 years and where my meals were part of the compensation. Very good food, mind you, but not much Indonesian.
But when a friend’s birthday came up Saturday, and a birthday dinner was needed, I decided to try a relatively new place in Batam Centre that has been getting lots of attention – De’ Bottle. It’s a long, relatively expensive taxi ride from Nagoya to the restaurant, which sits in an obscure shophouse area near a major intersection.
Since my friend asked two of her friends to join us, there were four for dinner. Unfortunately for me, the two other guests spoke no English. They also apparently had little experience in a Western-style restaurant or its menu. They were very curious, for example, when bottled mineral water was brought to the table. I have no idea what they said about it but I could only imagine their disbelief that there was some kind of “special” water that cost more than regular water.
De’ Bottle has an interesting atmosphere, kind of like an open-air pub in the U.S., with wooden, park-like benches and long tables meant for groups. There are two main floors, on the ground and four floors up (a small elevator can take 5-6 people at a time up or down). Above the fourth floor is a walk-up deck. We were there past 10 pm and there was still a good crowd on all three levels, although it looked like most of the mostly local crowd was just sitting around talking, smoking and drinking.
We took the elevator to the fourth floor, which is open to the sky and where you can see the traffic below.
Wanting to have my guests try something out of their comfort zone, I ordered two appetizers, having to assure the ladies they could order anything else they wanted. Two simple items – fried calamari and chile con queso. About 20 minutes after ordering, and having already been served our drinks (including the aforementioned mineral water and two fruit thingies), and about the time I would expect the appetizers to be arriving, the waiter informed me the two menu items were not available.
OK, it was late, and sometimes here the food runs out, so on to plan B. Everyone then ordered what they wanted – chicken quesadillas, chicken sandwich with fries, pasta bolognese, and a beef knuckle and rice dish. (I guess Indonesians can be just like Westerners wanting food they are used to even when given a unique chance for something new.)
My quesadillas arrived second, after we were served a buffalo wings appetizer we didn’t order and sent back. We shared my meal because it was taking a long time to get food. Then the beef knuckles/rice were served, and sat waiting for 15 minutes for the other two dishes. The chicken sandwich was hard, probably due to microwaving; the past was congealed in a ball under the sauce, but at least the sauce was tasty.
In all, the food was, at best, lacklustre. The service was terrible. And I was embarrassed I had brought my guests to this restaurant. On a positive note, the prices were reasonable.
De’ Bottle may, indeed, be a great place to drink and party, but the food is not a reason to go.