I don’t have many restaurant experiences these days that are worth blogging about but we enjoy Warung so much that I have to tell you about it.
Warung is an Indonesian restaurant in Kapitolyo, and it’s unique for several reasons. First, it possesses the largest space in the neighborhood with, most importantly, its own parking. It’s also probably the only establishment in the area, aside from Karen’s Kitchen, where you can come in with a decent-sized party (i.e. more than 2 people) and expect to be seated. The ambience is also delightful in that the tables allow for privacy, thus: no need to yell to be heard. All this truly makes Warung a gem already in my book.
Of course you know that I grew up in Indonesia and so I’m already biased towards any place that serves its cuisine. Warung means food stall in Bahasa Indonesia, the place is a natural progression of a long-time warung at the Legaspi Market run by two sisters who lived more than two decades in Jakarta.
Gado-gado, literally “mix-mix” in Bahasa, is Indonesia’s representative dish. An indulgent veg-in-peanut-sauce starter or main meal, there are myriad versions of this in Indonesia from high end to low end. The peanut sauce is key, made from roasted peanuts, palm sugar, coconut milk, and other components. The sauce should be thick and thoroughly coat the vegetables, usually blanched beans, bean sprouts, and potatoes. There should also be slices of hard-boiled egg, fried tofu, and fish crackers, what Pinoys call kropeck but what I grew up calling krupuk. Warung does a good gado-gado, and with some more dressing on the side, I begin my meal down memory lane.
Satay is commonplace and Warung makes the best I’ve had in Manila. The sate ayam (chicken satay) is tooth-tender and juicy, every bite an express delivery of straight-up smoke and peanut and poultry. Get two orders because you will designate one for yourself.
Nasi goreng, fried rice (upper left in photo), is easy to love. Generally regarded as Indonesia’s national dish, its distinctive flavor is thanks to hefty doses of kecap manis (sweet soy sauce) and ground shrimp paste, a type of belachan if you’re familiar with that, plus shallots and garlic. Warung’s version retains the caramelized smokiness that’s characteristic of an Indonesian nasi goreng, but while good, I feel that it’s been “tamed” for local eaters. Make sure the fried egg on top is runny because it should be.
Warung’s bakmi goreng (fried noodles), also known as mie goreng, is a lighter, less oily version of the typical Indonesian fried noodles I’ve had in the past. It’s not bad, I’d describe it as a glorified instant noodle, the kind that you get from the pack. And that’s not a bad thing because sometimes, all you want is instant noodles.
While rendang looks gloppy on a plate, it more than makes up for it with its flavor. Hugely aromatic and brimming with big spices like turmeric and galangal, this version is slightly saucy, perfect for sopping up with rice. While sufficient, I find this rendang’s complexity to be lacking. Order a side of the restaurant’s immense and intense sambal. Made with Indonesian chili peppers (cabe), its fieriness sends my taste buds to the stratosphere.
Every country has their own type of fried chicken, and for Indonesia, it’s called mbok berek. Typically, the chicken is poached in a solution of coconut water and bumbu, a spice paste consisting of but not limited to shallots, candlenuts, palm sugar, and ginger. This soak infuses much flavor before the chicken is then deep-fried.
The lacy cover is optional but at Warung, it is thankfully, not. Made from tapioca flour and spices, it shatters in the mouth and resembles the coating on Chinese taro puff. What you see in the photo is a half order. Tonight, I find the chicken rather dry but I’m willing to overlook it as I’m so taken with the fried crumble. Just in case your chicken is also dry, order a side of kecap manis. It will greatly improve this dish.
It’s been such a pleasant eating experience. The servers are attentive, the place affords civilized conversation. The meal, for me, is one big time machine that has magically whisked me back to my childhood in Indonesia. My palate and heart are stoked by the slow burn that is nostalgia.
So for dessert, I order my favorite, martabak manis, a thick pancake. Its crispy-edged top descends into doughy depths, a bubbly, crumpet-like surface slathered with butter, cheese, and chocolate. They ooze in unison, a gooey goodness in all its hot glory.
It’s so unapologetically good that it makes me cry. Nostalgia will do that to you.
Warung, Indonesian Cuisine
83 East Kapitolyo Drive, Bgy. Kapitolyo, Pasig City.
(02) 239 2372 / 239 4212