By CHRISTIAN MONTERROSA | Reporter
The world famous Indonesian islands have long been common destinations for tourists and backpackers. Home to some of the rarest wildlife on the planet, the tree-ridden country attracted over 10 million tourists in 2014.
But celebrity chef Vindex Tengker, in collaboration with Chef de Cuisine Zachary Hamel (formerly of E.P. & L.P.), wanted to bring the foods of the famous destination to the people of Los Angeles.
Having cooked for multiple Four Seasons hotels across the globe and judged “MasterChef” and “Top Chef Indonesia,” Tengker selected a pair of chefs to send to Indonesia for three months to fully immerse themselves in its culinary culture.
Their jobs would depend on it, as they would be cooking for Tengker’s newest LA hotspot, Kasih, a minimalist style restaurant with maximal flavored foods.
First on the table was the Sambal Tasting, a five-course sampler composed of different Indonesian dipping sauces like the Sambal Nanas, ranked least spicy, that married pineapple, chili, garlic and fresh lime together. For the more daring, the Sambal Dabu Dabu brought the heat with heirloom tomatoes, shallots, lemon basil and bird’s eye chili.
To kill the fire, the sampler is paired with crispy Asian crackers and assorted nuts.
Should you survive the heat challenge, a clean Sambal Matah Bass, pan-seared Baja striped bass with a shallot and lemongrass relish, awaits to tell you that perch caught off the shore of Will Rogers State Beach isn’t going to cut it anymore.
If you prefer poultry, the Bebek Goreng, or crispy local duck quarters with a spice blend and galangal floss, will put you right in the streets of Indonesia. The street food-type dish invites you to use your hands and is served on a wooden plate to not take it too far into the high-brow culinary world.
Breaking away from the minimalist garde manger, the Nasi Goreng, an Indonesian-style fried rice, seasonal vegetables, crispy egg noodles is served with sambal terasi, a shrimp paste, roasted fresno chili and roasted tomato sauce, and comes in large quantity to fill in whatever space you might have left.
A consistent spice throughout all of the dishes adds different flavors to the food, but does not intentionally try to make you look like a spicy food lightweight. Every spice tastes intentional and pleasantly compliments whatever is being served with it.
Should you need a break from the spice, Kasih offers a well-rounded menu of mixology with drinks like the Putri—vodka, St. Germaine, Creme de Violette and lychee—or if you’re missing a familiar taste, the Old Fashioned brings you right back to the comfort zone.
Kasih’s high ceilings and wooden furniture keep you feeling comfortable and with room to breathe while at the same time making you forget you are in the concrete jungle of Downtown Los Angeles and instead in an Indonesian rain forest.
But the environment and diverse dinner courses are only the equation and the Srikaya Custard dessert, sticky rice and coconut sorbet topped with turmeric-infused caramel and fresh mango, is the answer to all of your problems, never peaking in sweetness or falling into bland territory.
It is a short reminder that while we are all trying to join the flood of tourists to Indonesia, Kasih will do just fine in the meantime.