Like Awang Kitchen, this Indonesian restaurant advertises an Asian fusion menu. And you can order some Japanese dishes at Asian Taste 86. But when I went, all of the customers were Indonesian, and I doubt anyone ordered Japanese food.
In most other ways, it is unlike Awang Kitchen. The front door constantly threatens to bang into the person sitting at the table by the door. The dining area would be small for a living room, and the tables awkwardly protrude into every place you might want to walk. But, like someone’s living room, it is quirky, and has its own charm. The door to the kitchen is covered with a shower curtain, and wayang-themed artwork on animal pelts that are either amazing or tacky—I couldn’t decide—adorn the walls. When I was there, a large TV over the counter was tuned to mixed martial arts, and I watched a fighter work a cut over his opponent’s eye open wider and wider in a very bloody match.
Some of the foods I’ve eaten recently have landed some solid punches too, and while I am learning to appreciate shrimp paste, it is an arduous curriculum, and my experience of balut has made me suspicious of almost any food. All of which is to say that while I very much wanted to try Asian Taste 86’s nasi goreng jawa (stir fried rice with shrimp paste and egg), an instinct for self-preservation prevented me from ordering anything with shrimp paste tonight.
Instead I ordered goat satay. I had thought this could come smothered in peanut sauce, but satay can come with other spicy sauces as well. The goat satay is marinated in some other spicy sauce, and comes with “sweet pepper soy sauce”—a thick, sweet soy sauce with very hot peppers in it. Along with skewered cubes of goat, the dish comes with rice cakes, which are a perfect companion.
The high point of the meal was dessert. I ordered bubur kacang hijau, a mung bean porridge. I found bubur kacang hijau on the dessert menu, but it can be eaten for breakfast as well, and breakfast seemed to be the meal Asian Taste 86’s cooks had in mind when they prepared it: I could barely detect any sweetness at all, and what sweetness there was may have come from the coconut milk they had poured over the mung beans. In coconut milk, the mung beans had a texture almost like mashed peas. Like breakfast cereal, bubur kacang hijau was a comforting dish.
I discovered a Chinese barbecue stand at the corner a few blocks from Asian Taste 86, so I stopped there for barbecued squid. It was just like the barbecue stands you can find in open-air markets in China. The squid (or chicken or whatever) is coated in cumin and other spices, and if you ask for spicy, healthy doses of chilies. There is no subtly to the seasoning; it is spicy, smoky, and good for a snack. I’ve noticed a few of these stands around Queens lately—so perhaps the open-air markets are taking shape here as well.
Asian Taste 86