Borneo Kalimantan is an unassuming Indonesian restaurant on Garfield, just a little south of the Main Street and Garfield intersection. The place, as its moniker implies, serves up dishes from the island of Borneo (Kalimantan), the largest island in Asia, and shared by three countries: Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei.
Our party of four selected dishes from a pretty sparse menu spanning 2 pages if I recall correctly. This is my philosophy on restaurant menus: specialize. There’s no need to be jack of all trades when you can easily master a few dishes.
Rojak is a fresh fruit and veggie salad, dressed with a thick and sweet peanut sauce. In this case, the fruits and veggies in question were an assortment of sliced pineapples, carrots, jicama and cucumbers. Toothpicks were provided for all to munch on without getting our hands wet. A quite refreshing segue into the rich and flavorful meal we ended up having.
The nasi campur arrived next– on a bed of steamed rice garnished, a handful of prawn crackers (krupuk), an egg braised in soy sauce (quite similar to the Chinese lu dan / 滷蛋 if you ask me), fried chicken, a fried slice of tofu, and my absolute favorite: a saccharine sambal made from anchovies and peanuts. I’ve found that sambal can make or break an Indonesian dish.
The last dish we ordered was soto ayam, a curry chicken soup garnished with shallots and chives, served in what appeared to have once served soon tofu. I find that soto ayam is very nuanced, at least with the first try, it’s a bit watery, almost flavorless. But as I progressed, the dish grew on me, especially the musty and earthy aroma of turmeric. Turmeric, which gives soto ayam its signature yellow look, is often used to season meats and as a color additive, but its taste is often masked by other spices. Pleasant and hearty.
Unfortunately, we didn’t have a chance to explore the restaurant’s signature Hakka-style Indonesian dishes. My mom is a Hakka Chinese, so perhaps I’ll return with her for some more insight.
If you’re hard pressed to find street parking on Garfield, there’s always a free City parking structure behind (1st Street Parking Structure, map here), immediately behind the restaurant. Ample and free parking is available behind the building (1st St. Parking Structure, address: 80 S. First St.).
Address: 19 South Garfield Ave Unit A, Alhambra, CA 91801