Saturday, March 26, 2011


Ever had Indonesian cuisine before? FLOE neither...until Garuda! The new SoBro Indonesian Restaurant off of College and 52nd is tucked behind Taste and is very muted in its outward appearance. We had no idea what to expect. Once inside, some minimalist decor showcased a small dining area open to the very busy kitchen.

The hostess was a bit awkward(not sure what to do, more nervous than accommodating), but we'll chalk it up to being only open about one month at the time. Our server was very polite, but again, awkward. We were glad to see a small menu---makes it a little easier to pick new things.

We noticed a lot of satay(skewered meats), some curry, and rice and noodle dishes with island flair. We decided to start with Lumpia, Garuda's Indonesian spring rolls. Fred had to have the Kare Opur(Indonesian Curry) with chicken and Libby the Beef Randang. Ozzy opted for a side of rice and Stella would sample from the lot.

Beverage orders were never requested, but we were brought water to drink. Hm. The menu also stated we could specify how spicy we would like our dishes and that never happened either.

The Lumpia came out pretty quickly and was just delightful! Visually very familiar, there was something different. The fried outside was thick like a chinese egg roll and had a hidden sweetness, while the inside had some curried tofu and mixed veggies that were more reminiscent of a spring roll. It was fried perfectly, nice and crunchy outside with a warm, tender inside. The pineapple chili sauce on the side was a great touch. Even Stella approved!

Entrees took a little longer, even though there were only two seated tables in the whole place and an army of folks in the back. Finally, they arrived and they were beautiful! And in appropriate proportions. Not the mega-size so many of us have become so accustomed to.

Fred's Kare Opur was so aromatic! It was quite mild with incredibly well blended spices--- the flavors had melded in the pot. It was familiar yet different in it's subtlety. Definitely a dish worth coming back for!

Libby's Beef Randang was actually the Beef Satay dinner. This was suspected, but not confirmed until after dinner when a quick look at the online menu checked out. Rather than a slow-roasted meat in coconut milk and indonesian spices, it was skewered beef with a side of rice and acar(a vegetable salad with cucumbers, pineapples and carrots marinated in a ginger-shallot lime sauce garnished with cilantro). One bite was all it took to see the value in these simple plates. Tender, flavorful, and so tasty it made Libby regret her earlier thoughts that less is more! More! More! The rice on the side and the acar worked better together than on their own. The yellow rice was again very mild in flavor---the acid from the veg was necessary. So, even though there was a bit of ordering confusion, Libby was very pleased with her surprise dish.

Finally, we had to try the Pisang Goreng--- more well known as fried plantains. Yummy. This version had coconut and rice-flour battered plantains, fried and sprinkled with coconut over a nutella and caramel sauce topped with coconut ice cream. This flavor combo was truly pleasing and the perfect sweet ending to a most satisfying dinner. Again, subtlety was the art of this dish. Lightly battered, lightly sweetened and even the coconut ice cream was more milky that sweet. One suggestion we would have is to have thinner slices. Plantains are naturally a bit bitter and the thicker slices caused the bitter plantain to compete with the already light sweetness. Otherwise, it was just de-lite-ful!

Wrap Up
Price-$$-Well priced for delicate, international cuisine.
Atmosphere**, Nothing exciting, but we're expecting it to flesh out over time. We did quite enjoy being able to view all of the chaos in the back!
Service*,- Very polite but GREEN. These guys need more experienced help to pay attention to detail and be on top of customer needs. There was a hostess, two servers, and what appeared to be two owners around, not to mention 4-5 chefs in the back. If they are struggling with only two tables filled, we cringe to think what a busy night would be like!

Fred- B-, I'd give the food more of an A-, very good. But the service was so poor, it weighed down the overall experience. I would like to go back to see if it's improved. If not, then that would be a huge red flag.
Libby-B+, Wonderful food, but the service was just bad. The kind of service where you know they are trying and can't seem to get it right. There's nothing worse than feeling sorry for your servers when the chefs are doing their part in the kitchen.
Ozzy- C+, Ozzy was not too impressed with his yellow rice, but he ate it and very much enjoyed the plantain sauce, rather than the plantain itself.
Estelle- B, Stella sampled from everything and preferred the acar, the curry, and the rice. The meat may have been too difficult for her to chew, but she seemed content overall.
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