This is the spot to be if you have a hankering for authentic Indonesian food that can make you feel as though you've been magically transported to the streets of Jakarta. Simply sublime.
For someone who gets pretty nostalgic about Indonesian food, I never knew just how chock-full Kampung Baru was with Indonesian restaurants. Sure, there were a couple of eateries I went to once in a while. But while on assignment to discover more about this Indonesian enclave, I found some joints so authentic that it made my Indonesian friends miss home a little less. The best time to go is on Saturday evening as that’s when the night market is in full swing. Makan, yuk!
Sate Minang at Restoran Rose
On food crawls, you’re liable to fill up way too early on and not have space for the bottom of your list later. But if you do that with any dish, do it with this one. Tucked on a corner next to Wisma Dato Dagang (the pink building) on Jalan Raja Alang is Restoran Rose and they serve a truly fantastic sate minang. We’ve waxed on about them before and we’ll wax on about them again - that special sauce is truly special. Rich, thick, with heavy tones of spice, it goes with the sate and lontong really well. The sate itself is sliced roasted meat and has a great chewy texture, something you don’t hear about meat very often. Go for the beef, or try the babat. I don’t usually eat tripe but they change my mind every time I come here.
Restoran Rose, No. 49A, Jalan Raja Alang
Groceries at Sinar Maju
Two doors down from Restoran Rose is Sinar Maju, an Indonesian-centric convenience store so well stocked with Indonesian condiments and snackies that we all went a little crazy among the aisles. ABC sauces, Pop Mie cup noodles and Teh Botol in actual bottles! You can even get Masako stock granules and ready-to-fry emping belinjo. We grabbed some kecap Bango for our morning fried rice as well. Because there’s nothing quite like kecap manis, is there?
Bakso Solo at Warung Garuda
Across the street from Restoran Rose is Warung Garuda, one of the premier spots for afternoon lunch. Their selection of padang dishes is rather impressive, but as this was an evening, it wasn’t exactly why we were here. We were here because a little sign at the back said “bakso solo” and we’d be darned if we didn’t give it a shot. And we were not disappointed at all - soft and slick beef balls nestled in slippery vermicelli and a light soup. Yum. Toss in some sambal to give it a kick. Just remember to stir the soup up a little or the spices settle at the bottom. Close your eyes as you slurp in the soup and you might just actually be at your favorite neighborhood gerobak.
Ayam Bakar at Wong Solo
By now our pants were starting to dig into our tummies, so we decided to walk along Jalan Raja Alang towards the other end of Jalan Raja Alang... to Wong Solo. This Indonesian franchise sells some pretty kick ass roast chicken. What is it about Indonesians and chicken? They really know how to treat the bird well. Never have we went to an Indonesian joint and were disappointed by the chicken. Wong Solo’s is predictably scrumptious; fall-off-the-bone meat with slightly charred roast skin and fat that simply melts in your mouth. Order the set, which comes with soft fried eggplant, and the obligatory tempe and tauhu goreng. Drizzle some kecap manis on your rice and you are good to go. Remember to also get their famous “jus poligami”: a deliciously thick mixed juice consisting of papaya, pineapple, mango and avocado - so named because rumor has it that Wong Solo has 4 wives. Just try not to laugh when you order it!
No. 57, Jalan Raja Alang (opposite the mosque)
Soto Ayam and Sate Kambing at Suwarno
Saturday evening was bleeding into night, and we were heading towards the night market. We had received a tip-off from a friend that there was an awesome soto stall. On her suspiciously dodgy directions, we set off through the market towards the Kampung Baru stage and tried to find a specific alley, embarrassingly ending up in front of people’s homes as they looked at us curiously. Finally, we asked for directions and they pointed us towards a lane that we didn’t even realize was accessible. Once we turned in, it was like we took a portkey straight into a Jakarta neighborhood. The sounds of the market were silenced and all we could hear were families in their homes speaking Javanese. Then we saw a chalkboard sign - “Soto Suwarno”. The menu was simple, so we ordered their specialities: soto ayam, sate kambing and mee jawa. One bite and we were gone. If you couldn’t see the KLCC towers from this little restaurant, you wouldn’t have a clue you were anywhere but Jakarta. The soto ayam was perfectly seasoned, but the star of the night for us was the sate kambing. Served with slices of tomato and onion with a generous drench of kecap, we were mumbling incoherently through mouthfuls of chewy yet tender mutton. The mee jawa was also quite good, with an intense shot of spice running through it. This place is an experience, and if nothing else on this list, we’re begging you to come here.
25-40 Jalan Raja Muda Musa Pasar Minggu
Apam Balik Nusantara
After leaving Little Jakarta, we headed to our favorite Kampung Baru dessert cart, simply called “Apam Balik Nusantara”. Selling martabak manis, they have a whole variety of fillings from peanuts to durian! We ordered chocolate and cheese, a modern classic martabak combo. Be careful not to overorder as their portions are humongous, veritable apam baliks on steroids that they are. Reheat leftovers the next morning; they’ll be just as good.
Along Jalan Raja Muda Musa
Indonesian food makes for a pretty heavy crawl, so exercise caution in ordering and plan your menu (and exercise your body for the week after). But it’s all worth it for a quick weekend getaway to Indonesia without the plane ticket!