The Missing Rice Table 

You can’t rijsttafel in L.A., but there is Indo Kitchen

Wednesday, Sep 19 2007

Dear Mr. Gold:

Whenever we are in Amsterdam, we always try to take in an Indonesian rijsttafel or “rice table.” Do you know any Indonesian restaurants in L.A. that serve this? I know there are Indonesian deli/fast-food places around, but I was hoping for the rice-table experience. Looking forward to your response.


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Dear Lisa:

Oddly enough, rijsttafel, a feast of massive mounds of rice surrounded by as many as 40 or 50 side dishes and condiments, is more of a Dutch tradition than an Indonesian one, the colonial equivalent of the multicourse banquets made famous by the French. From what I gather, Indonesians actually find both the word and the concept distasteful, smacking of both colonialism and servitude, so you pretty much don’t see it here. (JB’s Little Bali in Inglewood was the exception, a specialist that kept it going from the ’60s through the ’90s.) The closest equivalent here is probably the nasi rames, combination plates arranged around mounds of rice, that you will find at most of the Indonesian restaurants in town. I especially like the nasi rames at the Alhambra restaurant Indo Kitchen, which offers versions of the dish from several parts of Indonesia — I am especially partial to the nasi Padang, an assemblage of spicy dishes from Sumatra, including a killer dengdeng belado, crisply fried beef in a fresh-chile sambal. You won’t find much of the ceremony — Indo Kitchen is more of a lovable dive — but the Indonesian cooking is great. 5 N. Fourth St., Alhambra, (626) 282-1676.

—Jonathan Gold

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