So we’ve been reading everywhere that Indonesian was a ‘must try’ in Amsterdam (as a former coloney) and tonight we’re going with another recommendation to dine at one of the oldest and most famous Indonesian restaurants in the city, Sama Sebo.
Situated in a lovely old pub near the Van Gough museum, we walk in to a bar that’s jam packed with diners drinking and crammed at the bar eating what look like lovely big bowls of nasi goreng and noodles. There’s great warm and noisey atmosphere – think thai joint, bodega and brown bar all rolled in to one.
We’re quickly seated in the dining area and the staff move swiftly on auto pilot between the tables – clearly it’s always a full house. Glad we made a booking but we would have been more than happy to squash in at the bar and meet some regulars.
I haven’t eaten a lot of Indonesian food before so I’m not really sure what to expect… I’m bringing my appetitate and leaving any comparative judgements at the door.
There’s no choice in what we’re ordering – the Rijstaffel (Rice Table) that Sebo Sama has been famous for since it opened in 1969 – with this we get to sample about 25 tapas-style dishes. Perfect.
Our wine is delivered, along with an extra table to accommodate all the food! Oh dear…
The food arrives at lightening speed, which makes me think a lot of these dishes have been pre-prepared (most of the tables around us have ordered the same). Never the less, they look impressive – I can’t even see half of them as they’re stacked on top of one another across the little plate warmers.
Some of the dishes don’t match what’s listed on the menu (boiled rice; beef in madura; pork in soy sauce; roasted pork on sticks; fried chicken; shrimp bread; vegetables; soy bean cake; sweet potato; vegeatble in peanut sauce; fried coconut; fried banana; sweet & sour fruit; mixed sour vegetables; hot peppers; peanuts; pickled cucumber), so my travelling buddy and I pick flavours apart and every few mouthfuls she asks “what do you think this is?”…
It’s mostly tasty, but a bit same-same-but-different. The soy bean cake are little rubbery cubes of tofu in an orange watery sauce (think the beans got this as well) and the meat dishes that aren’t in sauce are a bit dry – maybe that’s because they’ve been sitting there for a while before we find time to get to them.
The beef in madura and pickled cucumber is my favourite, along with the gado-gado salad and my additional fried rice, but it’s really too much to get through and I’ve forgotten half the dishes by the time we finish.
I get the whole Rijstaffel experience and I’m happy with my ‘intro to Indo’ course. Love the pub and the atmosphere at Sama Sebo – if I come back, I’ll take a seat at the bar and see what those big bowls of nasi goreng and noodles are all about.
Sama Sebo – P. C. Hooftstraat 27, Museum District, Amsterdam – 020/662-8146