One of the things I love about Sydney dining is the sheer number of “eat streets” around the city. As foodies, we are really spoilt for choice with the array of different cuisines on offer.
Tonight, we are invited by Eva and Fi to sample one of their favourite Indonesian restaurants along the strip of Anzac Parade that spans the suburbs of Kensington, Kingsford and Maroubra. This eat street is littered with restaurants that serve up Korean, Indonesian, Chinese, Malaysian, Taiwanese, Italian and pub fare just to name a few. Best of all, food prices at these restaurants are very reasonable to cater for students from the University of New South Wales located in the heart of this precinct.
Unpretentious restaurants that let their food do the talking impress me more than those with fancy decor.
At Indo Rasa tonight, this nonchalant attitude takes the form of complimentary caramelized deep fried ikan bilis, tempeh with peanuts served in a take-away box as appetizer. There are no serving plates and diners use their fingers to pick at the crunchy sweet savoury bits of anchovies and peanuts. I like the soft chewy texture of the tempeh or compressed deep fried soybean.
We are sipping a 2009 Gentlemen’s Agreement viognier and its zesty and fruity flavours offer great flexibility for our spicy dinner.
Ayam sereh or lemongrass chicken arrives in a wooden plate, laden with a sweet spicy chilli tomato paste and sprinkled with shallots and deep fried onions. I am expecting this dish to be spicier and a plate of chilli sambal lends a delicious kick to the chicken.
A chap chai or stir fry mixed vegetables consist of choi sum, cauliflower, broccoli and shredded chicken. It has a good wok char flavour and the shao xing wine in the sauce is beckoning for some steamed rice.
I enjoy the vegetable curry or lontong sayur because the spicy coconut soup has the right balance of spice and is sufficiently bold in its curry flavours. For some reason, this supposed vegetarian dish comes with a piece of chicken drumstick and boiled egg. Deep fried crackers add some textural contrast to this flavoursome lontong interpretation.
A terung belado or eggplant is soaked up by a spicy sweet chilli onion sambal. This is one of my favourite Indonesian dishes because eggplant has such a soft and succulent texture that melts in the mouth when cooked to perfection.
A grilled whole snapper or ikan bakar is laid on butter lettuce leaves, its skin is crispy and charred from the grill. Topped with deep fried onions, the fish is accompanied with slices of tomato and cucumber.
This is one of the best grilled fish that I have tasted because the all-important smoky grilled aromas are the result of a good sweet black sauce marinade. The skin is crispy while the while flesh is tender. I repeatedly dip delicious morsels into more heady sambal.
This is truly our favourite dish of the night.
A fu yong hai arrives in a tangled web of sliced onions and prawns in a deep fried egg batter. It is garnished with slivers of pickled vegetables and drizzled with a sweet savoury thickened sauce.
We break up the fu yong hai into pieces and soak the crispy egg batter into the sauce. This is the Indonesian version of onion rings and I like it because the crispy egg batter is fragrant while the soft texture of the onions is sweet.
We share three desserts, a jus alpukat, ais chendol and ais campur.
The jus alpukat is a thick and gluggy avocado juice with a drizzle of gula melaka or palm sugar.
The finely shaved ice in the ais campur is sweetened with condensed milk and rose syrup and we find slivers of black jelly, jack fruit and peanuts buried under. These are refreshing end to yet another beautiful dinner, thanks to our dear friends!
So dear readers, do you have a favourite Indonesian dish or restaurant?
Indo Rasa Indonesian Restaurant
Shop 1, 309 Anzac Parade
Tel: +61 2 9697 2003