Indonesia Restaurant is the oldest and most famous Indonesian joint in town that I know of. Since the humble beginning at its first Chinatown location, this restaurant has done a great job in bringing the comfort taste that I knew back home. Now housed closer to the Indonesian community in their South Philly location, Indonesia Restaurant is such an oasis for us Indonesian diaspora residing in the Mid-Atlantic area. Moreover, it has also become an attractive and exotic city foodie destination because Indonesian food is definitely a new thing for the Philly palate.
I've been to this restaurant for countless times, yet this time around is a quite different and special. After some talks about a post-final dinner with Indonesian and Malaysian friends at Drexel, I finally made it happen. 20+ people indicated that they were coming, so I called Indra at Indonesian Restaurant to reserve the second floor dining room. Good thing he asked for what we would like to order as well, so that we wouldn't wait for too long during the Friday night rush. Sticking to what people usually order, I pre-ordered nasi goreng ikan asin, gado-gado, ayam panggang kecap, ikan bakar, and bakmi goreng Jawa.
Nasi goreng ikan asin has definitely been the favorite of everyone. This fried rice dish is not your typical fried rice. The salty fish really compliments the spices and hint of soy sauce sweetness.
Gado-gado has been my personal favorite. It's the best way I know to do your veggies. If I have kids, this would be the way I should get them to eat their veggies (assuming they don't have peanut allergy lol) . The peanut dressing topping the vegetable medley, tofu and shrimp crackers was just oh so good.
On the other hand, bakmi goreng Jawa is a very Indonesian way of doing fried noodles. In this dish, vegetables and meat stirred together with soy-sauce covered egg noodle. One of my favorite street dish from the past.
Often times, to us Indonesians, the sauce is something that makes or breaks a dish. This theory is definitely true for grilled fish. From the very first encounter, you just can smell the aroma of garlic and shrimp paste from the sauce.
While the ayam panggang kecap (roast chicken with soy sauce) was kind of meh. Someone in our party also requested ayam kare (curry chicken). He said he's had it once over at the restaurant's major competitor, Hardena, and he really liked it. Well, the ayam kare didn't quite impress me. The curry broth was rather thin.
I would say we ordered too many chicken dishes, but an Indonesian-themed dinner wouldn't be complete without sate ayam. The marinade on this one is quite bold, and the special peanut-onion dressing just turned it into a perfection on a plate.
For dessert, we ordered es campur. This is my favorite Indonesian dessert, and I would say the one served here throws me back to my elementary school years. It gave me the sense of freshness I found in my school yard over at the old man's ice cart. As much as I love Cantonese desserts and realize their superiority, nothing would ever replace the memories of es campur in my heart.
Theoretically, this place closes at 9 PM. Thank goodness for the warm hospitality of Indra (actually a Drexel alumni himself) and his family who let us stay a bit longer :) And for the future record, I would bring more non-Indonesian friends to this place and introduce them to the exotic Indonesian cuisine.
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