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Pantja: The Untold Five Elements

Thursday, 9th of February 2023

Jakarta is known for being a city where the cuisine is considered one of its main attractions, especially among the avenues of the Senopati area. One such notable restaurant is Pantja, which has been operating since 2019 and is a result of a team-up between co-founders Kabir Suharan and Rapha Menchaca.

Connected through a barbecue hangout among friends, Kabir and Rapha found that they both shared a passion for enhancing Jakarta’s dining and bar scene. “Our friends saw an opportunity of Kabir, who’s extremely talented behind the bar, and me cooking pretty casual food, and thought 'These guys need to know each other.'” Rapha shared. As both Rapha and Kabir took the chance to explore what they could do together, this culminated in building a restaurant and bar called Pantja.

The name Pantja comes from Pancha, the Sanskrit word for “Five”. Intertwined into its core philosophy, Pantja stands for the five key elements that drive the restaurant: Food, Drinks, Music, Design, and Hospitality. Based on those key elements, Pantja focuses on bringing out the best quality in everything they do and tying everything together into a great dining experience every time.

Kabir, Pantja’s Co-Founder and Bar Director, first came to Indonesia as a bar consultant for various restaurants around Jakarta. Meeting Rapha was the catalyst to realizing his longtime dream of establishing his own place. By bridging the gap between history and passion, Kabir continuously elevates drinking culture in Jakarta by making historical and lesser-known cocktails a staple of Pantja’s drink menu.

Drinking cocktails have always been a part of human history. While cocktails may have been a phenomenon during the 19th century, the idea of the cocktail started with Punch and dated back as early as the 17th century. Punch is considered by many to be the Godmother of Cocktails and is made of five core ingredients: Spirit, Citrus, Sugar, Water, and Spice. These five ingredients became the basis of conceptualizing Pantja's drink menu.

Rapha, Pantja’s Co-Founder and Executive Chef, comes with 17 years of experience working at world-famous restaurants. He was captivated by the culinary profession for its high-intensity energy, the constant demand for focus, and the attention to detail. When creating new dishes for Pantja’s food menu, quality ingredients are key components in determining the direction and theme of a final dish. “It’s not fully a farm-to-table concept,” Rapha explains, “90% of the produce we use comes from local farmers that I work closely with. The rest come from the best producers anywhere around the world.”

When Pantja opened its doors in October 2019, the restaurant had only been fully operational for five months before the Indonesian government imposed a nationwide lockdown to control the Coronavirus outbreak. Once a typical dine-in concept, Pantja suddenly had an unclear trajectory. The restaurant was quick to adapt, and went into a trial-and-error phase as it became a delivery-based system. To survive, Pantja constantly pushed out new concepts and dishes while trying to figure out what would keep the restaurant afloat through the lockdown.

Pantja’s identity had formed in direct reflection of all the challenges the restaurant had gone through during the pandemic. That period became a learning experience, and through it Pantja successfully amassed several new concepts, strategies, and ways of doing business. “It takes a bit of time to look back and see that we learned a lot on the journey and we’re more resilient because of it.” Kabir reflects.

As 2022 rolled in and Jakarta’s dining scene slowly came out of a 2-year long stagnancy, Pantja found itself pulling through to its 3rd anniversary. Kabir and Rapha use the knowledge gained from the past two years to move forward onto bigger things. “We want to build more restaurants for Jakarta.” Rapha states. With plans to open a new place already set in motion, Pantja aims to expand its legacy as a contribution to Jakarta’s flourishing dining scene. Going into 2023, Pantja sets out to pave their own story as they journey towards building a legacy Jakarta will never forget.

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