Update: Warung Kampung is now located in the Parkway Mall food court with an updated menu.
Warung Kampung seems to encapsulate the Indonesian food scene in Toronto perfectly. Indonesian cuisine in general is extremely hard to find in our fair city (short of home-based catering services or Malaysian restaurants), and true to form, this restaurant is no easier to spot, being practically invisible from the street. Located deep inside the bowels of the rather forlorn looking JD's Supermarket on Eglinton Avenue East, just west of Markham Road, Warung Kampung is the very definition of hole in the wall. But what it may lack in appearance, it more than makes up for in its food.
First of all, this place isn't really a restaurant. The term "warung" in Indonesian refers to small street-side vendors that are generally unimpressive visually but provide good hearty meals to the local inhabitants (tourists are very rarely seen inside one). As such, the name is rather apropos as Warung Kampung is more like an open kitchen/food court stall. The best part, however, is the awkwardly located yet extremely comfortable seating area located diagonally across the main floor, one floor above. While munching away on your Indonesian treats, you can get a surprisingly enjoyable view of the sparse supermarket you see below you.
The menu selections are simple. As Indonesian food is extremely labour-intensive, it's impossible for a small operation to have a spread on the same level of Manchu Wok. Consequently, the standard menu consists of a few staple favourites, along with a rotating special every week or so. During my visit, I ordered the lunch box ($8 incl. taxes), which gave me a healthy portion of rice along with everyday regulars: a portion of ayam bumbu bakar (grilled spiced chicken), some rendang (beef curry in coconut milk spices), and some richly-seasoned kale curry. I also got some special of the day: a helping of tewel (young jackfruit cooked in rich spices).
The rather large lunch was, simply put, a wonderful sampling of authentic Indonesian food. This will be music to the ears of this city's surprisingly large (but often invisible) Indonesian population, who have been clamouring for a "proper" Indonesian restaurant to go to.
The chicken was tender (though the spices were unfortunately a bit milder than I expected), the beef curry was rich and flavourful, and the kale was equally tasty, while the jackfruit (a new experience even for me), complemented the meal nicely due to its smooth and silky texture which allowed it to absorb copious amounts of the sauce that was generously given. Indonesian food has always been known to be rich, and this offering certainly didn't disappoint.
A particular highlight that I would recommend is the balado ($8 for 100g). This Indonesian take on the common beef jerky is particularly good here. It was crispy, yet retained a lot of its beefy flavour, with subtle nuances of spices throughout. Coupled with the rather large selection of fried vegetable fritters, ordering a handful of these ensures your party has a lot of finger foods to keep your hands busy throughout the meal.
Be sure to ask for a side of the green chilli. This specially-made hot sauce, which I believe is the most delicious hot sauce ever made (Frank's Red Hot? Nope. Sriracha? Please.), is made by frying, then slow-cooking, several kinds of chopped green chilli before seasoning the bejeezus out of them. The result is a spicy sauce that isn't fiery, but rather more complex and feels like an actual condiment to the meal.
It's there to complement your dish, not to knock your tastebuds senseless in a manliness contest (I'm looking at YOU, stereotypical hot wings sauce). Sometimes the special chilli sauce on offer varies. Try them all, and wash it all down with a Teh Botol ($1), a sweet jasmine tea drink popular in Indonesia, and you're looking at a satisfying meal.
I could go on forever, but suffice to say that I'm genuinely excited about this newest arrival to the Toronto food scene. If you can look past its surroundings (and the present lack of any permanent signage outside the building), you'll get to experience a little taste of Indonesian cuisine. And contrary to what many would tell you, it's quite distinct from Malaysian or Singaporean food (wonderful morsels of culinary art in their own right). Cash only, and closed Mondays and Tuesdays.
Photos by Javin Lau