MONGO, Mt Lawley
by JENNY D’ANGER:
Rijstaffel is Dutch for a uniquely Indonesian feast.
It means “rice table” and my mouth still salivates at the gluttony of Indonesian delights consumed in Holland many years ago.
When the West Indies was controlled by the Dutch, colonial overlords would serve up to 40 small dishes to visitors in order to impress them with the exotic abundance of the spice islands.
When the colonial yoke was thrown off last century the rijstaffell was thrown out and is rarely seen on Indonesian menus.
So I was briefly excited to see it on the menu at Monggo Restaurant in Mt Lawley, only to read on that it was reserved for the evening menu.
By comparison the lunch menu is limited, with just eight dishes to choose from.
On the plus side there was plenty of vegetarian choice, including a chick pea and kidney bean curry ($10.50).
But I’m a sucker for noodles and the beehoon goreng ($7.90) attracted my eye.
The wok-fried vermicelli noodles were satisfyingly spicy, with a nice chilli kick that left the mouth glowing.
The menu doesn’t differentiate between entrees and mains and the vegetarian spring rolls ($5.90) came at the same time as the noodles.
Hot and crisp, the filling was a tad bland and even the chilli sauce accompanying didn’t help. Perhaps toned down too much for delicate western palates?
My dining companion lives around the corner and Monggo is one of her favourite haunts.
She went for the kari ayam Medan ($9.50), a spicy chicken curry, with potato and sugar peas, that hails from northern Sumatra.
It came with a generous serving of rice (so many other places stint on this cheap staple) and a crisp, moist and utterly delicious roti.
A wide range of terms are used in Indonesian cooking to describe texture, including slippery, soft, hard, velvety, runny and gelatinous.
Gelatinous is the perfect description for the kueh lapis ($8.50) that I had for dessert.
This traditional steamed layer cake with banana slices was as unexpected as it was attractive, with its layers of bright green and cream.
The flavours were subtle and the accompanying (non-dairy) coconut ice cream disappeared on the tongue like frozen fairy floss, but without the cloying sweetness.
My lunch partner had southern Java favourite serabi Bandung ($8.50), consisting of three fluffy coconut pancakes, also a striking green, and also utterly delicious.
Monggo is Javanese for “greetings” and the small eatery exudes a big welcome with food from across the vast Indonesian archipelago—and the only rijstaffel in Perth.
We all need to make more of an effort to learn more about our northern neighbour: Monggo is as good a place to start as any.
683 Beaufort Street, Mount Lawley
Phone 9471 8988
Lunch Monday – Friday. Dinner Tuesday – Saturday