The air was crisp and cool when I entered Jembatan 5 for an early dinner. The decor was simple yet inviting, the perfect shelter for a cool evening. With the warm lighting set upon us, rain began to pour outside, and our waitress, who doubled as the manager, came over to give us a run down of the menu. Her clear passion for food was visible in her descriptions of the items, referencing which dishes would represent Indonesian food the best.
Jembatan 5 is a family–owned Indonesian restaurant whose primary goal is to introduce the culture—and food—to the Philadelphia area. The restaurant's name references the Jembatan area in Jakarta, Indonesia, and the family is devoted to bringing fresh ingredients and traditional food to its customers.
After browsing through the menu, we settled on a sampling of each section of the menu: appetizers, soups, noodles, rice, and entrees. With a rumbling in our bellies, we began with the potato fritters and were met with a pleasant surprise. The fritters strike the perfect balance between soft and crunchy, dense and airy. The potato interior was well–seasoned and mimicked the pillowy nature of gnocchi without the thickness. The restaurant's homemade chili sauce provided a serious kick, and the fritters disappeared in seconds.
The rest of the dishes arrived at once, including a meatball soup (bakso campur), coconut rice platter, spicy chicken, and stir fried noodles (mie goreng). The coconut rice platter included a chicken wing, egg, and tofu that blended together to create a medley of flavor with each bite. The spicy chicken worked seamlessly with the coconut rice as a joint dish, while the sauce for the chicken was layered with sweetness and a chili–based kick that had us licking the plate. The noodles were pretty standard as well.
Maybe it was just the rainy weather, but the highlight dish had to have been the meatball soup. The soup mimicked the broth of a Thai red curry, but its warmth hugged my throat, making me nostalgic for childhood rainy days spent cuddled on the couch, binging movies. It was both broth–like and creamy in the best way possible.
Even setting aside the high–quality meal, the waitress’s attitude and bubbly nature was enough to make us return to Jembatan 5. She had a clear love for the food, spending approximately 20 minutes working through the menu with us and then consistently making sure that everything was perfect. She welcomed us with open arms and a smile on her face, cultivating an environment that made me feel as though she was serving me in her own home. It was clear there was love in practically every bite we took and an ambience as warm as the soup she had poured us.
TL;DR: Authentic Indonesian food in the Bella Vista area.
Location: 932 S 10th St, Philadelphia, PA 19147
Hours: Monday: Closed, Tuesday – Saturday: 11 a.m. – 9 p.m., Sunday: 12 p.m. – 9 p.m.