Thanks to colonisation, Indonesian food has a prominent place in the Netherlands. There's no shortage of Indonesian restaurants in Amsterdam, but Cafe Kadijk ranks among my favourites.
Located on a small square overlooking an old-fashioned drawbridge, Cafe Kadijk is charmingly basic. The dark, wood-panelled interior looks more like a Dutch brown cafe than a restaurant, and the kitchen is so tiny there's barely room to swing a wok. Nevertheless, the cook clatters around in it conjuring up snacks, soups, simple lunches and a limited choice of evening meals.
The menu covers soto ayam (chicken soup), chicken, lamb or tofu satay, Javanese meatballs in a deep peanut sauce, and stripy Indonesian layer cake for dessert. But two dishes in particular stand out. One is the whole mackerel doused in sticky chilly and kecap manis (sweet soy sauce); the other is Eggs à la Aunt Bea, a combination of boiled eggs, prawns and 'stink beans' in a thick, slightly textured sauce.
The best way to get a real flavour of Indonesian food is to order Cafe Kadijk's mini rijsttafel (rice table) for one. At €18.50, it's the most expensive dish on the menu but still much cheaper than most rijsttafels, which are intended for several people (Restaurant Blauw serves a more traditional rice table, albeit in a modern setting).
A single plate is dotted with six or seven items from Cafe Kadijk's menu: rice, rendang (slow-cooked beef stew), chicken seasoned with Balinese spices, gado gado (vegetable salad with peanut sauce), acar (pickles) and krupuk (prawn crackers).
Cafe Kadijk occasionally strays from the Indonesian archipelago. Eggs with tomatoes and wasabi mayonnaise is more fusion cuisine than Indonesian cuisine, and the apple pie is a reminder of the restaurant’s geography. The dishes also sometimes miss a little heat, as if the chilli levels have been dialled down to accommodate Western tastes.
Minor gripes aside, Cafe Kadijk offers fantastic value for money and is proof, in an age of foams, creams, mousses and other culinary bling, that simple can be beautiful.
lunch Tue-Sun midday-15.00; dinner daily 16.00-22.00
Telephone: 06 1774 4411
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