My favourite kind of places are the ones that take you completely by surprise. The kind where you arrive with no expectations whatsoever, yet you are immediately wowed by the ambience, the service and, most importantly, the food. This can certainly be said about IR1968.
I had heard that the family-run restaurant, which first opened in 1968 (hence the name), had moved to L Place, yet foolishly, although I work just around the corner, I had not yet been to try it. Until one gloomy lunchtime, when a friend and I decided we wanted somewhere different, and I suddenly remembered the Indonesian restaurant I had carelessly neglected.
The laid back décor, a mixture of unfinished stone flooring and stripped wooden tables, immediately enticed me. With a vintage-looking hawker-style bicycle and the odd soda crate dotted around, it was reminiscent of the sort of street-side dining scene you would expect to see in Indonesia. The chilled out Indonesian music softly playing in the background completed the scene and gave me high hopes for an unexpectedly successful meal.
The vast menu is traditionally Indonesian, with everything from pork satay to nasi goreng, to beef rendang on offer. However, feeling the pressure of adhering to a strict one-hour lunch break, we opted for the set menu, which starts at $98 and changes weekly.
The set began with a Gado Gado salad. Although at first sight this measly salad may not look particularly appealing, you must learn not to judge a book by its cover, as, to taste, it was utterly delicious and more-ish; crunchy lettuce leaves, soft chunks of potato and crumbly boiled egg, dressed in a creamy peanut sauce.
After the comforting salad, you may choose one of five main courses, which vary in price depending on ingredients. The Nasi Hainan Ayam (Hainan chicken rice) is a dish I always associate as comfort food, but the healthy kind (provided you take the skin off). IR1968’s version was exactly as it should be: beautifully tender white chicken meat, with the necessary ginger and sweet soy sauces, and, obviously, rice. There were no surprises that drew away from the simplicity and honesty of this dish.
We both agreed however that my choice of Bebek Menyayat was definitely the winning dish. As we learnt from my review of Bebek Bengil in Ubud, Bali (find it here), ‘bebek’ means duck. This dish consisted of incredibly tender stewed duck in a rich, creamy coconut-curry sauce, topped with crispy-fried garlic and lemongrass. The flavours were intense and delicious, although I would have liked it to have been just a touch spicier. There is actually a note on the front of the menu that suggests asking if you like your dishes spicy; perhaps I should have followed this advice.
The set menu includes a drink, but does not include dessert. If you know me by now at all, you’ll know that I neeeed to have something sweet after my meal. And of course I have to please my readers. So we chose to share some Purple sticky rice with mango. It was everything this dish should be and more: a thick layer of wonderfully creamy and sticky rice, topped with a layer of sweet coconut milk and chunks of fresh, soft mango. The perfect end to a delicious meal.
Service at IR1968 is efficient and dishes are certainly served fast, so it’s definitely possible to do in a one-hour lunch break. It’s honest, it’s reasonable and it’s so close to work that it would be rude not to go back. Many times.
5/F The L Place
139 Queen’s Road Central
Tel: +852 2577 9981