It wasn’t until we stumbled, by chance, upon a group of Indonesian sailors (yes, really) that we found our way. I had heard a lot of folklore about the place: it was small; the proprietress didn’t speak any English; the menu was in Bahasa. As a result, I was armed with pages of culinary research, none of which was really necessary because the owner and her brother spoke perfect English and the menu – while not overly detailed – did make a stab at describing the dishes on offer.
We joined a table with the sailors, hoping that by following their lead we’d be privy to the best and most authentic meal imaginable. I veered away from foreigner favourites such as nasi goreng and ordered something called opar ayam, which caused our companions to break into enthusiastic cheers. I’m still not quite sure why; opar ayam is chicken braised – and served – in a coconut milk broth. Perhaps they were barks of food envy, for my dish was deliciously nuanced. In recent months, I’ve started to feel as though my tongue had fallen into a slumber, but each sip of this soup had so much spark that it jolted the increasingly tired muscle back to life.
We also ordered stacks of chicken satay, which seemed to fit the group vibe excellently. A dozen or so of the pudgy chicken skewers came nestled under a thick, sweet blanket of chunky peanut sauce. It was a nice dish; sultry, tarlike and possessing a roughness that was charming because it hinted at being home-made. The only misstep in an otherwise excellent meal was with an order of mpek mpek, a lightly battered, fried fishcake that came in a sickly sweet broth. Overall, though, the meal felt successful, not only for the restaurant, but for us – we managed to find the fabled hidden gem, and it was definitely worth the trek.
The bill (for two)
1x Nasi padang Dhs28
1x Sate ayam Dhs17
1x Opar ayam Dhs25
1x Mpek mpek Dhs25
Total (excluding service) Dhs95