Having it in my mind to perform a public service for the people by uncovering some ‘Hidden Gems’ in our city, I embarked on a process of scouring the web for restaurants which were off-the-beaten-track, easy to miss, largely untested, yet possess glowing reviews. Aneka Rasa checked all of these boxes; it’s hidden away, the only day it’s open for lunch is on Saturdays (otherwise only does evening trade), only 6 people had reviewed/rated it on Zomato, but the reviews were all positive! So on this Saturday lunch-hour we set out to find this potential Gem.
Standing in front of the Wesley Mission complex there was clear signage that Aneka Rasa was within, however it still took some courage and resolve before we strolled into a religious building in search for food. And once you’re inside, it was very easy to find as it was within line of sight from the foyer and there wasn’t anyone around to accost ya. Outside the open cafeteria-like space, pinned on a noticeboard, were a helpful Top 10 Most Popular dishes list, with colour images of the dishes (which helped as most names were in Indonesian), and a more detailed menu describing what you’d get with your meal with all the prices (which we’ve now uploaded to Zomato).
Therefore before entering their store, you’ve already made your choice and ordering and payment is made at the counter located in front of the kitchen. Our friendly service girl took our order, checked the freezer to ensure that they had durian for our As Durian, and with buzzer in hand we went to take our seats in the large open cafeteria space.
It’s hard to label Aneka Rasa as a restaurant, as it felt more like a community canteen for a company and its employees, and probably it is for Wesley Mission HQ staff. So perhaps rating it against commercial restaurants is unfair, however the atmosphere was a bit unsettling, it was like eating at a library, as it was very quiet in there, very few patrons and no music, so you could hear everything going on in the kitchen- conversation between the chef and the service girl, each quiet click of cutlery on plates, and it was hard not to hear every table conversation around you (I didn’t understand a word though, as everyone spoke Indo). Because it was so quiet, I’m sure everyone was also self-conscious of making too much noise, thus our table conversations were conducted in whispers, the girl blowing her nose from the spicy food was trying to do it softly, even the chef was cooking with less gusto than usual, I thought. Which all added to the unsettling quietness, so the .5 which we took off their final score was for this reason alone.
But the quiet wait wasn’t long before our As (ice) Durian arrived in a milkshake glass. With a long teaspoon we scraped away at the ice milk shavings, emerging with large chunks of frozen (but buttery) durian pieces. It was so good! Yum! And if you wanted water, there was a self-service station of room temp water.
And not long after, our food arrived as well. I had ordered the Nasi Rames, and my wife had the Lontong Sayur. If these names don’t ring a bell, don’t worry, it didn’t resound with us either. But I had selected mine as it incorporated 3 of my favourite Indo dishes i.e. Beef Rendang (2 tasty and tender pieces); elements from Nasi Lemak e.g. baked chicken rubbed in spices (it was an entire Maryland baked to a crisp, so crispy that the wing tip could be eaten bones and all); a generous serving of jasmine rice with the usual spicy/crunchy condiments to be mixed in; a spicy sambal sauce; a handful of prawn crackers; and the third dish/element was Gado Gado. So all of my Indo/Malay faves on one plate. Mmmmmm. The spice level of the dish was just right, not too hot not too weak but just enough to get your nose running a bit, without being distressingly hot. Although the Gado Gado was on the sweeter side, so I left that till the end like a mini dessert. For those who aren’t familiar with Gado Gado, it is a salad consisting of boiled veg, this time was cabbage and carrots, the dish brought together by its sweet peanut sauce.
And my wife’s Lontong Sayur was a soup/broth based dish consisting of a vegetable curry soup base, with rice cakes, a baked chicken drumstick, a whole hardboiled egg, and another handful of prawn crackers. My wife thought that the curry soup was tasty and full of flavour, which added its flavour to the otherwise tasteless rice cakes (though they had an interesting texture), the chicken drumstick was still crispy although it was served in the soup, but the dish lacked tofu although it was listed on the menu’s description.
All in all, the food was solid, and I’d imagine on par to a very good home-cooked Indonesian meal. So for the other patrons in the restaurant I’d imagine Aneka Rasa would remind them of a home cooked meal back at mum’s.
In conclusion, very reasonably priced ($30 for everything), friendly and efficient service, and solid food equates to 4.5 stars from us (they rated pretty high as well on the napkin test= 4). I think perhaps a Christian playlist (as it was Wesley Mission after all) would’ve lifted the experience to a 5 though. So they definitely have my recommendation to others, to come down and try Aneka Rasa for yourself! I’m most certainly coming back to have their other dishes and for that delish Es Durian again! So I think on our first dig, we’ve uncovered our first ‘Hidden Gem’, which has steeled my resolve to attempt to uncover more restaurants like this. So follow me on my adventure to uncover more Hidden Gems in our ol’ Sydney Town!
Aneka Rasa- Saturday 29 September
PH: 0405 277 067
220 Pitt Street, Sydney CBD NSW (Inside Wesley Mission Conference Centre)
Wed-Fri 5pm – 9pm
Sat 11am – 9pm
Fri 5pm – 9pm