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Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Immanuel Cafe Restaurant, Ultimo

A huddle of taxi drivers is always a good sign.

I'm talking about taxi drivers at eating establishments. Surely with free transport at their disposal, their endorsement of any restaurant is worth noting?

There's a group of four taxi drivers outside Immanuel, a simple and barely furnished cafe that serves homestyle Indonesian food. It's not our first stop for the evening. Feeling in need of sustenance after a night of cryogenic cocktails, our thoughts had turned to cravings for deep-fried chicken, specifically the soft bone chicken that Amanda had posted about recently, served at ATL Maranatha in Kensington.

The trek to ATL Maranatha is fruitless, with the lights on but the door locked and seemingly closed for the evening. We turn around and end up at Immanuel in Ultimo, the original site of ATL Maranatha which still serves soft bone chicken despite the change in owners.

Patrons have to fill out their own order pads, and there's an element of novelty watching Suze take pen to paper.

Es Campur $3.50
Shaved ice with mixed fruit and jelly
topped with red syrup and condensed milk

The menu is a laminated A4 sheet, printed double-sided with accompanying photos. We're bemused by the honesty on the menu which lists under the pandan dumpling drink Es Cendol, "traditional Javanese drink/dessert - hard to explain, try yourself!". We're told that unfortunately they've run out, so Simon orders the Es Campur instead, a refreshing drink of shaved ice, red beans, coconut jelly, red syrup and condensed milk.

Ayam kremes $6
Specially seasoned crispy fried chicken with homemade chilli on side

There's a broad selection of Indonesian dishes available, a range that includes Soto Ayam Indonesian chicken soup ($8), Coto Daeng Daeng beef soup with added tripe ($8), Bakmi Indonesian-style noodles with diced chicken and mushrooms ($7) and Empek Empek Indonesian fish cakes ($7.50).

We focus on the fried chicken instead, ordering all four varieties in offer, with two extra serves thrown in for good measure.

Ayam RicaRica $6
Shallow fried chicken smeared with extra spiced chilli

The Ayam Kremes is a chicken maryland marinated and deep-fried, served with a strew of deep-fried crumbs. The chicken is juicy with a faint sweetness in the chicken skin.

Ayam RicaRica is a little oilier, presented with a dense paste of fiery chilli sauce on top.

Ayam Lunak $7
Shallow fried soft bone chicken (edible bones) with homemade chilli on side

It's the Ayam Lunak that we're all looking forward to, lured by the promise of edible bones in this soft bone chicken. The Maryland joint has a distinctly flatter appearance, coated in a thick batter and topped with more of those deep-fried golden fluffy crumbs.

The side of the fork goes easily through the bone, a little disconcerting at first. It's a strange sensation to feel the bones crumble in the mouth too. Flavourwise, we comment that there's a distinct taste of chicken marrow. You can certainly taste the chicken bones, which have a slightly odd metallic resonance.

Ayam Panggang $6
Indonesian marinated flame BBQ chicken with homemade chilli on side

The Ayam Panggang is the last chicken variant to arrive, and it ends up being the table favourite. Dark in colour, the chicken has an incredible smoky charcoal flavour, and the kecap manis marinade adds a salty sweetness.

Each piece of chicken comes with a small salad garnish of lettuce, cucumber and tomato although noone else touches this except for me. The dishes of chilli sauce also remain largely untouched as there's already plenty of flavour in the chicken themselves.

Cah Kangkung $8
Stir-fried spinach with fresh cut chilli and tomato

There's plenty of chilli in the Cah Kangkung, so much so that Minh and Suze can only manage small and modest amounts of it combined with mouthfuls of plain steamed rice. It's a fiery combination of water spinach with chilli and tomato, providing an endorphin rush for chilli fans.

Nasi Goreng Ikan Asin $8
Indonesian fried rice with salted fish

Nasi Goreng Ikan Asin is a mountain of Indonesian fried rice. The rice is sweet and spicy, and tiny morsels of egg, shallot and salted fish add extra flavour. It's an enjoyable dish but one that is incredibly oily, evidenced by the pool left behind at the bottom of the plate.

Our gluttony of eight dishes between four is undoubtedly excessive. The next table holds four Indonesian women and between them they share two pieces of fried chicken and two bowls of Sayur Asem, a sour soup with corn, long beans, nuts, tomatoes and savoury jackfruit ($4.50).

No matter. I end up with two takeaway boxes of leftovers, put to good use for dinner and lunch, and dinner again. At $15 a head, it's a supremely cheap meal given how much we'd over-ordered. Taxi drivers - they know a good thing or two.

And because I always love fried chicken, what's your favourite spot or recommendation for a fried chicken fix?

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Immanuel Cafe Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Immanuel Cafe Restaurant
197/392 Jones Street, Ultimo, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9552 2145

Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Indonesian - Ayam Goreng 99, Kingsford
Indonesian - Cafe Joy, Haymarket
31 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 2/02/2010 01:48:00 am


  • At 2/02/2010 2:59 am, Anonymous Hannah said…

    My mother would love that soft bone chicken - she's always been the one at the table who gnaws away at the drumstick chicken bone cartilege. And she'd probably be rather cranky if she knew I'd written that...

    Sadly, have no advice for fried chicken joints (no pun intended) (was that even a pun? I've confused myself), so I'll humbly back away for the minute.

  • At 2/02/2010 4:46 am, Blogger joey@forkingaroundsydney said…

    Ooohhh, those fried chicken pieces look so damned good! That's a good cheap Indonesian find, so thanks!

  • At 2/02/2010 7:20 am, Blogger fickle red riding hood said…

    Definitely going to try this place out and taxi drivers really are a good indication as to whether a place is good or not.

  • At 2/02/2010 8:17 am, Anonymous jess (fushmush) said…

    totally agree with you about taxi drivers. My favourite Indian takeaway place on Crown st looks totally dodgy but is always full of taxi drivers. It's soooo good.

  • At 2/02/2010 8:50 am, Blogger Lilia said…

    Hi Helen, you can cook a great fried Javanese chicken (ayam Kalasan) using indonesian ready made spices by Unifood called Ayam Kalasan spice. Just add 1 table spoon a palm sugar or raw sugar for better flavour.

    If you do have meet up bloggers (not 100 though) after 2 weeks from now on Saturday or Sunday, maybe I can cook it for you. Just email me lilia97(a)yahoo.com and I'll see if I could make it (if I'm not rostered for weekend work).

  • At 2/02/2010 8:52 am, Blogger Stephcookie said…

    Ohh yep, taxi drivers can be trusted :) Mmm love a good fried chicken place, I always head to Ayam Goreng 99. Been meaning to try the soft bone chicken place too after seeing that post! Shame it was closed for you :(

  • At 2/02/2010 9:03 am, Blogger Apple said…

    Unfortunately I don't get out very often, so as for a good fried chicken I can't help there.
    But that chicken does look good!
    If I ever venture into the city again, there's alot of places I've seen on your blog that I'm going to have to check out!

  • At 2/02/2010 9:34 am, Anonymous foodwink said…

    Love a cheap Indonesian joint! Hehe, did all the dishes arrive at the same time? Or did you wait they did to get a full action shot?

    My favourite spot for a fried chicken fix is Kyochon, a Korean Fried Chicken restaurant with branches in Chatswood and Flemington. Love their spicy marinated fried chicken.

  • At 2/02/2010 10:24 am, Anonymous Howard said…

    Nice hidden gem, it seems the taxi driver sign is a good one. There is another indo place on Anzac Parade in Kensington/Kingsford which seems to be packed with taxi drivers too!

    Best friend chicken is at Red Lea!

  • At 2/02/2010 10:24 am, Anonymous Yas (aboutthefood) said…

    I can pass up cake and chocolate, but I find it very hard to pass up fried chicken. Thanks for the new place to try!

    Ok, I can't really pass up cake and chocolate. I don't have to...right?

  • At 2/02/2010 10:36 am, Anonymous Trisha said…

    FRIED CHICKEN!??!?! Did someone say FRIED CHICKEN????? I always walk past this place and kept walking but now I know looks can be deceiving! Oh Helen you really nailed this one! Woooohoo!!

  • At 2/02/2010 10:50 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Does this joint serve jackfruit curry? I went to
    a small Indonesian restaurant in Queens NY that
    served fried chicken...and also amazing jackfruit curry.
    another great post! thanks.
    "johnny forks"

  • At 2/02/2010 11:48 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hi Helen, give Ayam Goreng 99 a go and just order the Ayam Goreng Kalasan, Ayam Bakar Kalasan, Sate Ayam or Soto Ayam. Their Indonesia Style Fried & Grill Chicken is the best in Sydney - cheers

  • At 2/02/2010 12:37 pm, Blogger Unknown said…

    Okay you may or may not have gone, but both Dong Ba branches in Cabramatta does awesome BBQ fried chicken for just 8 bucks - I'm there at least once a fortnight because I can't tear myself away from their staple spicy beef noodle soup! They've also got a branch in Bankstown (am very sure your friend Howard @ ES&T has already been - stalker-mode is off now ;)

    Your writing makes me almost as hungry as your photos - omnomnomnom...

  • At 2/02/2010 1:43 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The Travis Theory

    interesting time to bring this up...
    Do taxi drivers really know where good food is?
    Has this theory ever been tested?
    I would never trust Travis Bickle's taste in food--gun dealers or porn theaters maybe.
    That said, I would trust a taxi driver's opinion about food over a long haul trucker. Truckers just don't have the time to find a good place to eat. Plus they're all hopped up on meth or red bull. Then again so was travis.
    "johnny forks"

  • At 2/02/2010 3:27 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Very interesting. I have not heard of soft bone chicken until recently. I have not idea there are so many variety of fried chicken!!

  • At 2/02/2010 3:54 pm, Anonymous Tina said…

    Ha ha - one of every fried chicken, please

  • At 2/02/2010 3:59 pm, Anonymous chocolatesuze said…

    ahhh how good was the chicken! and lol havent written with pen and paper in ages

  • At 2/02/2010 6:00 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    tan viet in cabramatta has the best chickenn mmm, my best friends family owns it, it's so popular and good!

  • At 2/02/2010 7:10 pm, Blogger Simon Leong said…

    thanks for the post. i'll have to try this cheap and cheerful place. so no one mentioned KFC for fried chicken, that's interesting HEHE ;-) i've still to try Tan Viet which seems to get mentioned a lot in the blogging community. and Ayam Goreng 99 is on my list too to try :-)

  • At 2/02/2010 7:39 pm, Blogger Rita (mademoiselle délicieuse) said…

    Gosh, so much golden chicken! Lucky I've got some roasting for dinner tonite =)

  • At 2/02/2010 11:21 pm, Anonymous KFC So Good said…

    The chicken just looked divine! I am so close to Ultimo on some days... should really give this place a try.

    I must say in peak lunch time at a busy shop, KFC is really rather good! .... did I said it out loud?

    Even the bone crumbles!! wow... that's very impressive. Did you find out what's their secret?

    Just need an avocado shake and we are almost in Jakarta.

    We are so blessed in sydney

  • At 2/03/2010 12:23 am, Anonymous Jacq said…

    Ah I love Indonesian food and this place looks great! I have a serious craving for fried chicken now!

  • At 2/03/2010 1:01 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Hannah - I love chicken bone cartilage too. I tend to pick my chicken bones clean but eating these bones tasted quite different.

    Love the pun, even if it was unintended! lol

    Hi Joey - I was really impressed by how cheap the food was - an irresistible incentive to exercise gluttony!

    Hi fickle red riding hood - Yes the presence of taxi drivers is always reassuring! I'm sure they know where all the cheap authentic eats are.

    Hi Jess - Great to hear I'm not the only one who uses the taxi driver indicator!

    Hi Lilia - Thanks for the tip. I will have to keep an eye out for the spice mix. Unfortunately I won't be able to make a meet in two weeks but that's awfully kind of you :) And hurrah for weekends off!

    Hi Stephcookie - Ah yes I've been to Ayam Goreng 99. It would be interesting to sample more soft bone chicken places - all for research purposes of course!

    Hi Apple - No problem. The chicken was tasty and very budget-friendly too. Hope you find a few tasty eats on your next visit to the city :)

    Hi foodwink - No the dishes arrived at staggered periods but we took so long with photos we didn't start eating until they'd all arrived. The perils of eating with fellow food bloggers. lol.

    Thanks for the tip about Kyochon. I love spicy marinated fried chicken too!

    Hi Howard - Would be curious to find out which Indonesian place you're referring to in Kensington. I wonder if it's Ayam Goreng 99?

    And lol, will have to get takeaway from Red Lea sometime!

    Hi Yas - Ha, I don't think I can pass up food full stop :) Fried chicken is all kinds of good!

    Hi Trisha - Ooh sounds like you might be making a few detours from now on :)

    Hi Johnny Forks - Alas no jackfruit curry on the menu, but it sounds very intriguing!

    Hi Anon - I actually have been to Ayam Goreng 99 and I agree, their fried and grilled chicken is very tasty. Perhaps a revisit is in order!

    Hi Margaret Tran - I haven't been to Dong Ba so thanks for the tip. And lol, it's not stalker, just ardent appreciation!

    PS. Thanks so much. Always heartening to hear :)

    Hi Johnny Forks - Haha, perhaps I'm thinking more about homesick ex-pat taxi drivers who seem to have a knack for tracking down authentic and cheap eateries!

    Hi Ellie - The concept of soft bone chicken is new to me too, and oh I don't think you can never have enough varieties of fried chicken.

    Hi Tina - Yes indeed. Maybe two :)

    Hi Chocolatesuze - The chicken was great and ha, I think that was only the second time I've seen your handwriting!

    Hi Anon - Another tip. Thanks so much. Not biased, I presume? lol. But at least you've provided open disclosure :)

    Hi Simon Food Favourites - Ha, I was hoping for recommendations for Korean Fried Chicken :)

    Hi Mademoiselle Delicieuse - Very well timed indeed!

    Hi KFC So Good - Would be keen to hear your opinions on the chicken, especially the soft bone version. I'm not sure how they make it soft - have read they may boil it in a wok or use a pressure cooker. Alas no avocado shakes but I agree, we are definitely blessed in Sydney.

    Hi Jacq - I think I always have a craving for fried chicken :)

  • At 2/03/2010 7:56 pm, Anonymous Kay said…

    i always miss having indo food.. my asian cuisine cycle goes korean chinese japanese then thai filipino and viet food.. how does it compare?? ive been to ayam 99 before.. it was OK.. although my friend says that the edible bone chicken is good!! must try that now that i work closer to kingsford!

  • At 2/06/2010 3:53 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Kay - That's quite a comprehensive Asian cycle! I think the chicken at Ayam Goreng 99 was crisper, but there were a lot more variations here. Will be curious to hear what you think of the edible bone chicken.

  • At 5/09/2010 9:16 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I definitely need to try this place. I love Ayam Goreng 99 but it's a litle too far for me to go to Kingsford for my chicken fix.

    I lovvvvvvvveee Indonesian chickens (be it grilled or fried, as long as the chilli sauce is there) and who can resist them at such cheap prices?

  • At 6/01/2010 1:21 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Anon - The prices are amazingly cheap. Definitely recommend you check it out. The soft bone chicken is pretty awesome.

  • At 9/15/2010 12:24 pm, Anonymous Elle said…

    I've been to Restaurant Immanuel a few times now and I LOVE IT!!The nasi goreng and ayam panggang are my favourites but for a more healthier option I go for the Sayur Asem, its a vegetarian sweet and sour soup- yummy and different!! The owner is also really sweet :)

  • At 9/19/2010 7:56 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Elle - The sayur asem looked great. I do love tamarind and yes Immanuel Cafe is such a good find for a cheap eat :)

  • At 11/07/2011 6:01 pm, Anonymous chef said…

    good job auntie sianie :)


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