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Published May 20th 2015
Heavenly Authentic Indonesian Food Prepared With Passion
It seems apt that this casual Indonesian restaurant is situated on the grounds of a church; the food is made in heaven by a chilli angel Yuni and the service provided by a laid back friendly host Matt (Yuni's partner). A couple of years back they were both in a different field but decided to work for themselves after so many rave reviews of Yuni's food. Yuni said she developed the confidence to cook for others when an Indonesian diner gave her the greatest compliment saying 'This food reminds me of my mother.' Since then she has received great feedback from a range of diners, including guest judge Masterchef's Scott Pickett!
There are very few Indonesian restaurants in Melbourne and most of them appeal to students with cheap precooked food. Everything is fresh at Yuni's - there is no MSG, the sambal is vegan friendly and the meat Halal. That just about covers all bases.
Yuni's Kitchen (previously Café Koula) has a new menu that regularly changes based on customer feedback. If you pick the right table you can watch Yuni and her assistants whip up a storm. This is an intimate little restaurant with only eight tables. There are also tables for outdoor dining. But now for the food…
The surprise package of the night
We were tempted by some untried dishes and loved everything that we tried.
First we sampled something different called Tahu Jsi. Apparently it's very popular in Indonesia but it was new to me. This is a sweet battered tofu ball full of veggies (three large balls ($7.50). It's received high compliment from my friend whose previous opinion of tofu was that it tasted like a sponge. He agreed he would choose this again and again.
Yu won't find a fatter spring roll!
The spring rolls were the starter for my partner. I have never seen such plump spring rolls. They were obviously handmade on the day and bursting with a range of fresh vegetables. These were very reasonable - 3 spring rolls for only $7.
Lots of chunky bits!
The very tender satay chicken sticks (3 for $9) were served with rice. The chicken was charcoal barbequed with a delicious peanut sauce. Yuni told us that she uses a simple marinade with only three ingredients - but if you want to know what they are, you'll have to ask her yourself. The satay sticks also comes in beef ($11) or prawn ($18).
A piece of art!
One of the most popular meals is the Curry Laksa - which is hard to go past. This is really a meal in itself with no need for entrees or desserts. It was a shame to eat it because the presentation was so good. For the uninitiated, the Laksa is piled with perfectly cooked vegetables (and meat if you choose it). Mine had tofu and lots of my favorite fresh herb coriander on top of two types of noodles. I didn't find it too spicy but the sambal was provided for those who want to spice it up a bit more. You can have this meal for ($12-18). It's hard to believe - and lunchtime meals are cheaper again.
The other frequently chosen meal is the famous Rendang. This is a traditional slow cooked beef curry with a little bit of heat served with rice and salad ($16 or $20 for a supersize). The Rendang is only $13 at lunchtime.
I had admired the sweet treats on the way in, but probably wouldn't have tried it normally because of the amount of food already consumed. However, for the purpose of this review I sacrificed my waistline!
The Lupas is a definite for sweet tooths. It is a glutinous rice steamed in a triangle shaped banana leaf wrapping. It's rolled in fresh shredded coconut and drizzled with palm sugar syrup. Matt reminded us that this was all natural sugar. I loved the contrasting textures of the sweet rice and the coconut.
As sweet as...
This promises to be a very inexpensive night out that you cannot afford to miss it. Other items we didn't try include Nasi, Mei Goreng ($12) and Bakso, which is a traditional meatball soup in a clear broth with Asian vegetables (from $12).
There is a large drinks menu or BYO for $2 per head. Don't leave the little ones at home; you can get baby chino for just $1 or a fruit smoothie for $6.50.
Every now and again you meet delightful, passionate business owners who are obviously putting their heart and soul into what they do. Yuni and Matt fit this bill and I hope they get the success they deserve.
So just look for the lit up church in the thick of trendy High St Northcote and follow the path to Yuni's Kitchen. Selamat Makan.
Postscript: This is an ethical business that donates all tips to the Begawan Foundation in Bali, which is a breeding and release centre for Bali starlings. See www.begawanfoundation.org