Jayakarta in Berkeley: Report
After less than stellar chowhound enthusiasm about South Indian in Berkeley, I decided to switch strategies and try Jayakarta. I believe this was my first Malaysian/Indonesian meal since traveling to Malaysia last year, and while I did not think the food was as good as what I ate in Malaysia, many dishes were well prepared and I would definitely recommend Jayakarta.
Three of us shared:
#1 Otak Otak Panggang - "BBQ fish cake wrapped in banana leaf, served with peanut sauce." The four fish cakes had a slightly sweet flavor nicely blending with a not-overpowering fish flavor. Texture was slightly more rubbery than other fish cakes I've had before, which was neither a bad nor a good thing. I liked this, but it didn't blow me out of the water.
#12 Roti Prata - "Singaporean pancake served with curry sauce" - The smallest dish, but possibly my favorite. The roti *was* just like roti I ate in Malaysia, and the curry sauce had an amazing lemongrass flavor, but wasn't spicy hot at all.
#16 Keredok - "Salad of raw vegetables tossed with slices of fried tofu topped with a layer of peanut dressing." This salad was also topped with a few shrimp chips. It was pretty tasty, but it was rather drowned in the peanut sauce, which made it really heavy. There is some leftover, and my plan for today is to mix it with some plain noodles, since there is so much sauce, and I think it might be very good.
#35 Nasi Rendang - "Beef cooked with spices and coconut milk over rice" - This was very good. The beef was very tender (no knife required despite large chunks) and the sauce was very good, both sweet and spicy, but not overpowering on either end. This beef rendang also had a hint of something that reminded me of mole. Overall, it was clear Jayakarta took the time to make this well. The meat and sauce had clearly been cooked for a long time. I read some previous negative posts about rendang at Jayakarta in another chowhound thread, and last night there were certainly no problems. The serving on the rice-plate came w/ four medium/large chunks of meat, sauce and a generous serving of rice.
#38 Nasi Kari Sayuran - "Mixed vegetables with tofu in curry sauce over rice" Generous serving of rice, as with the other rice plate, and a pretty large bowl of tofu curry. The curry broth was a bit weak I thought, but had good flavor that was attempting to burst out. Reminiscent of curries that I had in Malaysia, but without the kick. They used firm (and unfried) tofu which I thought worked very well. I'll reiterate that the serving was generous...I have rarely seen such a big serving of curry in any Thai restaurant.
#28 Mie Tek-Tek - "Stir fried egg noodles sauteed with fried egg, strips of chicken, vegetables and signature spicy sauce." Our server asked if we wanted this spicy, and we specifically said 'yes.' It was slightly spicier than other dishes, but still not very spicy. It was, however, a huge portion and we noticed that the plate of noodles weighed a LOT (it was hard to pass it!). The fried egg on top was a nice touch, and the thick lo-mein-like noodles were cooked perfectly. I also noticed that the pieces of chicken were very good...seemed like they had been well seasoned and cooked ahead of time, so they had a lot of flavor.
The amount of food we ordered was way more than enough for 3 hungry guys, and our bill (post tax pre tip) was $36.40. We did not have any drinks...I saw lots of people drinking sweet iced tea which I will try next time I go. If I lived in Berkeley, I'd probably go to this place pretty often. As one poster mentioned in another thread, Malaysian and Indonesian food is really great and different than anything else, so a place like Jayakarta that offers a very good (but maybe not great) version is still pretty awesome. Thanks chowhounders for writing about this place, I am very glad I made it!
I went tonight with a group of 7, and we all loved the place. Great food and great service. We had 9 dishes total plus a few beverages, and it came to $15 each (including a very generous tip).
#14 Gado-gado salad -- The peanut sauce seemed a bit too thick, but the dish tasted great, and the sauce definitely did not drown the salad tonight as others have said.
#16 Keredok salad -- also good, also not drowning in peanut sauce
#57 Sate Kambing -- Lamb satay, tender and delicious
#46 Oseng-Oseng Tempe -- "Crispy soybean cake stir-fried with fried tofu and fresh string beans bathe in sweet soy sauce" Delicious.
#48 Pepes Tahu -- "Ground tofu seasoned with spices and wrapped in banana leaves" Good, but not compelling. I could see this as a comfort food.
#65 Ayam Goreng Bumbu Bali -- "Boneless chicken, fried then marinated in a chili sauce" I didn't care for this one because the chicken 'balls' seemed too crisp, almost hard, and not particularly tasty except for the sauce, but others at the table liked it fine.
#69 Rendang "Mouth-watering beef simmered with spices and coconut milk" -- Delicious and tender, with layers of flavors
#72 Gulai Kambing -- "Tender yellow lamb smothered in coconut milk sauce" -- wonderfully tender and flavorful lamb in complex curry-like sauce, a group favorite
#80 Sambal Goreng Udang Pete -- "Tasty shrimp slow cooked with stink beans, potatoes, and tomatoes in chili sauce" The shrimp were small and unimportant, but the sweet-hot sauce with the vegetables was delicious. I can't say I noticed the stink beans particularly.
What particularly struck me was how different every dish was. I thought maybe the lamb and beef dishes with coconut milk might be too similar, but they were totally different.
I took my indonsian mother for a late lunch, early dinner... and we LOVED it! we had the krupuk, soto soup, gado gado, the chicken satey, and the mie goreng. the plates were huge, the prices we great, and most of all... the meal was delicious! since we both have an indonesian background... the food here is as authentic as it gets.