Gio Tondas is from Pelambang in the Indonesian province of South Sumatra. He opened Famili Ria with brothers Marco and Velix, and mum Hana, in 2013. Although Melbourne already had a number of Indonesian restaurants, none were dedicated to pempek, or fish cakes.

Groups of Indonesian students from nearby universities Swinburne and Deakin make up a large portion of the diners, but Famili Ria’s fish cakes have attracted a loyal following among Indonesians all over the city for their taste and authenticity. The restaurant has a range of pempek, including the egg-filled kapal selam (meaning “submarine” in Indonesian) and a curly keriting style.

Pempek are made with Spanish mackerel, eggs and tapioca flour, and served either deep-fried or boiled with a spicy vinegar sauce called cuko made from palm sugar, dark vinegar, garlic and lots of chilli. It’s designed to be slurped liberally as you chew.

Famili Ria also specialises in another Indonesian favourite, bakmi ayam: a “dry” noodle soup found all over South-East Asia, made with wheat noodles coated in lard, served with marinated chicken, steamed greens, a fried wonton and most importantly, broth served on the side (hence the term “dry”) to preserve the flavours of the ingredients.

The restaurant is located on Riversdale Road at the end of the 70 tram line, directly across from Wattle Park in Surrey Hills. It’s a small, bright space and, for the uninitiated, has a large menu on the wall featuring photos of almost every dish.

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Updated: July 18th, 2018

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