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Upi Jaya report (long)

  • c

The place is small, about 7 tables seating 4-8 people, only two of them were filled. It is brightly lit and clean in appearance, and we were warmly greeted by the sole server of the night. Despite his friendliness, he was slow and forgetful, but that is a common trait of Indonesian servers. So, don’t dine here if you’re in a hurry – otherwise call and order take-out!

The menu is fairly large in size and while there is Padang food, there are specialties from Palembang and Java and most of the dishes are reasonably priced. You can choose nasi rames, a rice plate consisting of white rice, a serving of a meat dish, and curried vegetables for only $7.50. My group decided to just order several dishes and share. We started with tasty tahu isi (medium-soft tofu stuffed with vegetables; $4 for two pieces), a measly portion of tempe goreng (deep-fried soybean cake, $3.00 for two small pieces), and an excellent version of Pempek Kapal Selam (fried fish cake stuffed with a hard-boiled egg in a spicy and piquant soup served with rice vermicelli and pickled cucumbers, $6.50 for two large cakes). We also had young coconut juice with shavings of young coconut ($2.50 per glass) that was deliciously addictive and refreshing. Upi Jaya does not serve alcohol, so it most likely does not have a liquor license and therefore is BYO.

We selected a variety of entrees to try. We had the Rendang Padang (chunks of beef cooked in coconut milk and chilis - $16.50 for small, $23.50 for large), which is a favorite of Padang restaurants but in this case, was disappointing to our discerning palates. We felt that the portion was too small and of insufficient quality for the relatively high price tag of the dish. The sauce was good and spicy, but the beef chunks were tough and stringy. We also had Ayam Goreng Kalasan (crispy fried chicken, $9.50 for two large pieces), which was good but once again we felt a bit cheated by the small portion. The Gulai Kambing (spicy lamb curry, $8.50) was a surprisingly generous portion with pieces of lamb ribs and lots of rich, spicy sauce to eat with rice ($1 per plate). The best entrees were the vegetarian dishes with a delicious, lime-tinged peanut sauce: Gado-Gado (Indonesian salad of tofu, potato, soybeans, green beans, and cabbage with peanut sauce, $6.50) and Ketoprak (rice vermicelli and vegetables with peanut sauce and bean crackers, $6.50). We also had a very rich and tasty Sayur Singkong (cassava leaves cooked in coconut milk, $5.50).

We could not end our meal without traditional Indonesian desserts that were excellent, such as an ice-cold Es Campur (ground ice with coconut cream, pandan syrup, palm seeds, seaweed jelly, and young coconut, $3), Es Teler (similar to Es Campur but with pieces of avocado and jackfruit, $3.50), Pisang Goreng Es Krim (deep-fried bananas with vanilla and chocolate ice cream, $4.50), and a special of Kue Talam Sarikaya (a sticky cake of palm sugar and glutinous rice, $2.50 for two pieces). Overall, we were more than satisfied with our meal and were grateful for the walk to the subway home.

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  1. Thanks-sounds great. Where is it located? Best way by subway? Please fill us in .

    5 Replies
    1. re: JohnBoy

      Just to answer all the questions.

      1. BYOB? I don't think they have a liquor license. You may want to call them at 718-458-1807 to check.

      2. Vegetarian options. Certainly seemed to be their strong suit - you're in luck if you're not allergic to peanuts. The stuffed tofu was a huge hit with our table for the appetizers.

      3. How to get there: I took the F train to Roosevelt Avenue which drops you off at 74th or 75th & Broadway. When you walk towards 76th, turn right until you hit 76th & Woodside. You can't miss it!

      1. re: Core

        Got a chance to eat at Upi Jaya last night, and while it was quite decent, it didn't quite live up to the catered meal I once had from Ina (sp?), the former chef from the Indonesian consulate. I'd concur with most of Core's impressions of the place. As we were the only ones in there last night, we got a chance to talk to the owner for a while. They don't have a liquor license but as he's unsure of the laws, he hasn't been allowing BYO. We tried to assure him that as long as he doesn't have a license, he should be fine if people brought in their own. Being his first restaurant in the US, he's being cautious not to run into trouble with various authorities. I'm not sure we were all that convincing to him that it should be OK to allow BYO, so if you want to BYO, you may want to follow up with him on that. By the way, if you're thinking that he doesn't allow alcohol in his restaurant because of religious reasons, that's not the case, as he was explaining that he's thinking about getting a beer/wine license, or further, creating a bar area in the restaurant.

        1. re: Eric Eto

          BYO IS illegal, always.

          1. re: Jim Leff

            I always figured (as have most people, I assume) that BYO laws are generally not enforced. I just wonder, have there been incidents of similar restaurants to Upi Jaya being shut down or fined for allowing BYO? I'm sure it happens, but to what frequency? Anyone have stats on this?

            1. re: Eric Eto

              It's seldom enforced at most, for sure (though it may aggravate things if a restaurateur gets in trouble for other reasons).

              But you said "They don't have a liquor license but as he's unsure of the laws, he hasn't been allowing BYO," and the law itself is clear that BYO is never legal in NYC.

    2. Thank you for your detailed review. My husband is a vegetarian so it's good to hear about the veggie options.

      1. Does it have a liquor license or is it byob?

        2 Replies
        1. re: Ted

          BYOB. Server was not sure if he was allowed to allow us to bring it in w/out the license and I assured him that we were, as long as it was permissible to him (wanting to be sensitive in case he preferred no alcohol at all). Once I told him that I was a lawyer and knew that it was OK, he was OK with it.

          1. re: Ted

            He let us in with beer when I assured him it would be OK so long as he didn't mind for religious reasons.

          2. recent meal:
            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/3990...

            Core, I will follow your selections next time; the fried chicken and the lamb.

            in general, and I think I wrote about this on some other thread, portions always seems smaller whenever I eat at Indonesian restaurants, as opposed to heaps and platters of food at other asian/se-asian places. still satisfying and not every meal needs to be a gutbuster, so, it's ok. but definitely a pattern.

            2 Replies
            1. re: bigjeff

              Just want to add on the deliciousness of the jackfruit curry and Es Tele, the desert with tropical fruit, ice, milk, and tropical fruit. The lamb curry was only so-so- not as zesty or multi-layered as the jackfruit curry. The bananna fritters were interesting- a deeper fry. Gado-Gado had a great textural balance but was too peanuty and heavily dressed. We were the only table there on Saturday night from 6-8. Food was slow but service was attentive.

              1. re: ZestyZ

                Has anyone been to Upi Jaya recently? I'm heading there tomorrow and would be grateful to get some recs. Curious about the jack fruit and another dish I read about: kale with coconut (milk?). Sounds like they do chicken well -- any other dishes that are not to be missed? Thanks for the help!

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                Upi Jaya
                76-04 Woodside Ave, Queens, NY 11373

            2. reminder (for May 16, 2010): tomorrow is Indonesian Food Bazaar in Astoria. it's the bomb.

              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/701960