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Borobudur Restaurant: Review

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RijsttafelSoto AyamShaved Ice with Coconut Milk and Jackfruit
Rijsttafel (Rice Table and Small Dishes), Soto Ayam (Lemongrass Soup with Chicken), Shaved Ice with Coconut Milk and Jackfruit

July Hartono
Name: July
Occupation: S.A.P. Consultant
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Borobudur Restaurant
Reviewed Borobudur Restaurant: Thursday, December 4, 2008

My boyfriend and I arrived at the restaurant at 7 pm after circling the block for about five minutes to find parking. The restaurant was decked out in Christmas decorations and it looked even better than the usual. As it was quite early for dinner, we got seated right away at the booth at the end of the restaurant, even though we did not have a reservation. Soon though, the restaurant filled up and by about 8 pm, there were people waiting to be seated.

As soon as we are seated, we had our water. They were very attentive at first because their restaurant was still rather empty. However, as it started to fill up, I had to flag them to put in our order. The food came quite quickly, though, and the waitress, who recognized me, brought a jar of sambal terasi (chili with shrimp paste) for me. This restaurant makes their sambal terasi in-house, and the sambal terasi is complimentary, but you have to request it.

We ordered two appetizers, and they could have been our main meal. The portions were good-sized, and Indonesian food is usually eaten family-style and it would have been better to go with a group because then you can order a variety of dishes and get to eat everything without having lots of leftovers. The vegetable sampler had three corn fritters, ten pieces of tofu, and ten pieces of tempe with a side of special sauce. I ate them with the sambal terasi instead of the sauce that came with it because I preferred the spiciness of the sambal terasi than the sweet sauce. The siomay bandung was also quite filling with all the fish cakes, tofu, cabbage, potatoes, and hard-boiled egg with a special peanut sauce. They were both good as usual.


For our entrees, we ordered soto betawi and mie tek2 goreng. Soto betawi is a stew of beef served with diced tomatoes and shredded lettuce, topped with belinjo crackers. The meat was tender, and the broth was rich and flavorful. Mie tek2 is my favorite dish in this restaurant -- a dish of traditional fried noodle with chicken, vegetables and eggs. However, I was quite disappointed that it was too salty this time. As usual, I added my spoonful of sambal terasi to all my dishes.

Traditionally, all Indonesian dishes come with their own chili sauce and Indonesia has many different recipes for chili sauce. Sambal terasi is the most common of these Chili Sauces. It added the kick of spiciness that I had been craving. We were so full, we could not order dessert.

I had to flag down the waiter several times to get our water refilled and our check because it was a busy night, and there were only two waiters to perform everything from seating to cleaning. Nevertheless, they were always polite, friendly, and prompt with my requests. Besides, with the festive atmosphere at the restaurant, I did not mind spending a little bit more time there. There was a good mix of people there, usually in a group of four or more and there were Caucasians, Indians, Chinese, and, of course, Indonesians. The check came to $41.56, just as expected.

As always, I had a wonderful time at Borobudur, and a lot of leftovers for lunch the next day.

Amber Wipfler
Name: Amber
Occupation: Deputy Attorney General
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Alegrias Spanish Restaurant
Reviewed Borobudur Restaurant: Friday, December 5, 2008

Just when I thought I’d tried every ethnic cuisine in the greater Bay Area, I was introduced to something entirely new -- the fantastic Indonesian food at Borobudur. Although you may need to fight off theater-goers and TenderNob shoppers to find street parking, it’s well worth the trouble for the fried corn fritters, and a steaming cup of sweet ginger tea. The highlight of my meal was the tempe, which was a welcome change from the tofu and seitan generally found on vegetarian menus. Described as "Java soy bean cake," Borobudur’s tempeh is soft and dense with a texture similar to a plantain, and a pleasant fermented soybean flavor -- almost like a milder version of Japanese natto. The spicy fried tofu with eggplant was also impressive. I was not expecting a tomato-based sauce at a Southeast Asian restaurant, but it was a delicious surprise, and laced with just enough chili to leave a pleasant burn on your tongue.

The atmosphere at Borobodur is warm and relaxed. The aroma of coconut milk and lemongrass greets diners as they enter the front door, and the space is decorated with lovely Indonesian woodcarvings and umbrellas. Service was initially slow, as there were only two servers on a busy Friday night, but the quality of the food made this fairly easy to overlook. The chef personally presented my companion and me with our entrees, and twice returned to our table to make sure we were enjoying his creations. Indeed we were.

Indonesian food is truly unique. Although the ingredients are similar to those found in other Southeast Asian cuisines, it is not merely “Thai food with a twist,” and is a must-try for Bay Area foodies looking for something deliciously different. I look forward to my return visit.

Tom Kelly
Name: Tom
Occupation: Talent Agent
Location: Sausalito
Favorite Restaurant: Poggio
Reviewed Borobudur Restaurant: Friday, December 5, 2008

For someone who is not familiar with Indonesian cuisine, Borobudur in San Francisco is an excellent place to get a first-rate (and very tasty) education. Located between The Tenderloin and Nob Hill, the restaurant offers a feast for the senses, and almost insists upon multiple visits in order to savor the full range of its offerings.

The menu seems overwhelming at first, but a great way to get your feet wet is to order the rijsttafel (“Rice Table”), a comprehensive sampling of appetizers, entrees and dessert that runs about $26 per person. The Soto Ayam, or lemongrass soup, is marvelous, with a dozen or so different flavors blending seamlessly in a rich broth. Other standouts were the shrimp curry and the lamb curry. Indonesian curries are uniquely different from Thai or Indian versions, and seem to have a subtle sweetness that rounds out the spicy punch. My friends and I were not completely impressed with the fried tofu dish, but that was truly the only item that was less than stellar; for the most part, every other dish was its own intriguing concoction, mixing familiar and unfamiliar flavors in a highly entertaining fashion.

In addition, we ordered a few other plates, including spicy green beans with shrimp paste. I liked the peppery kick (one of my friends found it a bit too spicy), and it was a great match with the Pedroncelli Cabernet that we’d ordered. A whole fried striped bass arrived next, a delicately flaky treat with crispy skin that the menu describes as being marinated in “exotic spices.” We also tried the lamb curry from the main menu, which seemed to be slightly different from the rijsttafel version but was just as satisfying. Instead of ordering several desserts, we all shared the burbur ketan hitam, or black rice, which may look and sound intimidating, but was in fact quite good; mildly sweet with a delightful coconut finish.


The room is small, but bright and inviting, and we were all relived at how conversation-friendly the environment was. We went early on a Friday night and there seemed to be only one server working the entire house (which was nearly full) for the first hour, until other staff arrived. This was never a problem for us, but you might want to keep it in mind if you are looking for a quick dining experience. Parking is typically difficult in the neighborhood, but we took public transportation and skipped the hassle. I would love to return to Borobudur and explore the entire menu.

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