Simpang Asia Moves to Nicer Digs (Banana Leaf Wrapped Pouches of Goodness Still Being Offered)
I have a feeling the area around Overland and Palms is going to be one of my new favorite spots to eat. There is Sushi Central (which was featured on Bobby Flay’s Throwdown), Kogi’s Chego! is having their grand opening this week (although, sadly not for lunch yet), and of course there is Simpang Asia, one of the best Indonesian spots in the city. It might be a coincidence, but it looks like the latter is preparing for their neighborhood’s moment in the sun. At the end of last month they moved into a newly renovated space formerly occupied by their “grocery store”, which has now moved into the generic looking convenience store next door to that. The old Simpang Asia space is going to be converted into a larger kitchen to accommodate the larger restaurant.
If that means shorter wait times on Thursdays and Fridays during lunch (the place tended to fill up pretty quickly), I’m all for it! As for the food, well if you’ve ever been you know it’s pretty freakin’ awesome. Check out the new digs, plus plenty of banana leaf wrapped food porn after the jump.
Ever since a trip to Bali in 2005, I have been in love with Indonesian food. I think I ate mie goreng (fried noodles) every day for breakfast the entire week we were there, and my wife ordered nasi campur (mixed rice) practically every night for dinner. We also had our share of satay, shrimp crackers, and pisang goreng (fried bananas). And we learned to love the taste of shrimp paste. (Maybe love is a strong word… but it was a good gateway to enjoy the far funkier shrimp paste filled cuisines of Thailand and the Philippines.)
My wife works in Westwood, so we pretty quickly checked out Ramayani… which was so disappointing I didn’t even bother posting about it. Thankfully Noah (of Man Bites World and Squid Ink fame) hipped us to Simpang Asia, and now there’s no looking back.
Practically everything on Simpang Asia’s menu is under $10, but they go a step farther by offering some of the dishes as lunch specials. For $6.99 you get your choice of around 10 different dishes, plus spring roll and soup.
I’ve never met a spring roll I didn’t like, and the soup- while pretty standard for a chicken soup- was pleasantly reminiscent of the bakso ayam you find pretty much everywhere on the streets of Bali.
All of the specials feature rice with small servings of a number of other items. It’s pretty much heaven for anybody who likes variety. Nasi Uduk is an ok choice if you like tempeh and fried tofu. It also comes with shredded egg, a different soup than the regular lunch special, and tumeric yellow fried chicken- an unbreaded, but crispy piece of salty, delicious chicken. (Tumeric doesn’t really have a super strong flavor, it just gives the chicken a bit of coloring.) A bit on the simple side, but not terrible. Just not as good as the other stuff we tried.
A far better plate option is the Nasi Kuning Komplit. It’s $7.75 and not available on the lunch menu, so you don’t get the soup and spring roll, but the turmeric yellow rice alone is worth the extra couple of bucks. The kalasan chicken (which gets simmered/braised/stewed in coconut water) is sticky, and sweet, and completely delicious. And the crunchy sweet peanut mixture provides a perfect contrast to the spicy sambal and egg, and when you mix it altogether with the rice it’s pretty great. In the upper left hand corner, a perkedel (fried potato filled fritter) rounds out the dish.
Plates are fine, but the specials that come wrapped in the banana leaf are the way to go. They come to the table as a tightly wrapped and rubber banded nugget of goodness. The kind of thing that makes you wish your mom had been Indonesian, so you could have taken this to school for lunch- rather than that terrible bologna sandwich. Sure, the other kids would have made fun of you… but it would have been worth it!
Nasi bungkus is one of the banana leaf options on the lunch menu, and comes with chicken curry, beef rendang, a Balinese boiled egg, and a spicy potato dish with bits of chicken gizzard in it (don’t be afraid, it tastes like chicken!) Almost like a slightly weirder version of Nasi Rames (and wrapped in a banana leaf!) Both the chicken curry and the beef rendang were nice and tender, and the potatoes were super spicy thanks to a scoop of sambal that made it’s way into the pouch. Every couple of bites you get a nice and funky bite of shrimp paste, which made it’s way into the dish somehow (although with everything all smushed together it was tough to know which part was the culprit.)
I wasn’t a fan of their mei tek tek (similar to Ramayani’s I found the noodles too thick, and it’s way too reminiscent of Lo Mein), but as one item in a banana leaf wrapped lunch special? I’ll take it!
The Nasi Warteg, one of the “Simpang Style” specialities (Simpang is a region of Indonesia on the Island that is closest to Singapore) featured a scoop of mie tek tek plus a leg of the turmeric fried chicken, a jackfruit curry, tempeh, and a fried egg with sambarl over the top (telor ceplok balado). On the plate lunch, the tempeh was a little too dry and boring- but mixed together with all the stuff in the banana leaf it provided a nice nuttiness to the jackfruit curry (which has a consistency somewhere between potatoes, yucca and artichoke hearts.)
Not every single part of every single dish at Simpang Asia is a winner, but there are so many different nasi dishes to choose from it’s pretty easy to put together a lunch tailored to your tastes. And while Chego is now the most famous rice bowl restaurant in the area, it will still take a lot for me to forgo the old school, banana leaf wrapped goodness of Simpang Asia.
- Best Indonesian food in L.A.
- Now with new, bigger digs!
- The banana leaf wrapped pouches are so much fun
- I love variety, and their rice plates give you so many different tastes
- Has a lot of unique items, but the beef rendag and chicken curry are “normal” enough for that picky office mate
- The mie goreng is way too sweet (and too much like lo mein)
- I don’t like it when my food touches
Simpang Asia, 10433 National Blvd. (btw. Motor & Overland), 310-815-9075