Not only renowned for its traditional textiles a.k.a Batik, Solo is a humble town in Central Java, Indonesia, where people also label it as a culinary city. So, when I was on my way to Yogyakarta (the special region which is 63 kilometers away from Solo), I thought it would be great to rest or do cuisine-hunting here.
My mom agreed. She said she would also love the idea of hunting for Batik. But my main objective was to try a famous local soto called Soto Gading. For your information, soto is a traditional Indonesian soup notably composed of broth, meat, and vegetables.
What makes Soto Gading so special? From what I gathered, Soto Gading has a certain exclusive loyal customer: Mr. President, Jokowi. This regional cuisine rose to social fame since Jokowi posted an Instagram picture of him, together with his family, eating at Soto Gading.
Anyway, there are three branches of Soto Gading restaurant (Soto Gading 1, Soto Gading 2, Soto Gading 4), and we decided to eat at Soto Gading 1 since it was closer to the hotel we stayed in.
What made me more dying to taste it was the fact that Jokowi wasn’t the only big figure who had visited Soto Gading. Several famous Indonesian statesperson, from Soeharto, Gus Dur, Megawati Soekarnoputri, to Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono–all are the former Indonesian presidents–had eaten there at least once in their lifetimes.
It was a very busy day in Soto Gading 1 when we got there. I didn’t know why, maybe because we came before the New Year’s holidays, or maybe it was always that busy. Luckily, we had been on a waiting list for only 15 minutes.
My first two cents on the restaurant? Well, it was not as grandiose as I imagined (considering Jokowi and other leading figures had eaten there). In fact, it was very humble like a small roadside restaurant you can find anywhere in Indonesia, plus, not even air-conditioned.
NOT THE TASTE FOR MY HOMETOWN’S TONGUE, I GUESS…
We got seated. My eyes thoroughly wandered the foods on the table: there were various kinds of satay, ranging from quail eggs, chicken skin, liver and gizzard, chicken intestines, shrimps, and many more. They were all to the side dishes for soto. Besides satays, I also found tempeh, tofu, perkedel (cakes made from potatoes), croquettes, and others, all served at the customer’s tables.
So, what is Soto Gading? Well, it mainly serves the thick soup from clear chicken broth. The filling contains glass noodles, shredded chicken, sprinkling of fried shallots, and sliced celery leaves.
On the menu list, you can choose Regular Soto Rice or Soto Brutu Rice. You may also order the rice to be separated from soto if you like, because in Central and East Java tradition, the rice is mixed directly into the soto (you might find this surprising). Otherwise, in the western regions of Java, they generally serve the rice separated from the soup. So, choose what suits your taste!
By the way, I just found out that “brutu” means chicken’s bum, or, euphemistically, a chicken rump. Ha! No wonder the texture of the meat was tender, juicy, and chewier than usual! Have you ever tasted the chicken’s derriere before? For the sake of experience, you should!
The food didn’t take too long to be served in front of me. To make it spicier, there are two kinds of sauce: hot chili sauce and spicy soy sauce. Before coming to this place, I delved into Soto Gading reviews in TripAdvisor, learning that the spicy soy sauce was what makes a great soto. But, after the tasting, I was like…hmmm.. okay?? It was not as deliciously special as I imagined!
Moreover, the shredded chicken was not too heapy. And what slightly bothered me was the clear and a light flavor of the broth–a tasteless one, which was, indeed, not suitable for a fellow Medanese like me. For your information, Medan, my hometown in North Sumatera, is well-known for the dishes rich in spices. So, yeah…this one was nowhere my taste.
No, I don’t blame the soto, or anyone, or anything else either. It was just my tongue, and the plain fact that the clear broth has become an eminent characteristic of Javanese soto, since it wants to show the prime tastefulness solely from the original broth.
Quoting from Kompas.com, the Javanese savory taste has been a cuisine culture throughout generations, from the Kingdoms of Surakarta and Yogyakarta. Their people mainly use garlic or onions, a little spices, and an insignificant amount of coconut milk for broth. Thus, it’s likely understandable for me and my family not to deem Soto Gading as superb for our taste; just so-so..
Nevertheless, like it or not, Soto Gading is still an exceptional choice to try. First, it is a very cheap breakfast menu (prices start from IDR 1,000 or around 0,07 USD, for God’s sake!). Second, if you wonder how the mighty savory cuisine of Javanese tastes like, Soto Gading is good to go.
So, for those who want to set out for culinary hunting in Central Java, it was the right place after all! A pro tip: don’t forget to order a warm sweet tea this place has, for many have suggested it has an uniquely distinct taste and a special leafy-like sensation. The tea is exclusively crafted by the shop owner’s private recipe .But, tough luck, I ordered another drink instead! Next time, maybe.
LOCATION OF SOTO GADING
As I have mentioned, there are three branches of Soto Gading restaurant in Solo. Don’t worry, the three of them, including the central one (Soto Gading 1), offer the exact same menu and presumably the same taste, so choose freely.
If you bring a four-wheeled vehicle, be ready to park far away since this shop has no adjacent parking space. Luckily, there are small shops area next to Soto Gading 1 where you can park the car, only IF there are any spaces left.
So, here are the addresses:
Soto Gading 1
Jalan Brigjen Sudiarta No. 75, Joyosuran, Surakarta, Central Java, Indonesia
Soto Gading 2
Jl. Veteran No. 285, Kratonan, Surakarta, Central Java, Indonesua
Soto Gading 4
Jl. Brigjen Sudiarta No. 74, Joyosuran, Surakarta, Central Java, Indonesia
Operational hours: 6 AM-3 PM