Warkop review

Chicken Taliwang sandwich with chicken marinated in lime and lemongrass curry.
Chicken Taliwang sandwich with chicken marinated in lime and lemongrass curry. Photo: Chris Hopkins

12 Risley St Richmond, VIC 3121

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Opening hours Mon-Fri 7am-3pm
Prices Cheap (mains under $20)
Phone 03 9939 9678

Here's another place to file under lockdown silver linings: a tiny Indonesian-inspired sandwich shop with excellent coffee and a bright, poppy interior.

It's owned by chef Barry Susanto and his old friend, barista Erwin Chandra. Together, they're bringing authentic regional Indonesian flavours in an exuberantly inauthentic form to the Richmond backstreets.

The pair have long been frustrated that the incredible diversity of their home country's cuisine is little known by many in Melbourne. Susanto had the idea of putting some of his favourites into sandwiches: surely everything is accessible when it's slapped between bread?

Richmond's tiny Indonesian sandwich shop is worth crossing town for.
Richmond's tiny Indonesian sandwich shop is worth crossing town for. Photo: Chris Hopkins

Recipe development took place in lockdown at Susanto's old job: he's spent the past three years at Yarraville fine diner Navi. When not making takeaway, Susanto tested his Indonesian sandwich concept on the team, including owner Julian Hills, one of the best palates in town. It was the restaurant version of the famed Women's Weekly test kitchen and the results speak for themselves.

The Chicken Taliwang is based on a dish Susanto loved in Lombok. Chicken is marinated in a lime-and-lemongrassy curry paste. Once grilled, it's layered up in sourdough with green tomatoes, rocket, Swiss cheese and a schmear of the reduced curry sauce. Cue fireworks and swoony music: it's a winner.

Gado-gado in a sanger? Actually, yes. Fried tofu and tempeh are glazed with kecap manis and crammed into focaccia with beansprouts, fried shallots, lettuce and just enough peanut sauce to soak in without soaking through. It's a flavour party.

Gado-gado focaccia with tofu and tempeh.
Gado-gado focaccia with tofu and tempeh. Photo: Chris Hopkins

There's pastrami on rye but not as you know it: the beef is dressed with a Padang-style rendang sauce, sparked up with ginger-pickled cucumber and pulled back with American cheese. Clever!

Kaya is pandan-infused coconut custard – it is what salted caramel wishes it could be. Here they slather it on brioche and top it with rice crisps (radical). It's excellent.

"Warkop" (an abbreviation of "warung" and "kopi") means coffee stall. In Indonesia, they're drop-in cafes for locals. This Warkop has a similar neighbourhood feeling, though the food is so interesting and the off-Broadway location so alluring, I'm sure people will cross town for an innovative taste of Indonesia.

Kaya and rice crisps in brioche.
Kaya and rice crisps in brioche. Photo: Chris Hopkins

Rating: Three and a half stars (our of five)

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Tambo Ciek

Showcasing the food of Padang in West Sumatra, Tambo Ciek does a classic rendang, is offal friendly, and specialises in nasi kapau, rice with a daily selection of toppings. Prepare to get spicy!

644a Swanston Street, Carlton, 03 9349 1770

Warung Agus

I have a special fondness for restaurants that have been around for ages and this Balinese fixture has been doing its thing since 1989. Kids are super welcome, group dining is a cinch and there's plenty for vegans, including a nasi campur tasting platter with tempeh and tofu.

305 Victoria Street, West Melbourne, 03 9329 1737, warungagus.com.au

Mangan Yuk

Ex-Grossi Florentino chef Nicole started her regional Indonesian delivery service during lockdown and has continued to fit a weekly menu around her day job. Order on Monday for Friday delivery (inner and northern suburbs). Recent focus cuisines have included Balinese, Jakartan and East Javanese.