Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Simpang Asia

With the sheer number of different types of ethnic cuisines at one's disposal in Los Angeles, choosing a dinner spot is always great fun and presents the opportunity to try something new. In this spirit, I recently visited Simpang Asia to get my first taste of Indonesian food.

Simpang Asia sits in a tiny complex on National Boulevard near Motor Avenue. Although the area is better known as an alternative to traffic on the 10W than a dining hot spot, it has received more attention thanks to recent notable additions such as Roy Choi's brick-and-mortar restaurant Chego.

Simpang Asia

In stark contrast to its rough-and-tumble exterior, Simpang Asia's design is surprisingly sleek with a warm color palette and modern wall decals. The restaurant would fit right in with restaurants in downtown LA.

Simpang Asia

Our table began with an order of lumpia semarang ($2.95), an Indonesian eggroll filled with chicken, shrimp and vegetables. Although I enjoyed the crunch of the lumpia and the sweet dipping sauce, the rolls themselves were disappointing; I could taste neither the chicken nor the shrimp and had to refer to the menu to remind myself of what was supposed to be in them.

Lumpia Semarang @ Simpang Asia

We also ordered the pansit goreng ($3.00), or fried wontons. With their low filling-to-wonton ratio and the unpleasant acidic kick of the meat, these fried bites were more disappointing than our first appetizer.

Pangsit Goreng @ Simpang Asia

For our entree, my friend and I both ordered the gule kambing ($7.50), a lamb curry made with shallots, garlic cloves, lemongrass and coconut milk. Although the curry's flavor was pleasant, it was surprisingly mild considering its flavorful ingredients. While I am unfamiliar with the dish, I would have enjoyed stronger hints of either lemongrass or coconut milk in the curry.

Gule Kambing (Lamb Curry) @ Simpang Asia

J ordered the nasi besek ($8.99), a tasting plate including yellow fried chicken, curry pickles, egg curry, spiced potatoes, mild curried long beans with beef liver, fried rice noodles, shredded spiced coconut and hot chili mix. J enjoyed sampling many different flavors on one plate, and I happily stole a few bites of the fried chicken and noodles.

Nasi Besek @ Simpang Asia

Although our dinner at Simpang Asia was enjoyable enough, I was not sufficiently impressed to rush back. I'm interested to hear your thoughts on this one: Did I order the wrong dishes? Did we go to the wrong place? Or am I just unfamiliar with the cuisine?

Simpang Asia
10433 National Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 9034
(310) 815-9075

Simpang Asia on Urbanspoon

12 comments:

  1. If that's all you ordered, you ordered the wrong dishes. The nasi plates are the way to go (especially the ones wrapped in banana leaf). Not every single dish is a winner, but they are the best things Simpang serves.

    Also, Indonesian coconut milk curries tend to be far more mild than Thai curries... so if you were expecting that you could be disappointed.

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  2. @Zach, I was hoping you'd respond! I did like the nasi plate. And re: the curry, it sort of had no flavor, which I just thought was strange, but it's supposed to be like that?

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  3. Wrong dishes - I agree with Zach that the banana leaf dishes are the ones to go with. Ask them what they recommend too. When my group of 6 went, we just asked them to order us their most popular stuff and all of it was great!

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  4. It's so hard to know what to order at new places. Good thing we have our blogger friends to give us the 411. Will have to remember the banana leaf suggestions if I ever make it there!

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  5. The two appetizers you ordered are Chinese influenced dishes and not particularly "Indonesian"

    Our gule kambing does tend to be milder (especially the US renditions of them) though I haven't had Simpang Asia's, if you want strong flavors (not necessarily of lemongrass or coconut milk, but spice) go with the rendang.

    And yes, their banana leaf wrapped rice dishes are the way to go.
    With places like this it's best to go w/ someone or just ask the waitresses for recommendations.

    Simpang offers a lot of dishes, and a lot of rotating ones too, and doesn't always do a great job at them, but we Indonesians like them because w/ the lack of Indo restaurants around, their rotating entrees may be our only chance to eat that dish without going home.

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  6. @Fel: I thought I should order the banana leaves but didn't like any of the fillings...

    @Diana: Agreed. It is here that I defer to the experts.

    @Burumun: I'll definitely remember the rendang. I just wanted more flavor, in general, from the curry. Also, I hear you about ordering less than stellar dishes simply because they remind you of home; I eat some sub-par Hawaiian food just for a taste of Hawaii!

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  7. I haven't blogged about it, but I really liked my visit to Simpang Asia. We had the nasi bungkus, bubur ayam, ayam kalasan, rendang, kwe tiau goreng sapi, and lemper. My dining companions were white but had lived in Indonesia. :)

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  8. i usually get the nasi bungkus and nasi rames.. oh, and the durian shake as well :) tempted to try the laksa but I bet it won't be as good as my moms

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  9. Okay, I'm writing down all the dishes I should get and gonna head over there ASAP! I've been craving some ethnic... Well, at least I'll get a delicious Korean home-cooked meal tonight! :)

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  10. looks like a lot of fried eatings there. indonesian...mmmmm....

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  11. I've never been, but looks like there's quite a few good recs on this comment thread! :)

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  12. nasi bungkus, ayam goreng kuning, mie ayam, nasi rames, nasi campur, nasi tegal, cah kangkung, gado-gado...and the "arem-arem ayam" is yum! all my friends loved them all. my boyfriend's fav is nasi bungkus!

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