WHY Classic Javanese cooking and crisp fried chicken.
WHAT The history of Merry Istiowati’s namesake restaurant traces back to her culinary academy in the Indonesian city of Surabaya. Here in a West Covina strip mall, her cooking is indebted to that past. There is, of course, ayam goreng kremesan, Indonesian fried chicken covered in crunchy rice-flour crumbles and dabbed with sambal and lime juice. But there’s more than simply chicken. The sautéed water spinach is perfect simplicity, the leafy green dressed with a salty fermented soy paste, garlic and flecks of bell pepper. There are soups, including rawon buntut (an oxtail soup flavored with the earthy, tarry seed of the kepayang tree), but ultimate convenience comes in the combination plates. Unwrap a banana leaf to find the nasi bungkus: steamed rice, curried chicken, beef rendang, a hard-boiled egg dipped in sambal, and jackfruit, all packed up for portability.
WHO Indonesian ex-pats from across the San Gabriel Valley.