Having been to Amsterdam twice in my teen years to…tour, and like, you know, stuff, I have had the pleasure of traditional rijsttafel more than once. So, needless to say, I was pretty excited to hear that an Indonesian restaurant was moving in less than a mile from my house that would actually serve this feast of a dish. Born, like the Vietnamese Baguette sandwich, Bahn Mi, of colonial influence on native society, rijsttafel was the feast invented by the Dutch to eat the local foods on Indonesia. While I didn’t expect the rijsttafel at Julia’s Indonesian Kitchen to be served by 40 half-naked man servants, as it described the tradition on the menu, I had a few other surprises, some good and others less so.
The first (most pleasant) surprise was the lovely appetizer that came out shortly after we ordered, which appearently came with the dish. Little stuffed pancakes satiated our appetites, dipped in peanut sauce while we waited for the main dishes.
Rijsttafel, as I knew it was like a mini-buffet on the table, complete with heat under the warm dishes, so I was a little surprised at Julia’s to see that we were served individual spots of food on our dishes as well as the traditional individual piles of rice. This was nothing to complain about, though I did find it bought in to the American large serving theory, as each pile on my plate was the size they gave of each item for 3 people in Holland. This also meant less variety of items, which is what bothered me a little more. The food was all quite pleasant, with the stand outs being the tempeh dish and the sweet and spicy sambal to go on top. To Seattlites who enjoy Vietnamese or Thai food, this will be a new spin on old favorites that will be fun for adventorous eaters.
There were also a few drawbacks to the restaurant, many of which I am hoping will fade away over the course of time. The heat, which was hot outside, became nearly unbearable in the corner we were seated in, with the two open windows offering little draft and the low ceiling a little claustrophobic in the heat. Luckily the waiters were attentive with water, which helped a fair amount. The rice, a basic part seemed like it had been placed on the plate when the order was given, as opposed to when it was served, giving the outer parts a bit of a dried out texture. When eaten with the sauce of the rendang (slow-cooked beef) or sambal, this became less of a factor. The small portions of the dishes surrounding the rice all seemed to have cooled on their way out, giving them a luke warm temperature upon eating, which I found slightly off putting.
All in all the experience, like the waitstaff, was friendly, upbeat, and clearly eager to please. I hope that this place learns quickly and can turn around their minor problems to offer Seattlites a new food to try.