It was a milestone birthday and so time to choose somewhere a bit different and special for my mother’s birthday. She’d always seemed to like the Indonesian food in Melbourne so the choice was made to try the Rijstaffel dinner at the only Indonesian restaurant in Adelaide, Pondok Bali on Pulteney Street.
The moment we walked in two things struck me. Firstly I love the way this place is fitted out. Balinese style religious images around the place (unlike most of Indonesia Bali is predominately Hindu), a raised central area a bit like a large hut or tent and indoor umbrellas over different tables. I loved it. My second thought, where are all the people? I know it was a Tuesday night but at 7pm we were the only table dining here, and before we left at around 9pm only one other couple arrived. Come on people, take a risk get away from all the familiar Chinese, Thai or Vietnamese restaurants and try a different slant on East Asian food!
Rijstaffel is actually a Dutch Indonesian style of meal. It involves lots of small dishes, usually tasty and visually appealing and normally involving great amounts of work. As I understand it it was originally a way of showing off, the fancier the more numerous the dishes the richer and more important the person putting on the dinner. Colleagues had always raved about this style of food in Amsterdam, and the couple of times I’d tried it in Melbourne and New Zealand it had always been a fun night.
The Rijstaffel banquet here was a little different, with a smaller number of larger dishes for sharing more reminiscent of a Chinese restaurant banquet. It included the usual satays, a real Indonesian and Malay staple, and lumpiah, beef and vegetable spring rolls. Interestingly that’s the same name I recently saw used in the Philippines for spring rolls. The satays were ok but I liked the spring rolls more, which were nicely crispy and full of flavour.
Unless otherwise requested the food is served as ‘mild’. Well, there is mild and there is mild, and mild here is pretty meek. In fact that’s my one real criticism of the food here, at least for our meal. I suspect it’s perfect for the chilli shy but I was expecting it mild from an Indonesian perspective and I’d say this was mild even by Adelaide standards. My fault I guess for not asking but the result was this well cooked and presented meal didn’t make my taste buds dance as much as I'd hoped.
Our first dish to arrive was the Sayur Pelicing, steamed bean sprouts and phank choi with a Balinese style tomato sauce. Nicely cooked vegetables and a dish with good textures but as with most of the mains not enough punch in the flavour for me.
Next up were the Ikan Acar Kuning (Tumeric Fish) and Ayam Goreng Anar (fried chicken with a Balinese lime sauce). The fish was tender with a slight sweet and sour flavour from the use of pineapple. While Hungry Pete was big on the chicken I wasn’t quite so much of a fan, finding it slightly dry.
Last main dish was the beef rendang. Very dark in colour and acceptably tender, I just wished there'd been a bit more of a kick from a heavier use of the spices.
The rice served with the mains looked very cute in its bowl.
The dessert served at the end of the meal was dadar gulung, a pandan pancake served filled with desiccated coconut and palm sugar with a scoop of ice cream on the side. I couldn’t note any difference between this and the Malaysian dish kueh dadar. Cute, colourful and good moist filling, a good way to finish off the meal.
A great place to eat, interesting to look at and with soothing background music. Service is also good and the price for our meal was reasonable. Next time I will be asking for the food to be served spicy though, as it was obviously prepared with care and skill but lacked some of the depth of flavours I was looking for and expected. An excellent choice for someone interested in a more upmarket introduction to Indonesian food but not used to the delightful burn of a spicy sambal!
Food – 7.5
Service – 7.5
Ambience – 8.5
Price – 7.0
310 Pulteney Street
Adelaide SA 5000
Ph: 08 8232 0588