Friday 2 August 2013

Blok M Express

380 Little Bourke St., Melbourne, VIC 3000

Blok M on Urbanspoon
Looking for an Indonesian place in the shopping precinct of Swanston Street, Elizabeth Street and Bourke Street is not easy. There are not many, but in amongst all the Malaysian, Chinese, Cantonese, Thai and Vietnamese restaurants are 2 Indonesian place. One is Nelayan which is easy to find on Swanston Street. The other is Blok M Express which is on the way to Hardware Lane, and easily forgotten. However, it has a pretty good rating on Urbanspoon and definitely worth a look for lunch or early dinner.

The Place
It's a pretty squeezy set up because of the way they have set out the tables and chairs. There's not a lot of room to move and it can get uncomfortable when there's a crowd. However, the new layout with the counter in the back has alleviated some of this problem - though they continue to keep the diners very close to each other. It is also a rather tired place and needs a good clean, I think. It's not a great place for kids because of the layout, and parking in Little Bourke - good luck with that. It is however, a good place for a quick lunch.

Things to do Nearby: You are in the middle of the shopping area of the CBD - heaps to do.

The Food
So, this is where they shine. Most of their dishes are really quite good. Firstly, for an Indonesian place - the food here is not very chilli hot. For lovers of really spicy food, you might be a bit disappointed. For those of us who do like chilli but not at crazy levels, this is pretty good.

If you are vegetarian, I think you might struggle here a bit beyond your basic gado gado, tofu and tempe.

The highlights for me here include:
The twin soups, Soto Ayam (Chicken soup) and Sup Buntut (Oxtail Soup - pictured right) which are clear soups, with similar bases. They do tend to be slightly greasy because that's how these soups are but if you like a tiny bit of spice in your soup, shallots and spring onions, these are must tries.  Sometimes, the oxtail here is a bit oily but that's oxtail for you. They also do a Fried Oxtail dish which is really yummy for oxtail lovers.Note the lack of vegetables - it's pretty much garnish, won't you say?

They also do good whole barbequed  fish (either bakar or belado). Bakar is just plain barbequed fish while Belado comes with a slather of chilli sambal sauce which is rather spicy, savoury and a bit sweet. Good balance of flavours there. They also have Ayam Rica-Rica, a great Indonesian chilli sauce slathered chicken which I haven't tried yet but will do so in the next visit (and update here).

I am not a fan of the satays here primarily because I am not a fan of Indonesian styled satays with their peanut sauce poured over the satay sticks and also a good dollop of ketchup manis (sweet sauce) - just not my thing, but you might like it.
Cute right? It's based on the 3-wheeled taxies in Jakarta - Bajaj

The Service
They are always friendly, though the food doesn't usually come out at the same time for each table. I wish they could get that right. With the change in layout - counter at the back - newbies might not know what to do. Generally, you should just walk up to the counter and grab a menu, and order there. If you are not sure what you want and need to peruse the menu for a while, you'd also want to claim a table (if it's crowded) while deciding on your dishes.

Whenever I feel like Indonesian in the Bourke Street Mall area - and not the bainmarie type food, I'd go to Blok M. It's pretty good and usually reliable. The only thing that turns me off is when it gets really crowded, then I don't really want to be there because of the seating configuration.

Cultural Moment
Blok M is supposed to be a hip and happening place in the business and shopping area in Jakarta. It's also where there is both general and dodgy nightlife. From the research I have done - it's supposed to be the place to be especially during the day but traffic is really bad. I haven't been there yet but will be there in November - I promise to update this when I have done that :)... so - watch this space.

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