The family behind fast-casual Indonesian diner Yoi is offering an even deeper look at the food of their homeland with second restaurant Kata Kita, which opened Friday in the heart of Melbourne's CBD with a diverse spread of dishes from the archipelago nation.
"Our family's committed to reshaping the experience with Indonesian food in Australia. It's about much more delicious food beyond the OG nasi goreng," says Gideon Sanusi, who has worked on the more elevated 80-seat venue with his mother Lie and brother Michael.
While nasi goreng does appear on the hefty menu, it's joined by regional specialties like duck in the Madura style, known for its blackened spice paste of lemongrass, candlenut, shallot and other aromatics.
There are also several Sanusi family recipes, including one from the small island of Belitung, where Gideon's grandmother was raised. Mee belitung is a noodle soup starring a rich prawn and beef stock, fresh prawns, slow-cooked beef, fried potato and bean sprouts.
Where Yoi's menu is ideal for solo diners chasing a taste of home, Kata Kita is about the feast, a key component of Indonesian culture. It's also influenced the restaurant's name, which means "together we say".
"Before we start eating, we'll say 'kata kita makan [eat]', when you're at a large family table and no one wants to be the first to serve themselves," explains Gideon.
Live Australian mud crab, served in a spicy coconut milk-based sauce common in Padang cooking, is joined by other large plates like grilled pomfret marinated in turmeric and shallot. Balinese dishes like babi guling (crisp-skin roasted pork) are a focus, too, based on Gideon's frequent visits to Bali from Jakarta, where he and his family lived.
The spacious restaurant and extensive list of tropical-inspired cocktails by Dewo Saputra are part of the family's desire to reposition Indonesian food in Australia.
"It's not just street-food; it's actually really refined, the flavours are complex. It shouldn't be treated as cheap food."
Those in smaller groups don't have to miss out, thanks to a brace of 12 snacks that covers minced pork sate on lemongrass skewers, Semarang-style spring rolls bursting with bamboo shoots, and house-made Balinese pork sausage.
Six desserts close the menu, from sweet potato dumplings to bao filled with nutella and ice-cream.
Open Tue-Thu 11.30am-4pm and 5.30pm-10.30pm, Fri-Sun 11.30am-10.30pm
226 La Trobe Street, Melbourne, (03) 7064 5389, katakita.com.au