First look: Melbourne's Pondok Nasi Bakar opens in Damansara Heights, offers delicious Indonesian eats
KUALA LUMPUR, May 8 — Occasionally I stumble upon brand new eateries, thanks to Instagram’s algorithms.
That's how I ended up at Pondok Nasi Bakar which had only just opened on May 5 and are still in the soft opening stage.
Word has gotten out around the neighbourhood though; I reckon it's because there isn't any Indonesian food in the vicinity.
Sharp eyes have also seen the new signboard — perched in between Ekkamai's two shop lots — especially if you frequent Yum-Me Place for their coffeeshop fare.
Walk upstairs to discover good, honest Indonesian fare. The brand has two outlets in Melbourne and this place marks their first foray into Malaysia with their local partners.
Their specialties include grilled items like chicken, beef ribs and a whole ikan bawal. The grilled chicken has two flavours, one with kicap manis and another slathered with rojak sauce. If you're a fan of Penyet (smashed and deep fried), there's various dishes like chicken, beef ribs and even duck on the menu.
You can get various fried items too, from the classic fried chicken with green chilli sauce, fried beef ribs and fried squid. There's also the more unusual fried duck. And the crowd favourite, fried whole tilapia fish known as ikan joget in Indonesia. For us, we call it the "dancing fish" since it is cut and deep fried till it looks like it's doing a samba on the plate.
Your meal like this Grilled Chicken is served with ‘nasi bakar’, fried ‘tempeh’ and beancurd and ‘sambal’.
The ‘nasi bakar’ here is essentially steamed rice with spices and small deep fried ‘ikan bilis’ wrapped in banana leaf and grilled to infuse it with flavour.
If you're craving a soupy meal, select from the clear Soto Ayam or Soto Betawi which uses coconut milk. There's also satay, a selection of fried snacks including Pempek Palembang with fish cake, and the usual Indonesian desserts that combine shaved ice with condensed milk like Es Teler or Es Campur.
Even the drinks are what is served in Indonesian eateries — Soda Gembira and Teh Botol Sosro.
For the office crowd, weekday set lunches start from RM22.90. These are available from 11.30am to 2.30pm. Choices include items like Ayam Penyet, Rendang, Nasi Goreng Ayam, Soto Ayam and Soto Betawi. These are served with steamed rice, ice tea and a dessert of the day. You can swap steamed rice with nasi bakar for an extra RM2.
Soto Ayam is comfort food with a fragrant turmeric tinged chicken broth.
Like its name, the highlight is the nasi bakar or grilled rice. This type of rice served in a banana leaf parcel is popular in West Java.
Steamed rice is placed on a banana leaf and layered with a cooked dish that could be ayam bakar or even a vegetarian version with tempeh, sambal and herbs. The whole ensemble is wrapped up and grilled over a fire, infusing the rice with the smokey flavours and banana leaf fragrance.
Here, the version is simpler. The elements like grilling the banana leaf parcel with rice and spices is there but it's just with fried anchovies. The rice grains are fragrant with a slight smokey flavour, which pairs well with the items you select from the menu.
Es Teler is not overly sweet and refreshing with shaved ice, condensed milk, avocado, jackfruit and agar agar cubes.
The dishes are served on their own with sambal, fried beancurd and fried tempeh. You can add on the rice, whether its a choice of steamed or the nasi bakar.
The Grilled Beef Ribs (RM45.90) was exceptionally good. Tender ribs almost blackened were doused with a creamy peanut sauce. You also get a thick piece of fried tempeh and fried beancurd with an addictive sambal. I liked how it's fragrant but doesn't numb my tongue till I cannot taste anything else. This paired well with the fragrant nasi bakar.
If you prefer kicap manis flavours, the Grilled Chicken (RM19.90) will be a good choice. The chicken is flavourful but a tad overgrilled at the bottom part. Just chuck on more of that delicious sambal and all is forgiven.
Go up the staircase to discover Pondok Nasi Bakar on the first floor.
You can spot Pondok Nasi Bakar's signage in between Ekkamai at Plaza Batai.
We also tried the Soto Ayam (RM18.90). The yellow tinged chicken soup was comfort food with lighter flavours. You get shredded chicken, vermicelli and one whole hard boiled egg inside it. On the side, there's crackers and chilli sauce to make it spicier.
For a sweet ending, the Es Teler (RM16.90) is a refreshing one. Unlike the usual versions, it's not cloylingly sweet with syrup. This was served with slices of creamy avocado, tiny cut pieces of jackfruit and agar agar cubes.
Plans are also underway to offer the food via delivery sites.
Pondok Nasi Bakar, Lot 8-1A, Plaza Batai, Damansara Heights, Kuala Lumpur. Open: 11.30am to 10pm (last orders at 9pm). Tel: 017-5006722. Instagram: @pondoknasibakarmalaysia
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