Thursday, May 8, 2014

Get in Ma Mouth: Lamb Curry Stew Edition

Posted By on Thu, May 8, 2014 at 2:14 PM

Don't ever say Instagram is without worth. If it weren't for Instagram, I may never have experienced the deliciousness that is Batavia's gule kambing, an Indonesian lamb coconut curry stew. Apparently, chef Asha Gomez of Cardamom Hill had recommended this dish to bartender Stuart White, who promptly headed out and posted a photo of the dish on Instagram. "A+," he said. "Thanks for the recommendation @ashagomez." I saw that post, and, that very night, found myself trekking to Batavia Indonesian Restaurant in Doraville with my son for dinner. (He and I had discovered Batavia together over a year ago by spinning the globe and landing on Indonesia as our dinner destination.)

Batavia is an admittedly homely hidden gem, with a mini-market of Indonesian foods tucked off on one side of the informal dining room, but the tiny restaurant's gule kambing is a wonder of soothing, scintillating flavors. First you notice the calming presence of the sweet coconut milk that provides the base for the stew. Next come the sweeter, but sharper, bits of housemade Indonesian pickle. The large, bone-in chunks of lamb floating in the stew are supremely tender, and slightly gamey. Indonesian accents swirl throughout: hints of lemongrass, bursts of chili, assertive galangal, fragrant lime leaf. It all adds up to an addictive bowl of stew.

After my meal, I caught up with Gomez to get her thoughts on Batavia's comfy Indonesian fare:

Batavia is one of my favorite places to eat in Atlanta - I've been going there for years. What I love is that you can tell they grew up eating this food. It's comfort food, not at all formal, but packed with flavor that just smacks you in the face. There's a lot of commonality between Indonesian and certain Indian cuisines, and the gule kambing in particular reminds me of the Kerala beef stew that I love so much. The prices are ridiculously good, and everything just works.

On my next visit a week later, a friend and I plowed through six offerings from the array of dishes sitting in steam trays behind the counter, plus an order of that gule kambing. Gomez was right, everything just worked - a simple fish curry, heavily spiced beef rendang, tender beef tendon with peppers, all piled over a mound of rice on a single plate.

Indonesian-born chef Paonk came out from the kitchen towards the end of our meal clearly proud to share the cuisine of his homeland one plate at a time. He's been at Batavia for two years now, and the restaurant itself is a full decade old here in Atlanta. While Batavia is well known within the Indonesian community, it might just take a few more Instagram photos for it to fully sink into the consciousness of the rest of the city's seekers of adventurous foods.

Batavia Indonesian Restaurant 3640 Shallowford Road, Suite 44, Doraville. 404-254-0646

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