x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Piece of Java found in Tourist Club maze

Bandung restaurant, in the Tourist Club area, serves a cuisine popularly known as "peasant food".

Tropical flowers hang above beaded doorways and Indonesian soap operas play on a television at the back of the restaurant.
Tropical flowers hang above beaded doorways and Indonesian soap operas play on a television at the back of the restaurant.

ABU DHABI // Buried deep in the Tourist Club's maze of international eateries is a restaurant serving what might be called good, honest food, with meatball noodle soup and fried oxtail on the menu.

The Indonesian-styled Bandung is loved by patrons for its authentic East Javanese flavour.

Popular dishes include rendang daging, braised beef cooked with cinnamon, lemon grass and galangal, and es cendol, or sweet puzzle dessert, a cool mix of tapioca, coconut milk, ice, jackfruit, brown sugar syrup and colourful gelatin.

The restaurant's 20 indoor and outdoor tables are draped with red fabric, a candle and a small saucer of dried shrimp and chilli paste.

Tropical flowers hang above beaded doorways and Indonesian soap operas play on a television at the back of the restaurant.

When the restaurant opened eight years ago it was meant to serve only savoury martabak, a rectangular crepe-like pastry filled with meats and vegetables, and sweet desserts, said Ali Al Jaberi, the restaurant's Emirati owner.

Mr Al Jaberi decided to expand the options as the venue drew a growing Indonesian clientele, although martabak is still available.

On a recent week night, as waiters rolled out carts of fried soya bean curd and rice noodle dishes cooked with sweet peanut sauce and garlic, most of the tables were full.

Muhammed Nawawi, from Java, said he stopped by the restaurant a couple of times a week on his way home from work in Musaffah.

He and his colleagues ordered siomay, floured kingfish, and nasi goreng, fried rice mixed with chicken, egg and tiny shrimp.

"When I miss home I come here," Mr Nawawi said, adding that the flavours found in the restaurant's food were unique to Java, while other local Indonesian eateries typically have a less tangy flavour from other islands - usually Sumatra.

Mr Al Jaberi works for an oil company and spent a lot of time in Indonesia before deciding to open the restaurant in his home town of Abu Dhabi.

"I wanted to introduce the culture and the taste of Indonesia here," he said. "It was difficult when it was new, but now we have customers come in from all around the world to find out about this speciality."

Muhammed Rifki, a waiter from Bali, said the baso malang - a soup made with egg noodles, ground beef meatballs and tapioca flour - was one of the most popular items.

Bandung's menu items range in price from Dh13 to Dh25 for appetisers and Dh12 to Dh35 for mains. A meal for two - an appetiser, noodles, two main dishes, dessert and two iced teas - costs about Dh95.

The restaurant is normally open daily from 11am to midnight, but during Ramadan operates between 6pm and 2am for iftars.

econroy@thenational.ae

Next week, a taste of Ethiopia at a cosy hideaway in the capital.