I've been to Gajah Wong once before and knew I wanted to go back and bring Alex. Actually, that last time I went was with the group of friends I mentioned in the story about vegetarians not having enough choices. Anyway, that was a really nice night in early September, and we sat in the garden out back. I was hoping to hold out for some good weather and make a return trip to the outdoor seating, but it's been raining for about a week. Last night, we went to the restaurant and eat indoors -- and rather enjoyed ourselves.
Source The dining room where we were seated and the outdoor garden.
Why the rush to return? Gajah Wong is closing. If you have a chance to go in the next week or two, go. See? This is why a restaurant review in the typical sense wouldn't be meaningful.
The menu has a few vegetarian options, and, sure, compared to the choices available for meat-eaters, it can seem limiting. However, I'm not going to eat the whole menu. I only need to find something I like. They offer three vegetarian entrees, and between my previous visit and last night, I've tried them all.
We started with Indo garden rolls, which were very good and reminded me of the tofu rolls in Vietnamese restaurants. The roll was filled with rice vermicelli noodles, veggies and cilantro, a slice of tofu, and topped with Hoisin sauce. These were really, really, really good.
Gudeg is the reddish-brown stew, served with tofu opor, rice, and crackers.
I was eager to try the gudeg, which is a stew made of green jackfruit, a large tree fruit that has a meaty texture when it's not quite ripe. This entree is served along with opor tofu, a mild sauce that claims to be "redolent with fragrance of lemongrass". I liked it, but not as much as I liked the sambal goreng I tried on my last visit. The opor was like gravy, or a cream of something soup. The tofu and gudeg are served with a cone of flavored rice and garlic crackers.
Tofu Kare with vegetables, rice, and garlic crackers. That's some spilled hoisin from the rolls on the table.
Alex got the kare, which is made with a mix of Java chiles. The owners brought chile seeds from Indonesia and grow their own chiles here. His spiced coconut milk sauce was good, but not spice-hot, and came with a side of vegetables cooked with egg.
This is one of those places that could make it into the rotation, but sadly we didn't find out about it until the last month they'll be open. The owners are headed back to Indonesia to be with family and possibly open an American restaurant serving hamburgers and BLTs made with turkey bacon. Sweet, funny, and sad.