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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Indomania Insanity

     Up until a few years ago, I had never known much about Indonesian cuisine.  Luckily a unique experience during Lights Out Miami, availed me the opportunity to sample the flavorful and exotic fare, and I've been hooked ever since.  Kind of a cross between Thai and Indian, Indonesian stands on its own as a major competitor for your standard Asian options.  Of the handful of Indonesian restaurants in Miami and elsewhere,  Indomania has definitely been my favorite.  Since Indonesia was a Dutch Colony until World War II, there is a lot of Dutch influence on the cuisine as well.  At Indomania they offer classic Indonesian that is "seen through Dutch eyes."
     Tucked away down a side street off Collins, you enter to find a cozy and intimate setting with a large bar, mirrored back wall with a lounge sofa, and several tables throughout the room decked out in authentic print tablecloths.  With the dim lighting and smooth 50s hits (think Frank Sinatra-style) playing seductively in the background, it makes a wonderful places to share good conversation and an exceptional meal.
     Don't expect your standard bread basket, they start you out with a plate of crisp crackers (emping) made from the Melinjo tree, and some peanut sauce for dipping.  The emping are very light (and not at all greasy) with a slightly bitter taste.  However, with the addition of their sweeter peanut sauce, these snacks are seriously addictive.  I've been with large groups that can down an entire serving within minutes of having them placed on the table.  Luckily, they're usually very generous and will bring you more upon request.
   Starting with their appetizers, the sate tempeh is an interesting choice.  Alternating between fried tofu and soybean tempeh cubes on skewers, it is supple, and a bit oaty.  They've also got lumpia, vegetarian springrolls that come in a dainty, crisp case.
      When ready to start with the entrees, I'd highly recommend getting one of their rijsttafels for the full authentic experience.  A rijsttafel is a Dutch word that literally means "rice table," and it includes a miniature feast with an assortment of small dishes.  Scoping out the selections you'll notice they have something for everyone from carnivores to vegetarians.  Perusing the menu with the lengthy list of items you'll be receiving, it can seem daunting, but I promise it is well worth it and doesn't end up being so much you can't walk.  Based upon how many people plan to split it, they portion each dish out accordingly.  They do require a minimum of two persons, but they will dole out larger portions for larger parties wanting to share.
     For a party of three, this is what the Rijsttafel Java looks like:
     For a larger group the portions look more like this:
Usually I stick with the Rijsttafel Java which includes:
- Sate Ayam (Grilled chicken skewer with peanut sauce): Perfectly charred tender white meat doused with their sweet and nutty sauce
- Ayam Besengek(Boneless chicken in mild coconut curry): Silky sauce with huge hunks of meat, this one can stand the addition of a bit of their hot sauce
- Semur Jawa (Slow cooked beef in kecap sauce): My favorite of the dishes, this uber tender meat comes surrounded with a sweet soy sauce that I use to add additional flavor to the rice sides.
- Babi Kecap (Pork in ginger, vinegar and sweet soy sauce)
-  Nasi Putih (Steamed white rice)
-  Nasi Kuning (Yellow rice, lemongrass, kunyit & galanga)
-  Gulai Telur (Boiled egg in curry sauce): Fairly straightforward the hardboiled egg is halved and topped with a zesty yellow curry
-  Sambal G Buncis (Crispy, spiced string beans):  Be warned these are far more spicy than you would expect!
- Tumis Sayuran (Stirfried mixed vegetables)
- Acar Ketimoen (Pickles, cucumber and carrots)
- Rujak Manis (Indonesian fruit salad)
- Krupuk Udang (Shrimp cracker): Each person gets a single light and airy crisp.  Nice to snack on alone or to use as a makeshift spoon to sop up the other sauces/ingredients
- Serundeng (Fried coconut and peanuts): A snappy and crunchy combination that works on top of all the plates
- Sambal Uleg (Spicy sauce):  Far too hot for a wimp like me, but makes a nice addition to the various dishes when you're looking for more heat

The staff will gracefully place each plate on the table like a masterful ballerina, performing an exquisite dance as they manage to find space for every bowl.  Meanwhile, they kindly explain each of the dishes as they go.
If you go with the rijsttafel Sumatra most of the dishes are the same but also includes:
- Rendang Padang (Beef stew in thick, spiced coconut sauce):  This beef stew has some heat, but was very tender and flavorful
- Sambal G Udang (Shrimps with peteh beans in coconut sauce):  Like the curried egg, shrimp cracker, and curried egg, each person getting the dinner receives one shrimp, drowned in an interestingly tangy sauce
- Gado Gado (Salad with string beans, cabbage & tofu):  Lots of coconut milk, we found the salad was different but kind of bland.
- Oseng Terong (Eggplant Stew):  I'm not quite sure what they use to make this but it tasted like a garlicky, sweet soy, and the eggplant we recieved was soft and mushy since it is soaked in the liquid.  Utterly delectable, I really enjoyed it!
Also, instead of the Nasi Kuning (yellow rice) you get Nasi Goreng (a fried rice).
Fresh fruit sorbet may sound simple, but you can't go wrong with a tart and fruity palate cleanser.
Dadar gulinf is a traditional Indonesian dessert, which comes with lurid green pandan pancakes filled with fresh coconut and palm sugar, and it is served with a luscious coconut ice cream.  The pancake itself reminds me of a chewy crepe, and I've found my favorite way to eat it is to use each serving like a miniature ice cream cone.  
So it may be a little different from the traditional American version, and the taste can take some getting used to, but the black rice pudding is an interesting variation of rice pudding.  Nutty and kind of crunchy, it was unlike any other rice pudding I'd tried and was kind of more like a strong oatmeal.  Personally I didn't care for it since it felt more like breakfast than dessert, but the addition of the coconut ice cream did lend it some much needed sweetness.
Another interesting choice is the Spekkoek, a traditional Dutch-Indonesian layered cinnamon cake with toasted coconut shavings and the creamy coconut ice cream.  The thin slices of moist cake were fairly brittle, but that didn't take away from the deliciousness!  The cinnamon is pretty overt in this artful dessert, but there is also notes of other spices like anise and clove.
Truly a hidden gem worth checking out!  Definitely make reservations if you plan to go, especially on weekends, or you might end up sitting at the bar (if that's even available).

 131 26th Street
 Miami Beach, FL 33140
 (305) 535-6332

 Indomania on Urbanspoon

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