Gado gado is my all-time favorite Indonesian dish. A great gado gado is predominantly defined by the peanut sauce (or the bumbu as Indos would say). In Sydney, most Indonesian restaurants take shortcuts, creating the sauce using peanut butter. But the legitimate way is to make it from scratch using peanuts, grinding it with an ulekan (mortar and pestle).
The gado gado I love in Jakarta is from Cinere and it’s made with potatoes, snake beans, bean sprouts, chayote, cabbage, spinach, tofu, tempe, cucumber, and boiled eggs. My love for potatoes, tofu, and tempe is immeasurable. And when it’s all coated in a tasty peanut sauce? It doesn’t get much better. I should note though that the gado gado at Willis Canteen is simple in terms of the veggie combo: it’s just cabbage, spinach, bean sprouts, cucumber, and fried tofu. BUT THE SAUCE, GUYS. IT’S FRIGGIN LEGIT.
A few days in advance I order a serving of the gado gado (with mild chilli because one of us doesn’t have the highest chilli tolerance). We read that it takes really long if you just show up on the day and order gado gado on the spot. And sometimes it also sells out. Supposedly you’ve gotta wait one to two hours for them to make the peanut sauce from scratch, but I didn’t confirm this with the owner (I should have). Having said that, they have a sign near their cash register with their phone number for ‘faster gado gado/ketoprak’. Bottom line, for the gado gado it may be worth calling ahead or messaging them on Facebook like I did.
Random gado gado tip: gado gado is from Jakarta, so I avoid ordering it in Bali (or anywhere else in Indonesia actually) because it can be quite poorly made outside of the capital.
Now, as for the other food at Willis… We wanted to order the rendang, but true to Indo fashion, it isn’t available. “Lagi kosong” is a phrase I hear almost every day when I’m back in Jakarta (it means “not available” or literally “currently empty”). So we go for the daily special: nasi campur, which is essentially a serving of rice with side dishes. Tonight it’s chicken rendang, fried salted fish, fried tofu, and a side of sayur lodeh.
There’s something kind of squeamish about eating chicken bones, but don’t knock it till you try it. The ayam tulang lunak (soft bone chicken) has such soft bones that you can eat them. I’ve actually never eaten this kind of chicken in Indonesia, only at ATL and Willis Canteen in Sydney.
The nasi goreng kampung empal takes me right back to eating home-style Indo food. It’s full of flavor and served with a fried egg (how it should be!). Lastly, the sate ayam with lontong is also a highlight because of the awesome peanut sauce. They really know their peanut sauces here at Willis.
The Ultimo restaurant is a cross between an Indonesian resto and a tiki hut. But don’t let the simple decor deter you. Best of all? We only spend $15 each for this glorious feed.
392 Jones St, Ultimo NSW 2007
Wed-Mon 12-3pm and 5-8pm
Closed on Tuesdays