Restaurant Review #73: Ramayani Indonesian Cuisine, Westwood

I chose Ramayani for my first Indonesian food experience because, well, it seems to be the only choice on the Westside. I put off this adventure for a while though because from looking at the menu in the window, I couldn't see how the food would be any different from Thai food. I've already had Thai about a million times due to the obscene number of Thai restaurants that were located within walking distance of my college, and I often look for something new to me when I'm going out to eat, so I wasn't sure this would cut it.

At 7 pm on a Thursday, the restaurant was largely unoccupied, but I'm not sure why, except maybe that Indonesian food is unfamiliar to most people and therefore not particularly popular. According to the reviews I've read, Ramayani is one of the best Indonesian restaurants in Los Angeles (of course, you can never be sure who wrote those reviews), so I might have expected it to be busier. I wouldn't go here on a date or with anyone else I was trying to impress, but the very casual atmosphere and $10 entrees are perfect for a casual meal with a friend.

The noodles you see above were pleasantly spicy and very tasty, sweet yet salty. My only complaint was the inclusion of brocolli and carrots in the dish, since I don't like them. I'm sure that the spices used in Indonesian and Thai food are different, but I couldn't tell you what those differences are after tasting this dish.

Chicken in a coconut milk sauce

The restaurant is small, and its ten or so tables form an L-shape with booths making up the stem of the L. A large TV in the front corner of the restaurant was turned up very loud and turned to a news station--not a welcome addition to my meal, and my main complaint about the restaurant.

Our server was a very quiet older man who scarcely understood English ("Is there shrimp in this?" was unintelligible to him, but he did ask if egg was okay when I ordered my noodles vegetarian). If you don't speak the language, I think it's best to point to what you want on the menu, and if you're allergic to something, good luck finding out ahead of time if it's going to show up in your food or not. In spite of the language barrier, there were no problems with the meal, and our water was refilled regularly.

Though the atmosphere at Ramayani leaves something to be desired, the food does not. An extensive and varied menu offers something for everyone, vegetarians included. In addition to twelve appetizers and many, many main dishes, Ramayani also has an extensive menu of sweet drinks, including the ever popular boba tea. There seem to be enough similarities between Thai and Indonesian food that if you like one, you'll like the other.

I barely poked at my friend's chicken dish--I generally find coconut-milk-based sauces uninteresting (except for the one I make, of course), so I wasn't really into it. Her dish came with some interesting sides--one was like salty puffed rice cereal (not a winner with either of us) and the other was a hard boiled then deep fried (I think) egg with a red pepper sambal (I think) that reminded me of a red pepper based relish I often ate in Spain called pisto.

Fish cake soup

This soup was very spicy--almost too spicy, but not quite (I'd say I have a slightly above average heat tolerance). The broth was richly flavored, and the fish cakes had a fascinating texture. Casava, also known as tapioca, is a staple food in Indonesia and prominently featured in the small, rectangular fish cakes. I just loved the gooey texture. This soup did not keep well at all as a leftover, because much like the tapioca pearls in boba tea, these fish cakes got soggy on the outside and dry and cakey on the inside--but that's just how cassava is.

Chicken Stew

1777 Westwood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90024-5607
(310) 477-3315


elmomonster said...

I just discovered your blog through a link on Daily Gluttony. I had to chime in on the excellent report you did on Ramayani. Being from Indonesia and loving the food, I'm always tickled to hear another perspective on the food of my youth. Looks like you had a good meal, although the fish soup you had actually and usually isn't a soup, but a fish cake doused in sour, hot and sweet sauce - it is called "empek empek". Funny that it looked like a soup though.

I'm working my way through all your other posts!

moonchilde said...

If you're looking for alternative Indonesian food, try the Indo Cafe, 10428 1/2 National Blvd.,West L.A. (between Mentone and Motor)
(310) 815-1290. I like the food and the dining atmosphere, though service is slow. Another choice for informal/takeout Indonesian is directly across National in the mini-mall: Simpang Asia. This started out as an Asian grocery but they now have a small cafe attached which serves the entire Indonesian population of UCLA students, I think. Simple, 'like mom used to make' Indonesian food you won't find on a lot of regular menus, dirt cheap.