Now for something a little different – another food entry! I haven’t had really good Indonesian food in a long time, so I decided to go look for a restaurant that could match some of mother’s home cooking. I’d been to Toko Rame before, but wasn’t too thrilled. Therefore, it was time to pay a visit to Chicky, a local venue that participates in a weekly Indonesian food festival outside of the Duarte Inn. I’m impressed with some of their dishes, but I found some of them rather lacking. It’s no home cooking, but considering how rare Indonesian restaurants are, it’s worth a look if you’re in the mood.
Finding such a small venue is a real pain in the neck. Chicky isn’t immediately noticeable from any main street, so the best way to find directions is to ask for the Duarte Inn. The restaurant is tucked away in the small shopping complex right in front of the inn. It’s best recognized by the rather large “GRAND OPENING” sign plastered on the trees nearby.
The interesting thing about Chicky is that the menu doesn’t reflect a purely Indonesian influence. Sure, there are some staple foods, like satay and nasi goreng (fried rice). However, there are also orange chicken bowls, and other dishes that reflect Japanese and Chinese influence. Chicky is at heart an Indonesian restaurant, but also tries to cater to a variety of tastes. It’s a good idea on paper; Indonesian cooking isn’t too well known the USA, so offering some more well known dishes would be a welcome consolation to the less adventurous. I worried, however, that the Indonesian food would be somewhat degraded by the dilution of other ‘flavors’ on the menu – thankfully, I was (for the most part) proven wrong.
The first order of the day was to find out what drinks were available. Happily, there are some Indonesian favorites, including Es Teler (with avocado!), Es Shanghai (shaved ice), and Es Cincao (grass jelly). Es Teler happens to be my favorite drink of all time, and I’m glad to see that they got it right. Having one of these drinks is a must when you come here, as it really adds to the experience.
If you get there early enough, you’ll find lumpia and risoles available in a basket by the counter. Also on the menu is a ton of satay platters, which you can have in chicken, pork, or lamb. To me, the best one is the lamb satay, as the sauce blends perfectly with the rich and meaty flavor of the lamb. If possible, though, grab the lumpia. They’re made fresh everyday in small amounts, and the meat filling (chicken) is spiced to perfection, with the warmth of the sticky rice mixing well with the flaky nature of the meat. It’s a perfect appetizer, in my opinion, but they simply run out too fast.
The main courses here are really something to be marveled at. Served in a box that belongs in a Japanese restaurant, the dishes like beef padang and chicken kuning are served as combinations. A good helping of rice (spiced with saffron gives it the yellow color in the chicken kuning) and an accompaniment of traditional vegetable dishes (deviled egg, anybody?) provide ample contrast to some traditional preparations. To be honest, the beef padang is the best of the bunch. The meat is unusually light and can be cut with a light tap of the fork. The spicing is also excellent; however, be prepared because it can be really spicy to some newcomers. The chicken kuning is good, but I found the meat to be a little too dry and tough for my tastes. Also, the spice doesn’t come out in this dish; to me, you could’ve put a grilled chicken breast on, and it would’ve been the same. In both dishes, however, use the sambel (chili) in the middle of the plate SPARINGLY. That stuff is insanely hot, and will burn your tongue off if you’re not careful.
Two other dishes on the menu worth mentioning are the Mee Goreng and the Siomay. The Mee Goreng is a traditional preparation of Indonesian-style noodles. It’s good, but I wish the kitchen would lay off the salt a little bit. I found myself gasping for water twice when eating this (and I didn’t eat much). The siomay share the name with a dim sum dish, but it’s actually a bit different. Strong pork flavors mix with a heavy peanut sauce to make a flavorful and ultimately satisfying dish. What I regret is how intensely strong the flavors are. There isn’t a sense of balance, but more of a sledgehammer being thrown around, with two very strong ingredients vying for your taste buds. If this is your dish of choice, it will be difficult to have much else, since it’s so filling.
In conclusion, Chicky’s is a decent Indonesian restaurant with a few standout dishes, such as their satay and beef padang. It is also an attractive visit because there are other dishes that can cater to the less adventurous traveler’s tastes. However, the kitchen does require some fine-tuning, and they can really do with some cutting down of salt usage. It’s also ridiculously hard to find unless you realize it’s next to the Duarte Inn. I do think this restaurant has a lot of potential, though, and as it grows they will understand how to make their food better. As it is one of the few decent Indonesian hops in the SoCal area, it’s worth a look, even if it’s just for drinks.
- Indonesian drinks are sooooo good.
- Satay is well made
- Combination dinners are humongous!
- Small menu selection (not really a con, but if you’re looking for the more regional dishes you won’t find it here)
- Overuse of salt
Chicky BBQ & Grill
I don’t know the address, so use the Duarte Inn instead.
1200 Huntington Dr
Duarte, CA 91010