Ramayani Westwood - Los Angeles
You know how many LA restaurants can say it's been around 30 years? Not many. You know how many LA Indonesian restaurants can claim the same thing? Even fewer.
Ramayani is one of them, if it isn't the only one.
It opened in 1983. To put that into perspective, when it first served its first plate of nasi goreng and satay, Return of the Jedi was in theaters. Not the remastered and redigitized crap with Hayden Christensen inserted between Alec Guinness and Yoda, but the original old school film. On celluloid. In 2D.
Since that time, LA has seen a lot of Indonesian restaurants come and go like so many failed sitcoms. I remember a few. There was a restaurant called Ratu that specialized in a mahogany-hued and sugary-sweet Indonesian fried chicken. In Irwindale there was a place that made one of the best renditions of gudeg outside of Yogjakarta. There was once even an outlet of Bakmi Gadja Mada somewhere in the San Gabriel Valley, though its affiliation to the Jakarta noodle institution was unconfirmed by me before it, too, went belly up.
Why such a high failure rate for Indonesian restaurants? The same reason why this post will be one of my least read--there just aren't enough Indonesians to keep Southern California's few Indonesian restaurants afloat.
Ramayani, on the other hand, is a rock, sustained through the ages by people like me but most likely college exchange students who probably heard about it back when they were still in Indonesia. ("Psst, if you want Indonesian food while you're there, there's this place in LA.")
Though this was my first visit, I get the feeling the dishes haven't changed in at least a decade, if ever. The Nasi Rames, the usual starter dish for those new to the cuisine but also one of my favorite gauges of an Indo joint, is exactly as I expect, and tastes like a sampler platter, with a curried chicken drumstick, long-simmered beef rendang, sambal telor (hard boiled egg topped with a chili-tomato sauce), and a few other dishes piled around a dome of rice.
Ramayani does the dish well, but also remains one of the few places that offer rijsttafle for about $30 per person, which probably brings in the ex-pat Dutch people more than anything else.
For these reasons I expect Ramayani will last another thirty years. If not that, then certainly longer than this blog, which will reach its 10 year mark in about a month and thus the perfect time for its retirement. If I do decide to shut this sucker down, fewer people will weep for it than if Ramayani were to close tomorrow.
1777 Westwood Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90024
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