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Satay Sarinah, Rare Mom-n-Pop Indonesian at Van Dorn Station in South Alexandria - Closed and Hopefully Relocating


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This weekend, friends of mine took me to eat at Satay Sarinah in Alexandria in the Van Dorn Station.
It was Indonesian food. I'm no expert, as I always think Malaysian and Indonesian are similar, but I did enjoy the food.
We started with a variety of satays- lamb, beef and chicken- nice and smokey.
I ordered the Spicy Rujak salad, it was cabbage, sprouts and carrots with the spicy peanut sauce, covered with shrimp chips- good, not the best i've had though.
For entree, I had the Rengdang Daging- beef slow cooked in a gingery stew- also very delicious. I like the side of curried pickles. I also sampled my eating companions' lamb shank which was very tasty.
I think for the price (8-12 dollars), this place was pretty good.

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I think for the price (8-12 dollars), this place was pretty good.

Agreed, it is pretty good, and perhaps more importantly, it's one of the only Indonesian restaurants in the Washington, DC area. Off the top of my head, I can't think of another one other than Sabang in Wheaton (I heard Sabang is closed, is this true?)

Lumpia Goreng ($4) were homemade, and decent spring rolls, Krupuk Udang ($3), the shrimp chips, are less important as conduits for the palate-cleansing Acar Kuning ($3), than they are as some quick chips to stave off hunger. The best appetizer of the four was the Sate Ayam ($9), which was about six skewers of well-grilled, mostly dark-meat chicken served atop a peanut-based sauce.

The entrees here were reasons enough to return. Ayam Goreng Bogor ($10) is their house-specialty Bogor fried chicken, a half-chicken, gently marinated and well-roasted, and served with a dipping sauce and a scoop of pretty good rice. Gulai Kambing ($11) is a house-special lamb curry, and despite it looking somewhat dull, both the lamb and the mild sauce were super tasty, especially spooned over the rice, and worth ordering again.

Desserts included a store-bought green tea ice cream ($2.50) and a more interesting Es Campur ($2.95), a mix of shaved ice, canned fruits such as jackfruit, pineapple, and grass jelly, coconut milk and pandan syrup, to be eventually spooned together into a dessert soup.

Satay Sarinah has been under new ownership for a year, so you can take most every review you've seen about it, and throw it away. However, the new owners are a charming young Indonesian couple - the husband is the chef, and the wife is the GM. While I'm not going to sit here and say this place was "great," I will say that it's a good, solid, neighborhood restaurant, and precisely the type of mom-n-pop that I root for. I would happily eat here again, and especially if I lived in the area, would put this in my regular carryout rotation - the importance of carryout business for a restaurant such as this cannot be overstated.

"Thank you for coming into my restaurant," the GM said, before the meal even started, and she meant it. How often do you hear that?

Cheers,

Rocks.

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Agreed, it is pretty good, and perhaps more importantly, it's one of the only Indonesian restaurants in the Washington, DC area. Off the top of my head, I can't think of another one other than Sabang in Wheaton (I heard Sabang is closed, is this true?)

Old news, but Sabang apparently was sold quite abruptly, and tragically in toto... which meant all of the fabulous Indonesian art and artifacts were unceremoniously thrown out by the new restaurant. The Sarinah folks were heartbroken to hear about it, but it was too late.

Anyway.

I've had a hankering for Indonesian for a few days, so off we went tonight.

Sadly, neither Nick nor I can bear to deviate from our regular order. Yes, we KNOW there are many other tasty things on the menu, but our tastebuds want what they want:

Indonesian coffee. mmmmm.

Bakwan Jagung: fried corn cakes. It's like taking large spoonfuls of spoonbread and deep-frying them. Tender, juicy, full of corn, and crispily greasy too. $5

Kroket Kentang: fried and breaded mashed potatoes filled with ground meat and bits of carrots, served with peanut sauce. $4

Krupuk Udang: shrimp chips. large and solid, these are not the lighter-than-air incarnations. we fight over making sure we each get exactly half. $3

Nasi Goreng Jawa Deluxe: spicy fried rice with marinated chicken, shrimp, and egg, served with small shrimp chips and pickled vegetables. deluxe comes with an egg on top and a skewer of beef satay. We get two of these. We can't help it. We brought Nick's parents once, in hopes of getting to try more of the menu, and we just ended up with *three* Nasi Goreng Jawas. Very sad, but Oh! So Tasty. $11

I've been going to Satay Sarinah for four years or so, and I will say that the all of these recipes have stayed remarkably stable over the transition to new ownership: the only difference I've noted is the Nasi Goreng now has shrimp in it too. (I don't particularly like shrimp, but Nick happily takes my leavings— I take his pickle in trade.) But every time I go in, I've been treated as an honored old friend, and each time I am grateful that somehow, they've managed to stay in business.

It's quite inexpensive, and well worth the trip. Even if it is in the middle of strip-mall Alexandria.

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I had the best meal at Satay Sarinah tonight I've ever had there (descriptions copied verbatim from their online menu):

#9 Batagor ($8) - Fish cakes, tofu, beef dumpling, crab dumpling, potatoes, cucumbers, onion chips, served with spicy Peanut sauce. (At $8, this entree-sized appetizer is a steal.)

#20 Bebek Goreng ($11.95) - Deep-fried duck, vegetable of the day, onion chips, jasmine rice.

#22 Rendang ($12.95) - Spicy beef stew with slow-cooked beef, Jakarta salad, onion chips and jasmine rice.

#43 Ketoprak / Sarinah Ketoprak Dis ($8) - A very traditional dish prepared with tofu, rice noodles, and bean-sprouts, topped with a garlic peanut sauce and shrimp chips.

I'm extraordinarily busy these days, but wanted to make a special effort to write about this mom-n-pop - one of the most underrated restaurants in the area, and a rare example of authentic Indonesian cuisine. Enthusiastically upgraded in the Dining Guide.

Cheers,

Rocks.

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I wonder why there are two or three Malaysian restaurants in the DC area, but only one Indonesian? I'm going to guess it has to do with colonial history but I really don't know.

Barbara and I were over there a few weeks ago, after the big snowstorm. I was going to wait to write about it until we got back for a second trip, but changed my mind since Don gave it a glowing endorsement. Try the spicy grilled chicken. It's a large portion of chicken grilled and sauced perfectly. There's a little char around the edges and on the skin, but the chicken is still juicy inside. The sauce is spicy, but not so hot it overwhelms the other flavors. Barbara kept saying the shrimp balado I was having was better, and I kept saying that the chicken she was having was better.

Don, is the rendang a very wet dish like a stew or is it a very thick sauce, almost dry? I wish I could describe it better. The Malaysian version is cooked for hours and hours until the water in the sauce almost completely boils away, leaving mostly the coconut oil and spices.

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Don, is the rendang a very wet dish like a stew or is it a very thick sauce, almost dry? I wish I could describe it better. The Malaysian version is cooked for hours and hours until the water in the sauce almost completely boils away, leaving mostly the coconut oil and spices.

It's a wet dish, definitely like a stew, but it's long-cooked and thick, with some pretty large chunks of beef in it.

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Bump.

Went here again last week; still the same comforting food. They'd been experimenting with late-night hookah for a while, but I didn't see any in evidence this last trip. The shrimp chip appetizer is no longer the large dense chips, but that's ok. I like shrimp chips any way I can get them. And, no matter how long it has been since my last visit, the charming GM knows exactly what I want to eat, asks how my school is going, and asks after Nicks parents. These are good folks, and this is good food. Go.

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I had dinner here last Saturday evening and forgot to bump this topic. This is a restaurant that I still just love. I started off with Lumpiah (Indonesian crispy spring roll filled with chicken and bamboo shoots) which are still probably my favorite "fried spring roll" variant that I've ever tried. It's probably a combination of the lighter wrapper and filling. (Sorry no pics of this.)

My main dish was the ever-popular--well, I order it a lot and I saw two other tables get it as well--Rames village platter (Steamed rice served with chicken with coconut sauce, spicy green bean, beef and chicken satay, twice cooked egg, and shrimp chips) which is nice in that it's like a mini-Rijstaffel (the big sampler tasting meal I have yet to attempt):

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All sort of different flavors, which is why I like to order this. Indeed, I'm not usually one for hard-boiled eggs--okay, I hate nearly all I try--but this version is the one I just love. Maybe it's the frying, the spicy sauce, who knows, but telur balado is a yummy treat.

And, being in an Indonesian restaurant, my beverage for the evening is the traditional chocolate avocado smoothie:

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If you've never had one, you should try it; it helps soothe any extra heat from the food and has a great taste. The avocado lends a creamy note to a great chocolate flavor. (I will note that it wasn't quite as smooth as I like, so I might tell them to blend the ice even more the next time. I've noticed it tends to be more ice-chunky during busy times since they probably don't like to run the blender when there are a lot of people.)

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The restaurant wasn't all that far from my office, but just enough out of the way that I never made it there over several years. I promise that if they reopen somewhere, I will become at least a semi-regular patron.  My wife and I have a couple of fond memories of having rijsttafel, and I had wanted to try it here.

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