The first time you eat Nasi Padang, especially if you love powerful spices and flavors, will be an incredibly memorable experience (possibly life changing).
I remember my first time eating Nasi Padang, back in 2009 when I visited Sumatra; It immediately became one of my favorite meal types. In Jakarta, there are hundred, maybe thousands of restaurants serving Padang food.
When I was eating my way through Jakarta, there was one restaurant that really stood out to me for their Nasi Padang: Rumah Makan Surya.
In this blog post I’ll share all the food and details with you.
What is Nasi Padang?
Padang is a city in Western Sumatra that’s known for a few things, but most famous for its food.
Nasi, which means rice, is the mandatory accompaniment to Padang food, so the two are often paired together as Nasi Padang (also you might see it as Makanan Padang, meaning Padang food).
Characterized by being spicy, full of chilies, galangal, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, turmeric, garlic, shallots, and an assortment of jungle herbs and vegetables, plus seafood and meat, Padang food has gained a reputation across Indonesia for being some of the most flavorful of all.
Many Padang dishes are curry dishes, but you’ll also find boiled dishes with sambal (chili sauce), deep fried seafood and also grilled dishes. The assortment and flavor combinations are mind blowing.
There are two ways to serve Nasi Padang:
- Pesan – This is where you get a plate of rice, and choose which dishes to go directly on top of your plate of rice. This method is most common at local street food stalls.
- Hidang – This method, which is an incredible meal to experience, is typical at Padang food sti down restaurants. The waiter will bring you a selection of what could be dozens of dishes, stack them into the center of your table, and you can choose to eat whatever dish you want. You pay for what you eat, but don’t pay for what you don’t eat.
When I was in Sumatra, eating at little street food stalls, I often ate Nasi Padang in the pesan style, but for a seriously incredibly culinary experience, the hidang style is quite a treat.
Although Nasi Padang refers to dishes from Padang, the food is so popular, and rightly so, that Padang food is one of the most common types of food to eat in Jakarta.
Rumah Makan Surya: Makanan Padang
When I was in Jakarta, Renis, who watches our food videos on YouTube, invited my wife and I to eat at her favorite Nasi Padang restaurant in Jakarta.
The name of the restaurant was Rumah Makan Surya, and it proved to be some of the best Padang food I’ve ever had. Thank you Renis!
The restaurant is just south of downtown Jakarta, along a road called Bendungan Hilir Raya, which is a pretty busy food street.
Rumah Makan Surya, or sometimes just called Nasi Padang Surya, is a hidang style, sit down restaurant, with the stacks of pre-cooked dishes in window. Inside the restaurant, there’s both an outdoor smoking and non-ac section, and an indoor ac section.
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Along with being powerfully flavor food, Nasi Padang is also known as being a meal you come to eat when you are really hungry and don’t want to wait for your food.
That’s because all the curries and dishes are fully prepared, and as soon as you sit down, all the dishes are delivered to your table and you can start digging in.
At Rumah Makan Surya, within minutes, our table was double decker stacked with plates of incredible looking curry, and we each had a plate of rice to accompany the dishes.
Possibly the hardest thing about eating Nasi Padang this method is choosing the dishes you want to eat. But there’s one dish that’s a no brainer: beef rendang.
Not only a favorite Padang dish, but also one of the best dishes in the world according to CNN Travel (not everything on the list I would agree about, but rendang is something I can’t argue with). When you have a well made proper beef rendang, it’s truly one of the world’s greatest dishes.
The rendang at Rumah Makan Surya included pieces of beef in a dangerously tasty blend of spices, and what really came through nicely was the dry coconut within the curry. Rendang is not to be missed at any Nasi Padang restaurant you eat at.
Another dish, which is actually just a sambal, that I couldn’t get enough of was sambal ijo, a green chili sauce.
Mainly including green chilies, salt and oil, this chili sauce was so good with rice and mixed with the different dishes. I could have eaten bowls and bowl of sambal ijo!
Another common Padang food you’ll see at restaurants is called dendeng balado, which is dried fried beef with chilies. The beef was kind of like beef jerky, but it was ever more dry, and more crackery rather than leathery.
The beef was then fried with soft sweet red chilies to make an amazing pairing. I thoroughly enjoyed dendeng balado, but my wife Ying like it even more than I did.
Gulai otak, cow brain curry, is not a dish you have to try when you come here, but if you’re willing to give it a go, you should.
Cow brain curry is very common at Padang restaurants and at Surya it was incredible.
The brain was cooked in a thick creamy coconut milk based curry, and the brain itself was unbelievably creamy, like half melted cheese or like panna cotta.
For me, cow brain is really good, but I reach a limit with how much I can eat in one sitting due to its richness and heaviness.
Another dish I always like to eat at Padang restaurants is some type of gulai ikan, or fish curry. Fish is one of my favorite things to eat, and I’m a huge lover of curry.
On this particular meal, although I would normally go for an ocean dwelling fish, they suggested I try a freshwater fish curry.
I’m not sure what type of fish it was, but the fish itself was a little mushy, but the curry sauce was fantastic – full of creamy coconut milk, turmeric, and with flavors of chilies, lemongrass, and maybe some ginger in there as well.
Ying and I had a few more dishes as well, including a couple of chicken dishes – how could you resist a piece of chicken that’s completely covered in a layer of chili?
Additionally, although I failed to take a photo of it, I also had a plate of mixed boiled vegetables served with sambal (so plenty of vegetables as well to go with the meat).
One of the main vegetables on the plate was daun pepaya, papaya leaves, which were slightly bitter, and delicious when dipped into chili sauce.
Part way through our meal, I noticed some other tables that had ordered jus alpukat, an avocado smoothie shake, and I needed to try one.
I asked them to make it without sugar, though I think they added in a bit of condensed milk to boost up the creaminess. Additionally, they added on a sprinkle of chocolate sauce on the top.
The avocado juice was so good it was almost unbelievable.
The bulk of the avocado was creamy like pudding, yet more fluffy and with that natural avocado earthy taste. It was just slightly sweet, from the condensed milk I think, but not too sweet.
Wow, it was good. It’s well worth ordering if you eat here.
If you’re still hungry after devouring as many plates of rice and curry as you can, there’s a plate of bananas on your table.
I was way to full to think about touching the bananas, but I just wanted to point that out.
During our trip to Jakarta, my wife and I ate at this restaurant twice, and our bill each time was around 165,000 IDR ($12.52) for about 6 dishes, rice, and avocado juice.
They charge you according to which dishes you eat, and don’t charge you for the dishes you don’t touch – even though they are sitting on your table.
Watch the video:
If you have a few minutes, press play to watch the full video of this incredible Nasi Padang meal.
(Or you can watch the video on YouTube here)
When you’re in Indonesia, Nasi Padang, or food from Padang, is one of the most flavor packed meals you can possibly choose to eat. And while it’s originally from Sumatra, you’ll find Padang food all over the country.
In Jakarta, there are hundreds of Padang food restaurants and many well known chains that specialize in this delicious cuisine. I tried a couple Padang restaurants in Jakarta, but the best Nasi Padang in Jakarta that I tried was at Rumah Makan Surya.
When you’re in Jakarta, for an amazing Nasi Padang feast, don’t miss Rumah Makan Surya!
You might also be interested in: Jakarta Travel Guide for Food Lovers
Rumah Makan Surya Masakan Padang
Address: Jalan Bendungan Hilir Raya No.15, Bendungan Hilir, Jakarta (you can check out Jakarta food map here)
Open hours: 9 am – 8 pm daily
Total price: 165,000 IDR ($12.52)