As if Tempo Doeloe, nearby on Buford Highway, wasn’t overlooked enough in this fool hobby of ours, there’s another Indonesian restaurant that is also not getting much in the way of blogger attention. Batavia is also a combination grocery store and restaurant. It’s located on Shallowford in the same decrepit but extremely busy shopping center as the very good Colombian restaurant Casa Vieja. Batavia has a fenced-in patio section, which was perfect for our overstimulated toddler to run laps. There were at least eight kids at the late-night bakery and taqueria next door. Both before the meal and once he’d had enough of the indoors and wanted to run around outside some more, the toddler squealed and giggled his hellos at all the other kids playing out there. What a vibrant and wonderful place.
We met up with Emily and Adam from Spatialdrift one Saturday before Christmas. As is customary, Emily got a story up shortly afterward. You don’t have to wait weeks to find out what was eaten when you follow that blog, I’ll tell you. Their friends Ashley and Steven, and his sister Lesley, also joined us, so we had a decently-sized group of people not all that familiar with Indonesian cooking ready to try out some new things.
Marie suggested that we all start off with shrimp crackers. She, being one-half Dutch, knows these as kroepoek udang, but that’s only because people in the Netherlands like nothing so much as extra and unnecessary vowels. In Indonesia, these are more sensibly called krupuk, and are sold in bags in the grocery store. These are a very cheap starter for any party, since they’ll give you three for a dollar. Everything here is priced really well, with huge portions of tasty food.
I had an order of Tahu kacang, fried tofu with peanut dipping sauce. At only three bucks, I was expecting a small saucer about a third the size of what they actually gave me. These were certainly passed around for everybody to enjoy. Marie kept things very simple since we couldn’t predict how the toddler would respond to the unfamiliar flavors here and just had an order of Nasi goreng, fried rice. This is just basic and simple comfort food, done well.
Adam and I each ordered a combo dish called Nasi padang. It comes with rice with veggies, an egg drowned in a very hot sauce – about which more momentarily – along with spiced chicken, and excellent beef rendang. I’ve never had a bad taste of rendang; this might be my favorite in the city. Everybody really enjoyed the new flavors and tantalizing spices. Ashley ordered Bakmi ayam, a dish with steamed egg noodles, chicken, veggies, and meatball fried wontons and said that it was very good, too.
The bad boy, however, was an awesome dish called Sambal goreng (not pictured), which is shrimp and sator beans drowned in some sort of red insanity pepper lava. Emily and Adam figured they’d split an order of that. Stoically, Adam muscled through, his jaw set rigid for much of the dish, perhaps reasoning that extra oxygen in his mouth would cause it to spark. Emily wasn’t certain whether she was having an immediate allergic reaction to the beans or whether it really was that hot, and retired, light-headed and red-skinned, after about two-thirds of her half. I finished the other third and confirmed it really was that hot. At one point, I crunched down on some uncracked pepper and was reminded of a tooth that I’d quite forgotten was in my mouth. Anybody keeping a list of the Atlanta area’s spiciest dishes needs to add this one, because it is a treat.
Batavia is a terrific destination for anybody curious about a cuisine that is seriously underrepresented in our community and in our hobby. I’d love to see more bloggers visiting here, and also Tempo Doeloe, and spreading the word about this very neat food, prepared in an authentic style and not compromised for American palates and standards. I have gone back to Tempo Doeloe since writing that earlier entry, by the way, and enjoyed their excellent lunch buffet, but Batavia’s food is every bit as good and priced even better. Bring a crowd and sample all the things!
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