Cheap Eats 2007: Satay Sarinah

Indonesian cooking is unfamiliar to most Americans, one of the few Asian cuisines that has yet to cross over. This well-kept restaurant—the region’s best representative of the cuisine—has been on the scene since the mid-’80s, but eight years ago the owners shuttered the original Sarinah Satay House of Georgetown and decamped to an Alexandria strip mall.

The multipage menu will seem both familiar (curries, satays) and exotic (belinjo nut crackers, shrimp chips). The temptation is to order the rijsttafel, the five-course feast with the Dutch-sounding name and the Texas sense of scale. The dishes span the menu but are prone to unevenness. Better to put together your own spread. Try the sweet corn cakes called bakwan jagung; a Bogor-style batter-fried chicken; a coconut-milk-spiked chicken soup; an assertively spicy lamb curry; the fried rice called nasi goreng jawa studded with shrimp and bits of egg; and a beef satay, a standout with its roasted-coriander-seed rub and crackling edges.

The shrimp chips­? Called krupuk, they look like pink, misshapen rice cakes, and they’re utterly addictive.

Open daily for lunch and dinner.

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Logan Circle.