With a large open window onto Harris Street and an airy tiled interior, Martabak Café seemed like a good spot to escape the heat on a warm Sydney weekend.
The cooling effect comes from the frosty blue and white colour scheme with a feature wall depicting wayang golek (rod puppets). It’s filled with large family groups, with well-behaved kids and mothers breast feeding – a sure sign everyone is made to feel comfortable and welcome here.
There’s also good table separation, and long, ice-filled drinks. Es Cendol ($5.95) is drunk across South East Asia. It’s made with salty coconut milk and bright green pandan starch noodles, and sweetened with palm sugar syrup (gula jawa) that rests at the bottom until you stir it through. Es Teh Thailand ($5.50) or Thai iced tea, made with Ceylon tea sweetened with sugar and condensed milk, is lightly creamy and gently floral.
Both drinks would be good chilli companions, though the food we eat here isn’t particularly spicy.
Leaving aside the namesake martabak, available here as both savoury martabak telur and the even more popular sweet versions, martabak manis, we hit up the roti canai we can see and hear being slapped onto the grill behind a glass screen.
Ordering Roti Canai dengan Telur, Bawang & Kari Ayam ($12.95) will deliver you a light, elastic roti stuffed with washed onions and a cracked egg plus a little bowl of chicken curry that’s yellow from turmeric and creamy from coconut milk. Use it as a dipping sauce for torn off bits of pliable flatbread, punctuated by hunks of deboned chicken thigh.
Siomay Bandung ($11.90) gives you a mysterious looking lumpy brown plate. While it isn’t particularly eye-catching, it is tasty, especially the steamed chicken and prawn dumplings that remind me of Chinese shumai. They’re accompanied by siomay tahu (wedges of tofu stuffed with fish paste), crunchy cabbage leaves, boiled egg and waxy potato hunks under the lumpy brown peanut sauce drizzled with kecap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce). I found the dish a bit sweet at first but after making use of the supplied lemon and some sambal, passed separately in a little orange-topped jar, I quite liked this popular Indonesian street food.
Ayam Penyet ($9.95) or Indonesian fried chicken was a lunch special. You get a well-rendered fried chicken thigh scattered with crispy crumbs against a dome of white rice, and fresh cucumber and tomato on a cabbage leaf. It’s pretty plain and dry, so eats better with lots of sambal.
Martabak Cafe presents simple, gentle and likeable Indonesian food; and with our three dish lunch for two people including drinks coming in at just forty-six bucks, it's affordable as well.
439 Harris Street, Pyrmont
Ph: (02) 9566 4178