I am yet to experience Indonesia in the physical sense however last night my tastebuds were transported there, courtesy of Garamerica.
Located in a quiet pocket of South Melbourne, Garamerica sits comfortably between residential and commercial properties on Dorcas Street, just one block back from the usually busy Clarendon Street.
As we walked into the restaurant, we were greeted warmly by the host, promptly directed to a table, handed menus and asked if we would like any drinks to start with. I love efficient service.
With two Asahi’s ordered and delivered before I could say: “We should have gone with the Bintang” it was onto the menu. The first thing I noticed when perusing both the menu and restaurant floor was the authenticity of the place. More than a tagline at the top of a menu, Garamerica: Authentic Indonesian Restaurant, appeared to be the real deal. Not only were we quite possibly the only non-Indonesian patrons in a rather busy restaurant, but the menu doesn’t cater for any campers looking for a night of spring rolls and basic stir-fries.
Ironically, for entrée we started with Lumpia Goreng, an Indonesian spring roll (what did I say about campers before?) with a chilli dipping sauce. Less ironically we continued with Martabaktelor, deep fried savoury pancakes filled with minced beef and onion and served with a pickle and chilli dipping sauce and finally, Perkedel, deep fried and seasoned mashed potato.
The spring rolls were fine, although served ridiculously hot, as if taken out of the deep fryer only seconds before they hit our table – efficient service can be taken too far. The pancakes were interesting, if maybe a little dull, but it was the Perkedel that stole the show. Light and fluffy, they were seasoned beautifully with kaffir lime leaf and another flavour that I just couldn’t bed down. Regardless, a good start.
With our tastebuds suitably stimulated, it was onto the mains which had been chosen on advice given by our waitress. First to arrive was an unnamed special of chicken, served crispy and doused in a chilli ‘sauce’ not unlike a salsa. It was accompanied by rice. The flavour in this dish was indescribable. Slightly hot, slightly sour, crispy and delicious, we were not going to regret allowing the waitress to select our dishes.
Next, two final dishes, served in quick succession. Sopbuntut, an ox tail soup cooked in a clear broth and served with thin slices of carrot and tomato, and the quintessentially Indonesian dish, Beef Rendang. The Rendang was generous in both proportions and flavour. The meat was tender and the sauce was the right mix of creaminess and spice. Just delicious. Not for the faint of heart, the ox tail soup was intense in flavour. Like Vegemite, I could slurp the broth for breakfast, lunch and tea. Incredible.
So all-in-all, an enjoyable evening and somewhere I would definitely recommend to anyone after an authentic dining experience. Prompt, attentive service and a bill that won’t stretch even the most conservative budget.
Garamerica: 230 Dorcas Street, South Melbourne. Ph: 9696 2192