Jakarta’s Indonesian Grill spices up Clarksville
Those who have missed the signs for Jakarta’s Indonesian Grill along Route 26 in Clarksville have also been missing out on one of the area’s most unique spots to eat.
Husband-and-wife owners Dave Olson and Tri “Kiky” Sari have introduced an authentic taste of Indonesia to Sussex County — one that, for the most part, can’t be found anywhere else.
“We’ve had a lot of people come up and say, ‘You’re the only curry place in town,’ and they come here just for the curry,” said Olson of some of the Jakarta’s regulars.
“They always come back to me and say, ‘There’s something different about your food,’” added Sari.
From their food truck located next to the colorful shop Liddy Loves Clothes, Sari has been serving up a variety of traditional Indonesian cuisine, including beef and chicken curry, Javanese fried rice, Javanese fried noodles and, on the weekends, chicken satay.
Born and raised in Indonesia, Sari learned many of her recipes from her mother, who started teaching her to cook at the age of 3.
“My mom had a little catering business at the time,” Sari said of her early introduction to both cooking and the traditional cuisine of her native country.
While she was in high school, the catering business turned into a café on the side of the road, but when Sari got to college, still in Indonesia, she began to focus on her studies — which is also how she met Olson.
“I was the research project,” Olson joked about how the couple met in 2002 while Sari was researching online dating for her thesis. “We conversed for about four months or so, and then I just said ‘OK — I’m going.’”
When Olson arrived in Indonesia, the two of them spent some time traveling around Jakarta while Sari introduced him to the food and the culture, eventually returning to get married and moving to the United States together in August of 2003.
For years, they worked corporate jobs and moved around, from Kansas City to Newark and from Las Vegas to Phoenix, with Sari continuing to pursue cooking at home and catering on the side.
But it wasn’t until the day that Sari was let go that she really began to devote herself to her craft. That’s a day the two remember well, and they described it as the day that changed everything.
“The day that she got let go, it was OK,” Olson explained.
“It was a relief, actually,” Sari described. “This is what I want to do, so I left my corporate America behind. This is my dream.”
From that moment, Sari began researching restaurant locations, food trucks for sale and everything else involved in the process, until Jakarta’s opened its door this summer. The end of her corporate career had marked the beginning of what she sees as her true calling — and she and Olson now work side by side as a team, happier than they’ve ever been.
“We’ve always had a good working relationship. This only made sense,” Olson explained of how the two used to work for the same company in different departments that would often interact.
Their different nationalities and perspective on cuisine also help them cater to their customers, as often Olson gives his wife feedback on how he thinks the American customer will like a new dish that she has created.
“He can tell me what the American would like to see,” Sari explained. “I want to go authentic all the way.”
However, even some of her more unique dishes have been well received by everyone from people who have visited Indonesia and loved the food and Indonesian natives to those who have never tried anything like it. The food sends some on a food vacation, while others are sent back home.
While, for now, the couple is happy to be living their dream, that doesn’t mean they won’t continue on with it. This fall, Sari plans on incorporating some of her soups and different dishes, and the main goal is to one day open up a storefront, so that even more dishes can be offered — including her seafood dishes.
Jakarta’s is located at 34902 Atlantic Avenue in Clarksville. For a full menu or more information, visit their website at www.jakartas.net or call them directly at (480) 745-0561. Right now, the restaurant is open Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and catering is available.