a divine introduction to Indonesian cuisine

Despite Indonesia’s proximity to Australia, my exposure to Indonesian food is pretty slim. And no, packet mi goreng most certainly does not count! So one evening, Tristan organised to have dinner with some good friends L and K at one of their local restaurants, Warung Agus in North Melbourne. It’s on Victoria St on the opposite side of the road to the gorgeous Libertine.

Laugh if you like, but Bintang is the order of the day. It suits the food most excellently.

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We skipped entrees and ploughed straight into the mains. L and K were at hand to advise us of some of their favourite dishes. K is a vegetarian and seemed very fond of the toge – a traditional Balinese gado gado comprising steamed vegetables, beancurd with peanut sauce and cassava crackers. The sauce really made this dish – it was unbelievably tasty. The crackers were light and just like the prawn crackers that melt on your tongue, yep the ones you get with your Chinese takeaway.

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Another fab vegetarian dish is the Tuung Mebasa Santen Lalah Manis – sliced eggplant and tofu braised in coconut milk, sweet soy and spicy gravy. I’m not mad keen on eggplant so didn’t think I’d end up having much of this, but again, was blown away by how delicious it was. I tell you, it’s their sauce. There was quite the fight to mop up leftover sauce!

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Our other two dishes were of the omnivore persuasion. One being a seafood one: Campuran Be Pasih Mebasa Kental, seasonal seafood like prawns, calamari, mussels in spicy coconut sauce served with rice. It sure was spicy! This was the dish I recall going best with the Bintang, precisely because of the chilli heat.

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The last main was undoubtedly a carnivore delight. K graciously watched as three ravenous beasts, her dining companions wolfed down the Babi Guling, the traditional Balinese roasted pork served with crackle and lemongrass, chilli and ginger sauce. Warung Agus actually allows you to book a suckling pig feast, similar to the Libertine one where you need to book in advance and have a minimum number of diners. It’s wonderful that two restaurants so close to each other offer such diverse versions of the humble suckling pig feast. This was actually the mildest of the dishes we chose and cooked to perfection: velvety soft meat and fat with super crunchy crackling.

Four mains even between four hungry folks will leave you full to the brim, especially if you have rice (which you should do). I loved that the rice was served sprinkled with dry shallots – they are so fragrant and add a touch of Asian pungency to an otherwise plain staple. Other condiments are also provided.

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There was absolutely no space whatsoever for dessert, but our adorably friendly waiter did manage to tempt us into trying out Indonesian coffee, which is sweet and rich. An excellent ending to a wonderful meal.

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Though mains start at $20, they are pretty big and unless you’ve got a gargantuan appetite, they are made for sharing. The restaurant is a little dark but is lavishly decorated – there’s even a special four-poster area you can request to dine in! Almost makes you believe you’re in the tropics, especially with the Gamelan music chiming gently in the background. Thanks L and K for showing us the ropes at a fab local haunt of yours!

Warung Agus on Urbanspoon

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14 thoughts on “a divine introduction to Indonesian cuisine

  1. Megan

    Hey Gem, do you read any food blogs based in Sydney? I love your blog but I’d also love to read one that featured places I could actually go to…

    Reply
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    1. Gem

      As a uni student I went to a great place called Bali Bagus on Sydney Rd but I don’t think it exists anymore. The chef was from Bali and ran the restaurant with his Aussie wife.

      I did notice a new Indo restaurant open up in the CBD with the same name and am keen to see if the same couple are behind it. Possible food blogger expedition…?

      Reply
  3. shu shu

    I’m always on the hunt for a good gado gado, thank you! When in Bali I live on on Padang food (kind of like Indonesian fast food served at roadside stalls) and have found a place on Commerical Rd in Prahran called Bundo Raya which does a pretty good version of it.

    Reply

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