Unfortunately, Indonesian food doesn’t feature prominently in Perth’s dining scene. The CBD has plenty of Japanese and South East Asian restaurants. Vietnamese and Korean restaurants are also getting quite popular and numerous. But Indonesian food hasn’t quite achieved the same level of popularity. It’s a shame really, because Indonesian food is one of the more exciting cuisines in our region. For me, the spiciness of sambal and the nuttiness and texture of ikan bilis (crispy fried anchovies mixed with spiced peanuts) lends Indonesian food an incredible moreish quality.
On one of regular sojourns down the Pavarotti-friendly Barrack Street, we stumbled across Indah Indonesia Restaurant. At first glance we passed on it. The only items under $10 on their cooked to order menu were soups and it was far too hot. But they did call themselves ‘The House of Rendang’, which is a pretty big call and certainly stuck in our minds. A bit of Urbanspooning later and we found out that there is an entire bain marie menu inside, with many options under $10. We also noticed that it had a fairly poor Urbanspoon rating. Not letting this dissuade us, we ventured back shortly thereafter.
I can understand why your average, CBD-lunching punter might be hesitant about Indah. It’s next door to the TAB on Barrack Street, which is not exactly pleasant. The small doorway leads down into a basement level dining room which, although enormous, is incredibly dated. Then there is the bain marie. There are some people who definitively will not eat from a bain marie. As you can probably guess, we are not those people. Sure, some bain maries are terrible. But some are also pretty good. And here at the Pavarotti, we pride ourselves on rising above such shallow judgement in the pursuit of delicious, well-priced meals.
The bain marie menu offered plates with a choice of 1 ($8.50), 2 ($10.50) or 3 (I stopped paying attention after $10.50) meat dishes. All came with curried potatoes, vegetables and a big stack of rice. Unusually for bain maries, the options actually looked quite appetising on display. There was fried chicken, fried fish, chicken curry and even tempeh on offer. But how could I resist the beef rendang at the House of Rendang? I liked that the meat was left in large portions instead of cut into smaller cubes. I didn’t like that you only get only get one piece of beef. The meal was by no means small, the sambal-laced rice and potatoes leave you satisfied, but I would have liked another piece of beef. The vegetables were pretty sad looking and, like most meals from a bain marie, it was hard to make it look good on a plate. But the rendang, as promised, was damn good. Dark, pull-apart meat in the rich, well-spiced sauce really hit the spot.
House of Rendang? Maybe they are!
Do you mind eating from a bain marie, or do you steer clear of them? Let us know in the comments!