Kata Kita review

A kitten-faced robot delivers food to tables at Kata Kita.
A kitten-faced robot delivers food to tables at Kata Kita. Photo: Scott McNaughton

La Trobe St Melbourne, VIC 3004

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Opening hours Tue-Thu 11.30am-4pm, 5.30pm-10.30pm, Fri-Sun 11.30am-10.30pm
Features Accepts bookings, Licensed
Prices Moderate (mains $20-$40)
Payments eftpos, Visa, Mastercard
Phone 03 7064 5389

How do you feel about being served by a robot? A wheeled trundler with a cute cat face is part of the team at Kata Kita, the fabulous new Indonesian restaurant from the Sanusi family, who also have nearby Yoi.

Where Yoi is halal – no pork, no alcohol – Kata Kita serves tropical cocktails and sensational Bali-style crisp-skinned pork in an attractive, airy dining room.

The robot is a response to staffing shortages but the humans on deck are so friendly and well-drilled that the tech feels like a bonus not a lack.

Udang bakar (grilled tiger prawns).
Udang bakar (grilled tiger prawns). Photo: Scott McNaughton

Dion Sanusi's menu is a plunge into everything he misses about Indonesia and a heartfelt, aromatic infusion of marinade, sambal and charcoal touches every dish.

Udang bakar (grilled tiger prawns) are cooked in the shell with galangal, garlic, ginger, lemongrass and sweet soy. They recall Belitung (Dion's grandmother's island) but also Jimbaran, the Balinese beach town where seafood restaurants line the strand.

Ikan bakar (whole grilled pomfret fish) also channels Jimbaran, and though you're unlikely to feel sand between your toes here, the pull-apart flesh, fried shallot sambal and confident char are totally satisfying.

Kwetiaw goreng sapi (beef noodles).
Kwetiaw goreng sapi (beef noodles). Photo: Scott McNaughton

Madura-style fried duck (bebek goreng) is frankly amazing, showcasing the depth, skill and complexity in Indonesian cuisine.

The duck itself has burnished skin and a good balance of pull-apart meat and crunchy edges, but it's the accompaniments that craft the immersive adventure.

Bumbu hitam is an intense reduction of the duck cooking liquid: it's dark, caramelised and beautifully redolent. Lawar is a saucy salad with snake beans and pork skin. There's a raw, spicy sambal matah too with shallots and coconut oil.

"Frankly amazing": Madura-style fried duck (bebek goreng).
"Frankly amazing": Madura-style fried duck (bebek goreng). Photo: Scott McNaughton

Lastly, the duck is surrounded by a black sandy scattering that is the toasted remains of the marinating medium, yet another way to enjoy the aromas that make this dish so stunning.

There's cocktail theatre aplenty, especially with the Uluwatu, a gin and pineapple concoction topped with a shimmering smoke bubble.

It's fun and tasty, which makes it perfectly on message for this vibrant destination restaurant.

Rating: Four stars (out of five)