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Posts from the ‘Indonesian’ Category

New(ish) Born: Awang Kitchen

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Lately, one of my only criterion for trying a new restaurant, more specifically trying a new restaurant’s food, is if they deliver to my apartment because I’m becoming a shut-in. That’s kind of an exaggeration but not completely. Either way, I was excited to see Awang Kitchen appear on Seamless recently.

The bebek goreng sambel ijo, a fried duck leg (there was also a neck tossed in, intentionally or not, I don’t know) with sambal was a treat, crackly skin still intact. and unexpected heat from the green chiles. Plus a surprise hard-fried egg. The soupy curry, separately packed in a very Southeast Asian fashion, a tied plastic baggie, was confusing. I think it should’ve been eaten along with the duck and rice but it just had little carrots and beans floating around so was more like a sauce.

The goat sate was tender and I love those pillowy compressed rice cakes but it was slightly pricey considering it was the same price as the more substantial duck dish ($10.49). Stuffed, fried tofu rounded out my order, which I saved for the next day as a breakfast snack along with a few sticks of sate.

Awang Kitchen is one of those restaurants, common in this part of Queens, that tries its hand at many things like the Himalayan places that also serve a few Thai dishes and sushi. They even advertise “Asian fusion” as a part of their line-up, as well as sushi. I don’t know that I would venture that far, though I might try the pizza dip, a pepperoni, Parmesan, cream cheese, mozzarella concoction.

Awang Kitchen * 8405 Queens Blvd., Elmhurst, NY

Selamat Pagi

Selamat pagi trio

You could take issue with white people better known
for their artisanal ice cream cooking Balinese food (I withhold judgment) or
that what they're calling Balinese is more generally Indonesian (ok, that’s
sort of an issue) but where else are you going to find rendang in North (or
South, for that matter) Brooklyn?

And the beef rendang was good, rich and stewed
tender in coconut milk, lightly spicy with cinnamon and star anise undertones.
The only weirdness were the pickles, which were, uh, pickles. I was expecting
crisper shallots and matchstick-cut carrots and cucumbers (yes, pickles are cucumbers).
You just never know in Brooklyn because at Three Letters it was the complete
opposite: fried pickles turned out to be fried pickled vegetables. For further
confusion there was a $4 seasonal pickle plate (as well as that old Balinese
specialty, deviled eggs) listed in the snack section—who knows what it

The last of the three snacks was shrimp chips with
three sambals—two very lemongrassy, one more tomatoey, all hot. It’s a nice shared
starter. Sambals, nam priks and their ilk are fussy to make, so I’m always
happy to eat someone else’s selection.

The non-small plates are served as entrées, not
family style, so my bite of mahi mahi coconut curry was inconclusive. I did not
try the tamarind tempeh that was also present.

Everything is organic; the beef is grass-fed.
Descriptors like wild, biodynamic and heritage make appearances. Items are
priced accordingly, which isn’t to say outrageous (the rendang was $17)
especially when you consider that there is now a food truck selling beef
rendang to go for $13.

If you come from Tørst like I did, you can continue drinking
Evil Twin beer. Hipster Ale, of course.

Selamat Pagi * 152 Driggs Ave., Brooklyn, NY

House of Sundanese Food

1/2 We got this idea that we needed to eat Indonesian fried chicken, I think it was based on this amazing glistening, crisp-skinned photo accompanying a recipe we stumbled on while browsing at a bookstore. But Singapore is not Indonesia.

House of sundanese

And we took our chances at House of Sundanese Food at Suntec City, right next to a Kenny Rogers Roasters (the chain only exists in S.E. Asia). The setup was strange. Most of the sit down mall restaurants were flashy and hyper-stylized, this place was raggedy and makeshift. There were plenty of a la carte options but the waitress who also seemed to be the owner kept pushing combo meals, which were considerably cheaper. And one happened to feature fried chicken. James went with that and I picked a rendang version not really knowing what other bits and bobs would come with the featured entrée.

A drink also came with the set meal, but we weren’t offered choices but had grass jelly nearly forced on us. I discovered that grass jelly is one of the few things on earth that I can’t stand the taste of. The brown squiggles taste like bitter gelatinous dirt. As the room began to fill up I peeked at everyone else’s beverages and no one was drinking grass jelly, just lime juice. I would’ve killed for a sweet, citrusy lime juice.

House of sundanese rendang combo

Anyway, the food turned out to be average, nothing to get excited about. The chicken (not pictured) wasn’t as crackly as it could be. My beef rendang was fine, super rich and falling apart. There was also a soupy vegetable curry and a very tasty, most likely terribly unhealthy bean curd ring that had been fried into lacy crispness and drenched in a creamy, spicy peanut sauce.
The dinner was adequate but we were both left feeling unsatisfied. I ended up eating satay and prata later to compensate and James stopped at Carl’s Jr.

House of Sundanese Food * Suntec City, 3 Temasek Blvd., Singapore

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

Mie Jakarta

There’s certainly crossover amongst Indonesian, Malaysian and Singaporean cuisine though I’ve only experienced the latter two on their home turf. (As to the countries themselves, our teenage waiter keenly summarized “I hear Singapore’s mad clean” while chatting with a customer waiting for take out.) I think that’s why Indonesian strikes me as more esoteric. There are a buttload of islands (I’d say 17,508 qualifies for buttload status) besides Bali, and regional specialties abound.

Mie_ayam Elmhurst is home to three restaurants: Upi Jaya and Minangasli are Padang in origin and Mie Jakarta, just a couple storefronts over from Minangasli, serves Sulawesi-style noodles (read about their rivalry if you have Times Select). I’ve now tried all of the above and I have to say that I was least crazy about Mie Jakarta. But that’s not to say the food is poor in any way because I'm prejudiced against poor egg noodles (I also generally steer clear of goulash and Eastern European fare that might contain said starch strips). I do think their use is an interesting remnant from Dutch colonialism, but in that vein I’d prefer a Malaysian prawn paste tea sandwich.

Other items are on the small menu, but the focus is the handful of variations on chicken noodle soup, mie ayam, which comes broken into two components. The larger bowl is filled with curly yellow noodles, greens, mushrooms, chicken chunks and the smaller vessel contains the broth. If you order mie ayam bakso, meatballs come floating in the broth and if you try mie ayam pangsit like I did that means you have three chicken filled wontons tucked along side the main ingredients.

Before I realized everyone else was eating their noodles interspersed with spoonfuls of broth, I dumped my liquid on top all at once. I must be missing the subtlety of the chew and sip approach. Maybe you don’t want the noodles getting too soggy?

I enjoyed the chewy-crisp contrast in texture (James had a problem with the fishballs and mystery meatballs accompanying his soup. Personally, I like the springiness of those items but that’s not a universal sentiment) and mild flavors, but I do prefer spicier Southeast Asian ricey-saucey or stir-fried noodle dishes. CampurOf course, you can add chili sauce, which I did. Unfortunately, a previous diner didn’t screw on the cap and an orange stream splashed up James’s arm and caused him to declare that he didn’t like Mie Jakarta, which is pretty childish, if you ask me.

Despite our fall weather being completely incompatible with shaved ice dessert-drinks, I couldn’t resist ordering es campur. It wasn’t as brilliantly hued as some of these tropical concoctions but it did contain the requisite number of pleasingly disquieting tastes and mouth squishes that demand using both straw and spoon. There were chunks of jackfruit and various beans, peas, seeds, or who knows what, floating in the icy coconut milk. I noticed something made up sounding on the take out menu called es glamour, which I’m even more interested in after it failed to make an appearance on Google. 

Mie Jakarta * 86-20 Whitney Ave., Elmhurst, NY


Rendang_2 Oh, this is one of those places that makes me wish I didn't live where I live. I'm pretty fond of my apartment, it's just the surroundings that I find less than satisfactory (weird, I know, since there are plenty of perfectly nice blogs devoted these environs). Minangasli should be my neighborhood restaurant, not Frankies 457 (which isn't even heinous) 0r I don't know, Marco Polo. But then, I could be biased since I'm no fan of Italian-American cuisine. Maybe I'm just partial to S.E. Asian food under $7 with nearby storefronts with names like Bappy Sweets (a bastardization of happy or does bappy mean something?). I would eat out every night and be even unhealthier and mushier than I am now, so it's for the best.

Minangasli was a must since I'm always on rendang alert. James was disappointed that the stewy meat wasn't as ubiquitous as he'd anticipated in Malaysia. The streets, pardon me, jalans, weren't paved with rendang, a beautiful image to imagine, nonetheless. Ayam I could be off, but I kind of saw it like a tourist going to Miami and distressing over the lack of cheesesteaks. I don' t know if Penang or Kuala Lumpur are exactly rendang hot beds. We certainly found the dish here and there, at a few street stalls, but it tended to show up more on the menus of Indonesian restaurants.

The ayam goreng sambal ijo, fried chicken smothered with a green chile paste was tastier than its simplicity would have you believe. The rendang was rich, slightly sweet, with deeper spices and less citrus than others I've tasted (including my own). It was a blessing that we were presented Jackfruit with only three large chunks or I would've been in serious caloric straits. (The portions are almost deceptively small, at first glance they seem slightly inadequate, but once you start eating you realize they're more than enough, it's an optical illusion.)

I'd heard about the kale and thought it was a good idea since we tend to get meat-heavy in Asian restaurants. But the greens were absent that evening, so we opted for jackfruit, a favorite of mine that didn't sway too far from Upi Jaya's rendition. I do think Minangasli's prices are a few dollars less, for whatever that's worth. But both are worth a visit. I'm all for Indonesian food in all permutations, as it's few and far between in NYC.

Minangasli * 86-10 Whitney Ave., Elmhurst, NY

Cafe Borobudur

I guess I eat, well at least I order, too much. A request for Nasi goreng, fish in chili sauce, sate, corn fritters and fried chicken caused the waitstaff to move us from a two-seater to a bigger table. Was I a pig? I started eavesdropping and people on one side of us were just eating soup, while the couple on the other side were only eating appetizers. What's wrong with these people?

Cafe Borobudur * 128 E. Fourth St., New York, NY