Tomorrow, August 17th, is Indonesian Independence Day. I admit, it wasn’t on my calendar either, but yesterday, when I made my second trip to Julia’s Indonesian Kitchen, a new little mom-and-pop joint across the street from Whole Foods in Ravenna, Julia had put a little sign up. So now I know. And knowing is half the battle.
At Julia’s, half of the battle is learning when and when not to go.
Go when you want good, hearty Indonesian comfort food like deeply satisfying Javanese fried chicken, or risoles, essentially Indonesian chicken hot pockets that deserve a smothering dip in peanut sauce before you shovel them down.
Certainly do not go if you you’re in a big rush.
Go when you feel like you should eat a salad, but don’t really feel like all the healthiness that the word salad implies; in this case, order Julia’s gado-gado betawi, crisp lettuces topped with egg, tofu, puffy onion crisps, and a peanut sauce spiked with floral kaffir lime leaf.
Don’t go if you you’re afraid of fried foods, because if you walk in the door, you’ll need to order a plate of the supermoist Ayem Goreng Kremes Tante Julia (just order S3) for the table. (This is not optional.) This is another fried chicken, and it’s different from the Javanese-style chicken: it’s first braised, then fried, and served with hundreds of little shards of what tastes like a fried version of that miraculous fatty layer between a chicken’s skin and its meat, but is really chicken stock mixed with flour and deep fried. These bits, tiny, crisp versions of the very best part of a well-roasted chicken’s crackling skin, should be bottled and sold as a salad topping, if you ask me. After our meal (and a delicious black rice pudding), I found stray crispy chicken bits stuck to my forearm, where I’d pressed it into the glass tabletop. I ate them, of course. I’m pretty sure I’d eat them off the floor, given the opportunity.
Go if you want to speak Dutch. Indonesia was once a Dutch colony, after all, and the owner’s husband still speaks well. The first time, I went with a friend who lived in Holland until age 3, and she got a good earful.
Don’t go if you’re trying to lose weight: Even the lunch-size portions of the rijstafel are pretty filling.
Please, give me a call, and go when I go: On both occasions, I found Julia’s completely deserted, which surprised and disappointed me, given how much I liked most of the food. I think I’d enjoy it a whole lot more if it felt like a place more people wanted to go.
And for God’s sake, please don’t go via bicycle. That’s what I did. Made for a tough trip back up our hill. Fried chicken is not a cyclist’s best friend.
So now you know. You should probably also know that Julia is a friend’s mother, which is why I went (and tried Indonesian food for the first time) in the first place.
But go – it’s cheap, filling, and delicious, and the owners couldn’t be more excited about bringing Indonesian food to Ravenna.