1945 Dutch East Indies Cuisine is an Indonesian restaurant located in the apartment-dense suburb of Pyrmont that specialises in authentic Dutch East Indies cuisine.
Dutch East Indies cuisine? Say what Willis?
Back in the day colonial Dutch living in Indonesia would serve an elaborate feast of epic proportions knows as a Rijsttafel (aka Rice Table). Traditionally a mound of rice was served first followed by a plethora of small dishes (sometimes up to as many as 40 dishes) with the aim of showcasing the abundance of exotic spices and variety of cuisines throughout the Indonesian archipelago.
My intrepid workmates (from jobs of yesteryear) Mr American and Snooze accompany me to Pyrmont for our adventure into Dutch East Indies cuisine.
At first, perusing the menu at 1945 is a little overwhelming until we “get” that the idea is to order lots of small dishes to share between us in order to get a taste of many different flavours - similar to the concept of Spanish Tapas. Many of the items on the menu are priced per piece so I guess if you’re with a big group it might be better to go for one of the available banquets to keep your wallet happy.
Our waitress Lenny is super helpful in helping us pick some dishes and we start our banquet with Ajam Boemboe Roedjak ($5.00 per piece). This is quite a mild dish of aromatic grilled chicken simmered in exotic blend of spices. A nice way to start the evening.
Lenny also suggests we try Oerap Sajoer ($7.00) a small dish of blanched vegetables tossed in spices, grated coconut served jauntily in a coconut shell. This is a fairly simple dish, however the crunch of the vegetables and grated coconut are a lovely combination - the dish feels light, fresh and healthy.
Snooze was insistent that we try the Rendang Daging ($6.00) and she met with no resistance from Mr America and myself. This dish was lovely, tender beef braised in aromatic spices and rich coconut cream. I think I remember Snooze saying this was her favourite dish.
My absolutely 100% favourite dish of the night (that I cannot stop thinking about) was ordered from the specials board – and man was it special! The Odeng Saos Padang ($24.00) is an AMAZING tasting dish of King Prawns cooked in an aromatic sweet and spicy sauce. The prawns were big and juicy, but it was the sauce, reminiscent of the sauce that comes with Singapore Chilli Crab, that had me hooked. I’d be happy just eating a bowl of the sauce with rice to be perfectly honest with you.
Another winner (for me anyway) was the Igar Bakar ($15.00) - grilled marinated pork ribs that are drizzled with fried garlic oil and served with and served with a shrimp chilli sauce. Seriously, if you're into ribs this is the dish to have...forget Tony Roma's or Hurricanes.
The last of the dishes for the night is Kangkoeng Tjah Odeng ($15.00) – stir fried water spinach with tiger prawns in shrimp paste. A simple and mild dish that is a nice counterbalance to some of the more meaty dishes of the night.
To go with our meals both Snooze and I order a Nasi Bakar Wangi ($5.00) - mini whitebait coconut rice grilled in banana leaf. We’d noticed whitebait appearing on the menu quite a lot so this seemed like a good chance to try it. The whitebait was rolled inside the rice and gave it an interesting texture – a bit of salty crunch.
We received an Assorted Crackers Basket (normally $8.00) as a complimentary side – oh the perks of being a famous blogger! This was actually a great little side dish and so much better than your standard Prawn Crackers. As well as the standard prawn cracker the basket hide a plethora of cracker gems such as Bitternut crackers, Soybean crackers AND (drum roll please) BEEF CRACKLING! The beef crackling was great – puffed up pieces of deep fried skin – drool.
Because we're all clutching our belly's by this stage we decide to share just the one dessert and we finish the night with an Es Tjendol ($7.00, plus $2.00 for the addition of grass jelly). This is basically the same as Ais Cendol I've had in Malaysian restaurants, however the ability to add "extras" such as Grass Jelly, Jackfruit or Durian was unique. The sweet mix of condensed milk, pandan jelly "worms", palm sugar and the simple tasting Grass Jelly is the perfect note to end our feast on.
Our night out at 1945 was great. Not only were both the food and service exceptional, I really enjoyed trying a totally new cuisine. I’d love to come back here for a family dinner and order the banquet – a little something for everyone.
1945 Dutch East Indies Cuisine is at 2/42 Harris Street, Pyrmont.