Southeast Asian restaurants with sushi bars usually raise a red flag, and I tend to pass them by, with one notable exception, Awang Kitchen. Like many of my fellow Indonesian food nerds I’m unabashed in my enthusiasm for this restaurant that opened last spring, giddily eating my through bowl after bowl of various baksos and other Indonesian delicacies. Until just last week though I’ve avoided the chef-owner’s sushi bar, harboring a secret wish it would eventually evolve into a satay station. And them some rolls with a decidedly Indonesian accent began to show up on the specials board.
It began with beef rendang ($10). Tempe, peanuts, anchovies, and of course beef rendang, packed in seaweed with rice and cucumber a bit of peanut sauce and the requisite spicy mayo make up this cross-cultural creation. With the crunch of the dried fish and the candy coated peanuts known as sambal kacang, it’s tempting to dismiss the rendang roll as just nasi lemak in roll form, but it’s really an entirely new animal, a true Indonesian fusion dish. It’s served with the same green horseradish and pickled ginger you’ll find at many other sushi spots on Queens Boulevard, but it didn’t need either. Since the kitchen doesn’t make miso soup, I asked for a bowl of beefy, garlicky bakso broth.
The whole experience left me mighty full and mighty curious about the bebek roll ($10), made with fried duck. So the following day I returned to have it for lunch. It featured many of the same ingredients, save for the duck and little blobs of sambal ijo made with roasted jalapenos. It was delicious, but I found myself wishing the whole lot was rolled in duck crackling.
Chef Awang worked in Japanese restaurants for many years, and I’m glad to have tried his new spins on the sushi roll. I hope he starts offering an omakase!
Awang Kitchen, 84-05 Queens Blvd., Elmhurst, 347-492-9264