I've just gotten back from a lovely meal at Minangasli, and I thank you guys for recommending it. Some of you have said the food quality was variable, but one of you had a good experience on Sunday and I thought that they would probably have their best chef working on their busiest day. And I was right.
The restaurant was jammed. Every table was full, and everyone was Indonesian. Fortunately, someone left just as I walked in so I got a table. Their menu has a picture of a Minang house. The Minangkabau people, who live near Padang in central Sumatra, are reknowned throughout the archipelago for their wonderful food. I asked the woman at the register if the food was Minang, and she confirmed it. (Upi Jaya is Minangkabau as well, but the man who runs it is very cagey about that fact. Women are the dominant sex among the Minang, and he probably gets a lot of ribbing from his Javanese patrons.)
I ordered Gulai Babat, "beef tripe in lemongrass-flavored coconut milk" I did not order it from the "over rice" section, which means I paid $2 more but got a double portion of tripe, served in a separate bowl rather than dumped over the rice. Well worth it. The tripe floated in a rich, red sauce which is, I believe, typically Minang. It is a bit like a Thai red curry... but if I'd had a curry that good in a Thai restaurant (except maybe Sripraphai, where I would expect it) I would be singing its praises on this website right now. When I finished the bottom of the bowl was grainy, which means they ground the spices by hand in a mortar to make a rempeh (that's the Malay word, but I think the Indonesian is probably similar, it's virtually the same language) ... which is exactly how it should be done.
The portion was a bit small though, so I walked to Rajbhog (72-27 37 Av) and had a bhel puri. Yum! On the way, I passed a hole in the wall Chaozhou restaurant (Chao Zhou Bowl, 85-03 Whitney Av, 424-4999) specializing in country style barbecued meat. There was a review by Sylvia Carter in the window... always a good sign.
Minangasli, 86-10 Whitney Av, near Elmhurst Av R train, 429-8207, apparently open every day until eleven.