If there’s one way to test the quality and ambition of an Indonesian restaurant, it’s through its sambal. A good one will have at least one pungent, spicy combo. A great one may have two. The Sambal on Kent, a new Indonesian restaurant in the centre of the CBD, has seven. “Western people know sambal as just chilli, there’s lots of different kinds of sambal,” says Nessiana Pamudji.
Pamudji and her partner, Ferry Tshai, are the owners. They have worked previously in kitchens at well-known venues such as Bar H, Billy Kwong and China Diner, but now they’re serving a cuisine they’re much more attached to – traditional Indonesian food. “All the recipes are my mum's. I thought her food was the best so why shouldn’t we share it with everyone,” says Pamudji.
The sambals here include a vicious tomato; a chunky eggplant version; a mild potato and chicken liver; and two different anchovy-based sambals. Each comes on a small plate to be used as a dip for the rest of the menu – recognisable dishes such as rending; sate ayam; nasi goreng; Indonesian fried chicken; and a few lesser-known specialities such as Padang-style tendon curry and lontong sayur, a rice cake-and-tempe soup. All of which, besides for the noodle dishes, are served in miniature portions with price tags to match, the reasoning being if everything is small you can try more things. “Eating one dish is boring and eating rice with just rendang is really heavy, you want something to go with it. This way you can have rendang and some soup or ayam bakar (grilled chicken) with it,” Pamudji says.
The restaurant hasn’t been open a week yet and it’s already as full as the most popular Indonesian eateries in Kensington and Kingsford. They’re certainly not coming for the atmosphere. The restaurant, while cutely designed by Pamudji based on the idea of a warung (a small, usually improvised street side stall), is just folding tables, a wooden takeaway counter stacked with homemade crackers, and a rolled-up garage-door entrance.
Shop A / 432 Kent Street, Sydney
0423 636 793
Mon & Sun 12pm–4pm
Tue to Sat 12am–3pm, 5pm–9pm