Located on the northeast corner of Rose and Motor avenues in Palms, Simpang Asia has become a local hangout for the Indonesian community as well as those who seek tasty, traditional Indonesian food.
Owner Leni Kumalasari hails from Malang in East Java and is a warm and welcoming host. She opened the cafe in 2008 and added the adjoining grocery store about a year ago (previously Cheviot Farms).
The menu takes some time to decipher if you’re not familiar with Indonesian dishes. Nasi Bungkus is basically a banana leaf rice wrap with meat, egg and vegetables. Simpang Asia's is made with chicken curry and beef rendang (beef slowly cooked in coconut milk and spices), a hard-boiled egg, spiced potato with bits of chicken gizzard, liver and vegetables sitting on top of the rice. All the ingredients are cooked individually and then wrapped in the banana leaf.
The restaurant also serves a vegetarian version called Sayur Bungkus, which I highly recommend. This delicious rice wrap is filled with vegetable curry, tofu tempeh, balado egg (hard-boiled egg cooked in a spicy chile sauce) and a vegetable fritter. It’s like unwrapping a present as you unfold the banana leaf and are presented with a colorful, steaming feast. The leaf retains moisture and flavor and the diced tempeh adds a tasty “meaty” texture.
I wanted extra protein so I ordered Tahu Tempeh Kuning, deep fried tofu and tempeh. I wish this had come with a dipping sauce, but I simply added it to my Sayur Bungkus instead.
I also ordered a spider (Bakwan) appetizer, which is a platter of deep-fried vegetable fritters served with a sweet and sour sauce. This reminded me of vegetable tempura—crispy on the outside and somewhat doughy on the inside, and not too greasy.
You’ll also find soups, salads, noodle dishes and quite a few chicken dishes on the menu, including Ayam Goreng Kuning (turmeric fried chicken) and Ayam Bakar (grilled chicken marinated with sweet soy sauce). One of the most popular dishes is the Nasi Rames, a rice platter with spiced chicken curry, tofu tempeh and beef rendang.
For dessert I had the traditional Dadar Gulung, a green crepe filled with coconut and brown sugar. This dish can be served warm or cold. I had mine cold, and it was the perfect ending to a delicious Indonesian meal.
After your meal be sure to head to Simpang Asia's adjoining grocery store and pick up a few Asian items from the huge selection.
Simpang Asia, 10433 National Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90034, 310-815-9075
Hours: Mon.–Fri. 11 a.m.-12 a.m., Sat. and Sun. 10 a.m.–12 a.m.