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Indonesia Report

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Indonesia Report

Bob Libkind | Oct 2, 2002 11:47 PM

Having asked in a post early this morning if Indonesia did rijstaffel, and being in the neighborhood this evening for the Reading Terminal Market's "First Wednesday" festivities, we wandered over to Race Street to try Indonesia and, yes, they do offer rijstaffel.

In fact, they offer two rijstaffels. One for $15 a person, one for $25 a person, two person minimum.

We opted for the richer version, which featured more animal protein; the $15 version was heavier on the vegetables, though it had one stick of chicken sate and one stick of pork sate.

The service was fine, the staff helpful, and the beer (Yuengling, Tsing Tao (sp?), Heineken and something else I forget) were cold.

The $25 rijstaffel opened with a crusty golden brown pyramid of deep fried tofu stuffed with dried shrimp and various veggies. I enjoyed it; the missus, whose religion classifies tofu as "ook,", as in "Thou Shalt Not Eat Ook", found it less so.

Next came the soup: a consumme-like beef soup, with chunks of tender beef sunk at the bottom. Would have made a much better base for a French onion soup than most of the onion soups you get. If you wanted to add veggies, a few sprouts were served on the side, along with a chili paste to rev it up.

Next came a lazy-susan, dim-sum type plate with the main events: two skewers of barbequed clams, a bbq chicken of sorts, large shrimp stir fried with scallion and ginger, a beef dish, another shrimp dish with small shrimp, tofu and string beans, and a carb/egg dish. Accompanying all of this was, of course, the rice (this is rijstaffel, or rice table, after all) and some rather large sweetish shrimp toasts.

I've never quite had clams like these. They were far from tender, but that was no surprise because each clam (three to each of the two skewers) was a mouthful, quite large. They were, however, quite meaty and tasty. I don't know if they were just particularly large clams from somewhere nearby, like the Jersey Shore, or some Asian variety frozen and shipped here, much like the green-lipped mussels.

The chicken, though sauced nicely and flavorful in and of itself, was dry and tough; an old hen, no doubt, that could have been put to better use in a soup.
Both shrimp dishes were fine, although once again, there was a bit of overcooking, particularly noticeable with the large shrimp dish, not so much with the small shrimp/tofu dish.

The beef dish worked well, the meat tender, but the key seasonings in the sauce elusive; we couldn't figure out what they were. Next time we'll ask, but I'm sure it's something that will be obvious in retrospect.

The crab/egg dish was superb. Basically four free form pancakes of crab with just egg to hold it together, in another lightly sweet sauce; for garnish, tiny peas. Excellent.

Dessert, included in the meal, encompassed two dishes. The first, "Indonesian layer cake" was a very small but totally satisfying construction of microscopically thin layers of I know not what, mildly sweet, almost like a honey or spice cake in flavor though not in texture. We thought it tasted of apples. Next came a banana split, simply traditional: banana, vanilla and chocolate ice cream, a little chocolate sauce; no whipped cream, no cherries on top. But a very nice finish to the meal.

We walked out quite sated: it was lots of food, and we thought quite fairly priced. I just wished the chef had not left a few dishes linger over the fire so much.

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