Betawi Café

One of the city’s best cheap eats, tucked away in Karama 26 Reviews

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I thought I’d never find it. There I was, dragging four unsuspecting friends through a heat so thick it felt three-dimensional, just so we could sit down to eat. This, however, was destined to be not so much a meal as an experience. The destination was Betawi Café, a little Indonesian restaurant recommended to me by two of Dubai’s best chefs: Rhodes Mezzanine’s Paul Lupton and Reflets’ Olivier Biles. When chefs of that calibre tell you about a place, visiting it is not a suggestion; it’s an obligation. The problem was that neither of them could tell me the restaurant’s phone number and neither could describe exactly where it was.

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.

This seemed true of most things on the menu. Food here had an electric quality, the first taste inspiring the same delight as the 10th or 20th bite. Early on in the meal we passed around a plate of nasi padang, a good choice for anyone who wants to try a range of specialities. Literally meaning ‘rice from Padang’, it’s a pick-a-mix dish. Here, it was served with a teasingly smoky chicken leg and a soft-boiled egg that had been seasoned and fried.

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

By Daisy Carrington
Time Out Dubai,

Time Out reviews restaurants anonymously and pays for meals. Of course, we cannot guarantee the accuracy or independence of user reviews.

Details

  • Location: Karama, Dubai
  • Tel: 056 759 8118
  • Travel: 4B street Mabrooka 1 building behind Park Regis Hotel

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User reviews

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  • Users voted this restaurant most suitable for: Family friendly

User reviews:

Posted by: Hanna on 21 Apr ' 13 at 05:22
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  • Best for: Family friendly
  • Would you go back to this restaurant? Yes

Long time ago that I have eaten Indonesian food. Food was delicious. Never expect so good food for this a nice price. Easy to find and the staff was friendly.

Posted by: CHANDRAN on 10 Apr ' 13 at 16:52
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  • Would you go back to this restaurant? No

The quality of food and the presentation was okay, and its just an experience for a person who is keen to have an indonesian cuisine or try a new place. Apart from that, the ambience is bad, the waitress hardly speaks English and you may find them busy having food at the next table ad busy chating with her friends in her language. Its definetly a wrong place to take some one out for a lunch or dinner. Lastly they do not have a proper bill to give you as well.

Posted by: meidi on 16 Mar ' 13 at 09:03
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  • Would you go back to this restaurant? Yes

great food, love the gado gado and pecel ayam. friendly staff.

Posted by: Kathy Pembry on 08 Dec ' 12 at 12:46
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  • Best for: Family friendly
  • Would you go back to this restaurant? Yes

The restaurant is small and simple as is the menu but the food tastes great and the dishes are authentic as we went with an Indonesian friend who really enjoyed the meal. The portions are generous as we could not eat anymore once we had finished and very good value for money.
They also deliver so we will be ordering from there instead of our usual takeaway.

Posted by: Peter on 22 Apr ' 12 at 14:32
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  • Best for: Family friendly
  • Would you go back to this restaurant? Yes

A great place for affordable and tasty indonesian food. Staff very friendly, always smiling. Food absolutely authentic. A lot of indonesian people go there. Would definitely recommend!

Posted by: Marcello on 22 Mar ' 12 at 03:14
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  • Best for: Family friendly
  • Would you go back to this restaurant? Yes

Authentic atmosphere and authentic food.
If you are looking for posh places to impress people with decoration do not go there, Dubai is full of Armani-like places to rip you off.
If you look for good indonesian food this is the place!

Posted by: Geoff on 24 Jan ' 12 at 08:02
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  • Would you go back to this restaurant? Yes

Authentic. Nice price. Delicious.

Posted by: Jodasche on 27 Oct ' 11 at 04:36
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  • Best for: Family friendly
  • Would you go back to this restaurant? Yes

Best Place Ever!

Posted by: Emma on 19 Jun ' 11 at 11:48
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  • Best for: Family friendly
  • Would you go back to this restaurant? Yes

The staff were so welcoming and their English is great - we had no issues at all.

Food is AMAZING! Everything was delicious and I will definitely be returning :)

Posted by: ami 02 06 on 31 Mar ' 11 at 23:09
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  • Best for: Family friendly
  • Would you go back to this restaurant? Yes

before i didn't know there's Indonesian food in Dubai,,,but my friends told me there was Betawi Caf'e at Karama and i try it ,,,wooowwww it's fantastic so everyone who live in Dubai should try this Indonesian food the taste there's no one here,,,,,,,,love...love....love it...

Posted by: julia on 18 Mar ' 11 at 07:56

been wanting to go there for the longest time but no one seems to know where it is, not even my indonesian colleagues.
craving for nasi goreng and being in the vicinity, we braved the back streets of karama to look for this gem!
love, love, love the food and will be back for sure.
downside- the order took 1 hr to be served.

Posted by: JC on 11 Mar ' 11 at 09:10
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  • Best for: Family friendly
  • Would you go back to this restaurant? Yes

Fantastic ..love it ....i used to come with a friends from diferent nationality...well they love it even some of them dosnt like the spicy thing...

Posted by: Chloe on 18 Jan ' 11 at 12:50
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  • Would you go back to this restaurant? Yes

Betawi restaurant :

mm ... Lovely place to enjoyed the food, I have been there the food was outstanding, but location and service wasnt really great, the waiter and waitress not speaking eglish very hard to comunicate with,

But food was outstanding

Posted by: Gina on 12 Jan ' 11 at 10:13
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  • Best for: Family friendly
  • Would you go back to this restaurant? No

Well I would say BETAWI one and only Indonesian restaurant in Dubai, so Indonesian people basically have no much choice.

We went there last time to have our meal, Being Honest I wasn't that impressed, Place is scrappy and hard to find it most importantly food wasn't really good, the server wasn't speaking English for the value of the money of course you can expect more. and limited selection too ..

Well I don't think we be back there ever again.




Posted by: Shweta on 27 Nov ' 10 at 07:24
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  • Would you go back to this restaurant? Yes

Discovered this homey little gem thanks to Timeout and absolutely loved it for its ethnic feel. Though I don't know much about Indonesian food, we ordered everything that the lovely waitress recommended and found it amazing - especially the house special soup in a light coconut broth served with rice. Our meal with one shared appetizer and beverages came to 97 dirhams. Well worth a repeat visit.

Posted by: Shweta on 27 Nov ' 10 at 07:20
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  • Would you go back to this restaurant? Yes

A homey little gem in Karama. Don't know much about Indonesian food but we tried everything that was recommended by the waitress and found it amazing - especially the house special soup in a light coconut broth served with rice. Meal for 2 with one appetizer and two beverages came to 97 dirhams. Pretty reasonable and well worth another visit.

Posted by: SW on 26 Oct ' 10 at 16:10
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  • Best for: Family friendly
  • Would you go back to this restaurant? Yes

My wife & I got the recommendation from an Indonesian friend and then saw the TimeOut reviews, and all praise is well deserved.
If you are looking for excellent, authentic food at very affordable prices then Betawi Cafe is among the best in Dubai.
Very friendly staff who were very helpful in exploring the menu, but I recommend that you come early to avoid them running out of some dishes as we experienced from 9pm.
If you're not up for spicy food, then definitely seek help from the staff in ordering. Some dishes (e.g. rendang) cannot be made-to-order so not an option to tone them down.
The beef rendang was excellent (but spicy) and the Urap was a great side dish, albeit enough for a meal in itself. Mie Gorang was top quality as well.
Undoubtedly one of the best finds we've had for cheap & cheerful restaurants in Dubai!

Posted by: wisnu on 18 Aug ' 10 at 06:02
  • Would you go back to this restaurant? Yes

Posted by: Peter Liu on 10 Aug ' 10 at 07:09
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  • Best for: Business lunch
  • Would you go back to this restaurant? Yes

i've been going here since it was in the old location for over 2 years .. my wife's indonesian and i have done the firs review of this on dubizzle a long time ago ... it's the best indonesian food in dubai .. actually it's best for mpek mpek that sickly sweet broth isn't meant to be drunken but just continually poured over the fish to flavor it ... the best way to find ethnic restaurants is to ask ethnics - the Pinoy lady cleaning your villa, the Indian man pumping gas into your car -> the Kenyan man opening your car door at the Valet of that hotel - you don't need to ask top chefs ... i bet you they ask the mexican dishwasher or the cuban kitchen hand. Read Bill Bufords book Heat or Anthony Bourdains Kitchen Confidential and you'll know more about the food business.

Posted by: ameerah on 04 Aug ' 10 at 10:02
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i read the review..

so i hurriedly search and alas found the place thanks to time out location is easy

But to my dismay...

i have been to few restaurant in dubai. always love to try new places and food
service is great but the food.... nasi goreng to be exact... is . i dont recommed it trying even.. and the chicken satay... not worth trying as well...

Understandable that some people might find the food nice but to my own taste it is not even worth paying 84 aed and the food goes to waste ...


Posted by: ahmad on 02 Aug ' 10 at 13:44
  • Best for: Family friendly
  • Would you go back to this restaurant? Yes

wonderful....specially if you like spicy food, this is the best food ever i tried... but sometimes you have to waiting outside when is so busy....

Posted by: Christy on 01 Aug ' 10 at 06:32
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Great food with competitive price. Wanna try the authentic Indonesian cuisine? Surely the Betawi restaurant is the right place to be. I can guarantee that all dishes are freshly made - no instant stuff.
During their busy time, eating here can be a pain, but to be honest, I am happy to wait cos I can fill my little tummy with lovely Indonesian snacks (stuffed tofu etc)..with a glass of Sosro Ice Tea...yummy..

Posted by: MIA on 20 Jul ' 10 at 10:50
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  • Would you go back to this restaurant? Yes

Ahdoe... Enak enak!!! Super tasty!

Posted by: chris on 20 Jul ' 10 at 08:15
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  • Best for: Family friendly
  • Would you go back to this restaurant? Yes

The decor is non-descript, the service can be awful at times and the ambience is not really for a leisurely meal, BUT (and it's a BIG BUT) the food is consistently hard to beat and the value is amazing. I have taken my non-Indonesian spouse there twice (first ever Indonesian food experience for her) and she is now a convert :)

Posted by: nicola on 16 Jul ' 10 at 06:17
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  • Would you go back to this restaurant? Yes

I have been there once maybe in 2008 and loved it. Unfortunately every single time i tried to go and indulge myself again there.. i never found it back ! Perfect foood.

Posted by: Ai on 16 Jul ' 10 at 05:46
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  • Best for: Family friendly
  • Would you go back to this restaurant? Yes

Well no doubt this is the best truly authentic indonesian food that you can find in dubai. With a decent service style, and ambiance but high value n competitive taste, i do recommend everyone to try this restaurant.

Best for Indonesian food ever in dubai

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