Recapturing Brighter Days and the Cuisine of Indonesia

One of the greatest meals I ever ate was at Penang, an Indonesian restaurant in Philadelphia's Chinatown. I fell in love with my wife here (one of the dozen or so restaurants, scattered between Philly, Rochester, Ithaca, New York, Santa Fe, Boulder, Colorado and Manhattan where this slow process unfolded), got drunk with her and, arm-in-arm with her, stalked the midnight streets in the rain, ducking in and out of little gift shops to buy chopsticks, Chinese cigarettes and boxes of Hello Kitty condoms.

I also developed a mad passion for roti canai at Penang--an addiction as fierce as any I've ever had (and I've had a few). I can not be within fifty miles of the City of Brotherly Love without making a pilgrimage to Penang for the crisp little paper-thin pancakes and strange curry sauce. Just thinking about it now, I can feel my chest tightening and my heart racing--a craving for the stuff winding up my spine and making it difficult to think of anything else.

One of the strangest reviews I ever wrote during my time at Westword was for another Indonesian restaurant called Isle of Singapore where I ate chicken rice for the first time, re-enacted the gravedigger scene from Hamlet in an empty dining room with shrimp heads on my fingertips and sucked down half a durian smoothie that had me sleeping on the couch for three days because I couldn't stop burping up the flavor of ripe cheese smeared on a dead foot. I decided right then and there that if I ever started my own punk band (with Laura on drums, of course), it would be called Burping Durian.

Indonesian is not a mother cuisine, it is a mutt--shaped and informed by all the Indian and Pac-Rim flavors that surround it, melding them together into something so much greater than the simple sum of their constituent parts. It is one of the world's great canons--a playground for the mind and the senses that tends to inspire in me a terrible desire to pack a bag with a couple summer-weight suits and a Panama hat, two pairs of flip-flops and a pistol, then to fly off to Jakarta and spend the rest of my days slouching disreputably around the ex-pat bars drinking iced gin-and-tonics and getting into trouble.

And just this morning, I got a tip from a new friend on an excellent Indonesian restaurant right here in the lovely city of Seattle: the Indo Cafe. So now, my question to you, dear readers, is this: Are there any other Indonesian restaurants in town where I might get my fix? Of roti canai specifically (since I am currently a few thousand miles removed from the place that does it best in the world), but also of Indonesian food in general (because I am unlikely even to be getting back to Denver any time soon).

I've heard that there's one other place in town that does good Indonesian food (Julia's maybe?), but I'm wondering if there are any hidden gems out there that you folks are keeping secret. So Shout it out if you know a place. All reasonable suggestions accepted.

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