The lakeside town of Keego Harbor boasts — along with its small-town charm and sparkling lake — a gem of a little restaurant offering a surprising cuisine, that of Indonesia.
Indo isn’t fancy but the fragrant fare that emerges from chef/proprietor Melik Alonzo’s kitchen makes up for any perceived lack of atmosphere. It’s fresh and appealing and a refreshing change from the more familiar Asian dishes.
The native of Java is a meticulous chef who sends out colorful plates of her country’s cuisine, bright with precisely cut and pristinely fresh ingredients, and the unusual fare has been winning fans since she and her husband, Nik, took over the spot that formerly housed Modern Food & Spirits.
Indonesian cooking relies on fresh herbs including lemongrass and lime leaf, fresh chiles, coconut milk, rice and rice noodles, as well as fish and shrimp. Mango and papaya are often involved as well as garlic, ginger and shrimp paste. The fare is reminiscent of Thai, and there’s a touch of Indian and Vietnamese. (Melik Alonzo was the chef at Da Nang, the Vietnamese restaurant in Clawson, until Indo opened.)
Since the closest Indonesian community is in Ann Arbor, the fare is unfamiliar to most of the diners who have discovered the place in its first year. The best way to get a crash course in the cuisine is by ordering the rijsttafel (rice table). It may be ordered in three varieties, three, four or five courses ($28, $33 and $38 for two, adjusted for larger groups). The array includes appetizers of egg rolls, potato fritters and chicken and beef sate, vegetable or meatball soup, mango/ papaya or Indonesian vegetable salad, and entrees chosen from several curries, slow-cooked beef and Java chicken. The rijsttafel is topped off with coconut rice pudding or banana roll.
Ordering a la carte is certainly another option, and that’s how I discovered the shrimp soup, a resonant blend of small whole shrimp, fish and shrimp stock, with thin rice noodles, cilantro, jalapenos, fresh lime and red onion in its depths. It is a spicy delight that may be had in two sizes, 25 or 57 ounces. Other main dish soups include coconut chicken (soto ayam), meatball (bakso) and beef (sup daging), and all come with a side of bean sprouts to add to the mix to taste.
The two-size theme extends to many dishes on the menu, and it’s a welcome style. Such entrees as twice-cooked game hen, spicy Java chicken, Melik’s signature dish, baked with almonds, coconut milk, lemongrass and fresh turmeric, and curries of beef or chicken are available in two sizes. Like the portion sizes, spice levels can be varied up or down. The top spice level will please anyone who really means it when asking for a dish hot.
Service is caring and courteous, and it’s obvious that the couple takes great pride in what they do.
1535 Cass Lake, Keego Harbor
Call: (248) 622-4408
Hours: noon-9 p.m. Wed., Thurs., and Sun., noon-10 p.m. Fri.-Sat. Closed Mon.-Tues.
Prices: Appetizers $3.50-$12, lunch main dish soups $10-$11, entrees $8-$12, dinner main dish soups $12-$13.50, entrees $13-$15, desserts $4-$5.50. Rijsttafel (rice table) $28, $33 and $38.
Credit cards: AE, Discover, MC and Visa
Liquor: No; the couple is hoping for a license later
Noise level: Quiet
Parking: Strip mall lot
Wheelchair access: No barriers