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Jembatan 5 was first opened in 2019. Photo courtesy of Jembatan 5.
Jembatan 5 was first opened in 2019. Photo courtesy of Jembatan 5.

How Jembatan 5 in the Italian kept Jakarta coming to Philly amid COVID-19

Owner Nadia Laksana has weathered COVID-19 on the back of community support.

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Philly is known for its ‘hole in the wall’ eats and eclectic bites that grab the attention of locals throughout the city.

Jembatan 5 is no exception.

Although the quaint restaurant has only been around since May 2019, business picked up the minute locals found out about the restaurant.

“We wanted to move from Harrisburg to Philly to open up a restaurant because we feel that people in Philly are more adventurous when it comes to trying new foods,” Laksana said.

Before opening the establishment, Nadia and her husband used to travel to Philly from Harrisburg to discover different kinds of foods that Harrisburg didn't offer.

“Philadelphia has so many different foods and opportunities that we wanted to tap into,” she said.

Laksana, whose family migrated from Indonesia in 2001, knew that she wanted to stay close to her roots when it came on deciding what kind of restaurant she was going to open.

“When we were in Indonesia, my mother always loved cooking lots of food and always had a culinary business,” she said.

Laksana also wanted to give the restaurant a simple name that would always lead to a curious discussion.

Jembatan is also the name of a section of Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia. 

Unfortunately, Jembatan’s early success saw some dark times as the small business world shook when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020.

“I’m not going to sugarcoat it, it's not all rainbows and butterflies, there are some tough times, but we also had so many good days,” said Laksana.

When Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney announced to the city that businesses and gyms can open to the public up to 25% back in mid January, many businesses jumped at the chance, but other businesses, like Laksana’s, weren't too excited.

“We have takeout and delivery at this point, I think what we learned from last year is that the government is always changing its mind, first it was 25%, then went up to 50% and then they closed businesses again, so we're going to wait it out,” she said.

One advantage that they do have that large corporate restaurants don't is being family-operated.

“When we do need help in the summer, we do hire a part-time employee, so that's another thing that's keeping us afloat,” said Laksana.

Another thing that helps them out is the outpouring support of local customers that spread the word to other family members.

That particularly helped during the past holiday season.

“This past Christmas we sold so many gift cards from customers who were giving them to families so they can try our food, which is amazing of course,” she said.

Jembatan 5’s fusion of fresh spices and herbs are tasted in every bite, and transports guests to Jakarta.

“One of our most popular dishes would have to be our noodles, not just because they are delicious, but who doesn't love noodles?” she said.

If you are looking for adventure, but are still stuck in quarantine, why not try some mie goreng, from Jembatan 5? The dish consists of Indonesian fried noodles infused with spices that are sauteed with chicken or seafood.

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