Kuta Satay House
Newish Kuta Satay House and year-old Kampuchea Noodle Bar seem cut from the same ikat cloth. Both are on Rivington St. and serve less-than-common Southeast Asian cuisines in modern settings. Sounds like trouble. I’ve meant to try semi-Cambodian Kampuchea since it opened late 2006, yet I made it to the semi-Indonesian restaurant first.
You could survive on plates of multiculti satays (Korean kalbi and rosemary tandoori lamb are on the list) and sake cocktails (not my favorite beverage breed) or eat a full meal, presented Western-style, entrees for one with sides. They were promoting a four-course $25 prix fixe which isn’t a bad deal but I’ve been trying to tone down my consumption.
We easily could’ve ordered another dish or at least another pair of satays. Malaysian curry chicken was kind of uninteresting while the Indonesian Madura flank steak was sweet with kecap manis (one of my favorite condiments) and genuinely spicy. I don’t take heat warnings from waiters in Lower East Side restaurants seriously, but the beef had enough kick that it could set off sensitive palates. It didn’t occur to me at the time, but I feel like there should’ve been dipping sauces not just cucumber relish. Strangely, their menu notes three sauces if you order the twelve-skewer platter.
"Bandung" duck salad is completely not an Asian salad, which I understood from the description listing spring greens, grape tomatoes, goat cheese and walnut pomegranate vinaigrette. James doesn’t read so he asked, “what’s the white stuff?” It’s clearly a vexing addition because I got the same question from Bill, who I can’t blame because he didn’t have a menu in front of him, regarding my Flickr photo.
The goat cheese sounds strange but it’s not grotesque. If anything, duck is the oddity. I like making seemingly healthy things like salads unhealthy, so this worked for me.
If I hadn’t started with fatty poultry I would’ve tried the duck curry. Instead, we split the crispy striped bass a.ka.ikan goreng asam manis. I know enough Malay food words that I could deduce this would be fried fish in a sweet and sour sauce. I love the Vietnamese version, and I was sick of steaming and baking seafood at home. Crunchy skin is where it’s at. And 1/3 of the three potatoes was purple, so that made my night.
We arrived early on a Friday and the only other diners were a loud already drunk (seriously, how are you trashed by 7pm?) work party, so I can’t speak to the atmosphere. However, the food was a little better than I’d anticipated, based on the surroundings (and shrieking office ladies). From the open rectangular slit in the wall, I could see an older gentleman doing all the cooking. Perhaps, I shouldn’t assume that wizened Asians in the kitchen guarantee goodness, but it made me feel a little better about what I was eating.
Kuta Satay House * 65 Rivington St., New York, NY