The place is small, about 7 tables seating 4-8 people, only two of them were filled. It is brightly lit and clean in appearance, and we were warmly greeted by the sole server of the night. Despite his friendliness, he was slow and forgetful, but that is a common trait of Indonesian servers. So, dont dine here if youre in a hurry otherwise call and order take-out!
The menu is fairly large in size and while there is Padang food, there are specialties from Palembang and Java and most of the dishes are reasonably priced. You can choose nasi rames, a rice plate consisting of white rice, a serving of a meat dish, and curried vegetables for only $7.50. My group decided to just order several dishes and share. We started with tasty tahu isi (medium-soft tofu stuffed with vegetables; $4 for two pieces), a measly portion of tempe goreng (deep-fried soybean cake, $3.00 for two small pieces), and an excellent version of Pempek Kapal Selam (fried fish cake stuffed with a hard-boiled egg in a spicy and piquant soup served with rice vermicelli and pickled cucumbers, $6.50 for two large cakes). We also had young coconut juice with shavings of young coconut ($2.50 per glass) that was deliciously addictive and refreshing. Upi Jaya does not serve alcohol, so it most likely does not have a liquor license and therefore is BYO.
We selected a variety of entrees to try. We had the Rendang Padang (chunks of beef cooked in coconut milk and chilis - $16.50 for small, $23.50 for large), which is a favorite of Padang restaurants but in this case, was disappointing to our discerning palates. We felt that the portion was too small and of insufficient quality for the relatively high price tag of the dish. The sauce was good and spicy, but the beef chunks were tough and stringy. We also had Ayam Goreng Kalasan (crispy fried chicken, $9.50 for two large pieces), which was good but once again we felt a bit cheated by the small portion. The Gulai Kambing (spicy lamb curry, $8.50) was a surprisingly generous portion with pieces of lamb ribs and lots of rich, spicy sauce to eat with rice ($1 per plate). The best entrees were the vegetarian dishes with a delicious, lime-tinged peanut sauce: Gado-Gado (Indonesian salad of tofu, potato, soybeans, green beans, and cabbage with peanut sauce, $6.50) and Ketoprak (rice vermicelli and vegetables with peanut sauce and bean crackers, $6.50). We also had a very rich and tasty Sayur Singkong (cassava leaves cooked in coconut milk, $5.50).
We could not end our meal without traditional Indonesian desserts that were excellent, such as an ice-cold Es Campur (ground ice with coconut cream, pandan syrup, palm seeds, seaweed jelly, and young coconut, $3), Es Teler (similar to Es Campur but with pieces of avocado and jackfruit, $3.50), Pisang Goreng Es Krim (deep-fried bananas with vanilla and chocolate ice cream, $4.50), and a special of Kue Talam Sarikaya (a sticky cake of palm sugar and glutinous rice, $2.50 for two pieces). Overall, we were more than satisfied with our meal and were grateful for the walk to the subway home.