You won’t read the word ‘Betawi’ in many Sydney restaurants. Betawi people are the descendants of a Creole-like mix of European, Chinese, Malay and Arabic people from Jakarta. They’ve got their own culture, fashion and their own recipes. Betawi’s Kitchen offers a rare chance to try them.
There are two classic orders. First, the soto Betawi, a thick coconutty beef soup with strands of tripe and islands of candlenut crackers. The other is a nasi-lemak-like dish, where fried chicken, an anchovy and tempeh sambal and a chilli-doused egg flank a dome of coconut-scented rice.
It would be disingenuous to say those are the specialities though, they’re no better than the curiously teal restaurant’s generously peanutty gado gado, the sticky pork sate skewers or the gravy-thick rendang.
Before you commit to any of those, look out for the specials, both scribed onto a board behind the counter and literally laid on the counter itself. Maybe a banana-leaf-wrapped ball of sticky rice and meat one day, and some bitternut crackers or a few sweets the next.
It’s hard to believe this all comes from the tiny kitchen of this tiny, family-run restaurant. And thankfully, that sense of familial hospitality is very much part of the vibe. Even when it’s busy you’ll rarely feel the pressure to get in order, eat and get out in less than 40 minutes.