Who craves Dutch Indonesian food? Apparently half of Lincoln Park does. David de Quay’s barely one-year-old café has earned a passionate following the old-fashioned way: with smart, hearty food and a sincere staff. The room, all dark woods and ornate brocade, brims with warmth, as does the colonial fusion on the plate. Mussels, a heap of curry-tickled bivalves spilling over with coconut flavor, come with deep-fried Indonesian crackers. It’s an irresistible dish and a seamless expression of the harmony between Eastern and Western culinary cultures.
The rest of the menu does not let up, whether nasi goreng—Indonesia’s punchy answer to bibimbap with stir-fried rice and multiple dipping sauces, such as pickled cucumber—or a beautiful buttermilk-marinated chicken with garlic-chive basmati rice and Javanese curry cream. And the quirky wine list, masterminded by Terry McNeese, one of Chicago’s smoothest general managers, is full of obscure bargains.
This is one of those “realization of a lifelong dream” type of restaurants, says the half-Dutch de Quay, who knows his way around many of Indonesia’s 17,000-plus islands. For the rest of us, his dream may represent the nicest surprise of the year.