Saturday, December 17, 2005
Restaurant 72: Tanjung San (Amsterdam, The Netherlands)
RESTAURANT: Tanjung San
LOCATION: Amstelveensaweg 156, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
DATE: September 16, 2005
FOOD: Rice Menu with Curried Lamb, Coconut Relish, Pickled Vegetables, Sliced Cucumber, Spiced Green Beans, Soy Sauce Tofu; Sambal Goreng Telor (Egg in Tomato Sauce); Krupuk Crackers
BEVERAGE: Tap Water
PRICE: 10.50 Euros
It is commonly known that the Netherlands resides below sea level. The canals and windmills may make nice postcards, but they serve the more important purpose of preventing the nation from sinking into the North Sea. However, with the onslaught of rain battering Amsterdam the night of September 16, it seemed only Noah’s Ark could keep the city from drowning.
Danny and I had spent nearly an hour and a half searching for a vegan restaurant with three euro dinners. When we finally found the place, the owners politely informed us it was only open three days a week. Thursday wasn’t one of them. Dejected and hungry, Tanjung San appeared like a wet mirage up the street.
Indonesian food and Amsterdam are as synonymous as the city and coffee shops, but only the former will reduce one’s appetite. Neither of us had tried the cuisine previously but Tanjung proved a memorable introduction. We both ordered combination rice plates and the flavors ran as wild as a naked toddler on a Slip ‘n Slide. The meal started with the wafery crunch of Krupuk crackers, delectably puffy and hinted with tangy shrimp. My main plate was suffused with food. The green curry lamb was exotically spiced but not hot, the curry integrated deliciously into the chunks of meat. The toasted coconut added a cascade of sweetness to the proceedings and a bite of meat, coconut, cucumber and rice was enough to convince me Indonesian food needs to become as ubiquitous in America as Chinese take-out and our disinterest in Arena League Football.
The green beans and red peppers raised the heat of the meal, but in a very composed manner. It wasn’t a light your mouth on fire after one bite heat, but a gradual, almost sexual build. Cold tofu in soy sauce was more chicken than vegan, meaty and substantial. A separate order of hard-boiled eggs in a tomato sauce with the consistency of sweet-n-sour sauce highlighted a link to Chinese, but showed how Indonesian goes off in a more complex direction. The tomato sauce was all things at once, sweet, spicy, almost like a thin jelly. But most importantly, it tasted sensational.
Usually first impressions are marred by awkwardness and noticeable silences. In my initial encounter with Indonesian cuisine, there was no room for quiet, every forkful referencing other Asian cuisines while maintaining a uniqueness all its own. The new acquaintance had left me enamored. Enough so in fact, that Tanjung San became the warm-up act for the premiere Indonesian restaurant in Amsterdam. Two days later I was to experience Templo Doeloe.
Posted by Vincent Rossmeier at Saturday, December 17, 2005