Cinta is a casual restaurant where you’ll find plenty of Indonesian street-food favourites. But its signature dish is the banana leaf-wrapped nasi bakar (which means “burnt” or “grilled” rice). The street-food staple sees steamed rice wrapped tightly in a banana leaf and secured with a toothpick before being steamed and finally grilled. In addition to rice, the burnt-green package is usually also filled with beef, chicken, salted fish, tofu or a variety of other hearty ingredients.

At Cinta (which means “love” in Indonesian), it’s available on its own or as part of a set that comes with fiery sambal, rice crackers, and fried tempeh and tofu. The all-halal menu also includes chicken satay, gado gado, grilled whole barramundi, and bagator (fried fish dumplings with peanut sauce).

To drink there’s teh tarik, a milk tea popular in Southeast Asia; Milo dinosaurs (iced Milo topped with Milo powder); sweet guava juice; mung bean juice; and more.

In the kitchen (mostly at the charcoal grill) is chef and co-owner Mawar Mardi, who cooked at various street-food spots in Indonesia before immigrating to Australia with her husband, Cinta co-owner Aladin Mohamed. The duo, who also run Indo Eats in Werribee, kept neighbourhood demographics in mind when crafting Cinta’s menu. It overlooks family-friendly Lincoln Square and is close to the University of Melbourne – so many of the menu items sit at reasonable prices.

The nourishing food and drink is matched by the restaurant’s atmosphere. Cinta is an inviting space with bright yellow chairs, tropical print wallpaper and an outdoor seating area shaded by vibrant red umbrellas, extending the lively communal dining atmosphere onto the street.

When you’re ready to pay at the counter, you can browse a mini grocery section stocked with a range of hard-to-find Indonesian snacks including crisp peanuts, fish-ball crackers and fried butternut-pumpkin wafers to take home.

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Updated: August 11th, 2023

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