With so few Indonesian restaurants around, and so many that have come and gone without no one so much as noticing, I've decided it's good to, once in a while, check the pulse of the ones I actually frequent.
I'm happy to report that Indo Ranch--the Indonesian grocery and food-to-go shop in sleepy Lake Forest-- is still going. I won't say going strong, because during the two most recent visits I made on a week night, I was the only customer. It was the same when I first reviewed them a year ago, and it's the same now.
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Plans they made to open as a bonafide restaurant haven't come to fruition, but then again, I never really expected it to. The cuisine of the fourth most populous on earth has very low demand in a county that seems it would rather eat Thai. The food is still stored in display fridges, though it might as well be stowed away in the back because its packed inside opaque styrofoam boxes anyway. As before, there is no menu, no pictures, nothing that might guide you to what you might like. You just have to know what the various dishes they've scribbled on a whiteboard are, or be unafraid to ask. And since this list varies from day to day (with a Facebook page that is unreliably updated), it can be difficult and frustrating for the non-Indonesian speaker who wants to actually try something.
Also, as I've said before, deciding to eat from Indo Ranch means take-out and reheating the food at home. Some dishes, like the siomay, takes some prior experience to know what do with all those condiments and sauces they give you. Some assembly is required; but here's a tip on the siomay (see picture): put it on a microwave safe plate, pour on the peanut sauce, then when it's heated, drizzle on the sweet soy sauce (what Indos call kecap manis) and squeeze the lime all over. Then enjoy what is actually a close cousin to Chinese dim sum where fish paste is smeared onto triangles of tofu, a boiled potato, a hard-boiled egg and pursed into wonton skin and then steamed. Warm up the satay the same way. Pour on the peanut sauce, but also nuke up the lontong, which are compressed rice cakes that tastes like ultra dense pudding. It only takes less than a minute. If they have nasi campur, know that what is featured today won't be the same thing featured tomorrow. For sure there will be rice, and some pickles; but for the protein, it could be chicken or fish, cooked with curry spices, or just plain fried on the bone. If you're lucky, you may even get sambal telor, which is a deep-fried egg simmered in chili paste. Whatever you do, go visit, try something, and hope this one lasts.
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