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A bowl of beef rendang with crispy shallots on a porcelain platter with chile at Cobi's in Santa Monica
Cobi’s in Santa Monica specializes in Southeast Asian curries and grilled items, including beef rendang with crispy shallots.
(Stephanie Breijo / Los Angeles Times)

Rendang is Indonesia’s culinary masterpiece. 11 of the best places to get it in L.A.

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Growing up, the moment I caught the aroma of ground chiles, garlic, ginger, galangal and other spices sizzling in hot oil, I knew my mother was making rendang. Preparing this fragrant Indonesian dish is no easy feat, requiring a melange of ingredients to create a rich, full-bodied dry curry. It’s steeped in coconut milk and slow-cooked for hours until the oil from the milk separates to caramelize the meat, rendering it unbelievably tender and enveloping each succulent piece in a spicy, unctuous paste. The flavor is intense, complex, unforgettable — no wonder there were never any leftovers when my mom made it.

“Eating rendang is like enjoying a rich sake where there’s distinct top notes, a robust body and a lingering aftertaste,” says Eric Tjahyadi, owner of Bone Kettle restaurant in Pasadena. “That’s really the best type of rendang — one that takes you to places.”

Originally a method to preserve meat in Indonesia’s tropical climate, it’s also a dish that you can take with you. “Due to its dry nature and natural preservatives like turmeric and coconut, traditional rendang can be stored for several days at room temperature,” says Cobi Marsh, owner of Cobi’s restaurant in Santa Monica.

Two new Indonesian restaurants indicate that the Southeast Asian cuisine is gaining popularity across Los Angeles.

Aug. 7, 2023

The extended shelf life of rendang was vital for the Minangkabau people indigenous to West Sumatra who created the dish. In this matrilineal society where wealth and property passed from mother to daughter, young men were encouraged to leave the tribe in a rite of passage known as merantau, or wandering. They’d bring rendang with them on their journeys — for both nourishment and a taste of home as they sought knowledge, fortune and new experiences.

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To the Minangkabau, rendang is more than a dish or cooking method; it’s part of their cultural identity, a labor of love symbolizing wisdom, patience and perseverance. Despite its widespread availability today, rendang remains a culinary tradition with ceremonial importance. Raised in Surabaya in a Chinese Christian family before moving to Jakarta, my mother recalls visiting neighbors during Lebaran (the Indonesian name for two Islamic holidays, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha). These gatherings in this predominantly Muslim country saw people of different faiths, both Christians and Muslims, coming together to share in celebration — and rendang was always an important part of the feast.

My mom brought the tradition of rendang with her when she came to California, just as Tjahyadi’s family did when they immigrated. “On holidays in the U.S., we wouldn’t have turkey or ham,” says Tjahyadi. “We’d have rendang. It was our own version of holiday meat.”

With the rise of Indonesian and Southeast Asian restaurants in L.A., I’ve embarked on my own merantau of sorts with my mom, exploring rendang across the city. Just as every region in Indonesia has its own unique style of rendang, each restaurant here offers its own twist. Here’s a guide to some of our favorites — from those honoring tradition to others reimagining it in their own distinct way.

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Rendang from Blasteran in Beverly Hills.
(Tiffany Tse)

Blasteran

Beverly Hills American Indonesian $$
Despite opening months before the pandemic in January 2020, Blasteran swiftly became a neighborhood favorite, celebrated for its unique American Indonesian fusion. Owner Norma Ashton-Laub, who previously worked for Aman Resorts and the Beverly Hills Hotel, always envisioned a restaurant that embodied her own brand of hospitality. Her menu includes superb burgers as a nod to the space’s former tenant, as well as dishes like gado gado and rendang noodles that reflect her Indonesian roots. Blasteran’s rendang is masterful: saucy, savory beef enriched by freshly dried, toasted and ground coconut and paired with custom seven-grain yakisoba noodles from Sun Noodles. Unlike typical thinner yakisoba, which can become limp and soggy soaked in sauce, these thicker, more robust noodles hold up beautifully, ensuring every bite is coated.
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Rendang from Bone Kettle
(Patrick Krum, Louis Nazitto and Collan Zimmerman)

Bone Kettle

Pasadena Southeast Asian $$$
Run by brothers Eric and Erwin Tjahyadi alongside their father, Bone Kettle is a love letter to Southeast Asian cuisine. With its elevated ambience, it’s the kind of place that would equally impress a date or your Indo grandma longing for the flavors of her homeland. Originally from Surabaya, the Tjahyadi family sought refuge in the U.S. during the anti-Chinese violence of the 1990s in Indonesia and rebuilt their lives in East L.A. This journey is reflected in the ever-evolving menu, which creatively remixes the nostalgic flavors they grew up eating. For brunch, try the rendang omelet; for dinner, get the phenomenal rendang carbonara — a fusion of Indonesian and Italian comfort food with 24-hour braised short ribs, sous vide to perfection before undergoing the slow-cooking process, mixed with Okinawan soba noodles, crispy shallots, bacon, Parmesan and a runny poached egg that lends the dish its luxuriously creamy texture.
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Rendang plate at Borneo Eatery, with salad, sliced cucumber and rendang around a mound of white rice.
(Borneo Eatery)

Borneo Eatery

Alhambra Kalimantan $
The island of Borneo, divided among Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia, boasts a rich culinary heritage that’s mirrored in the offerings at this standout SGV eatery. Prepared with ingredients and spices imported from across Southeast Asia, every dish resonates with flavor. The rendang rice plate features glistening chunks of tender beef alongside fried tofu, a curry egg, spicy peanut anchovies and steamed rice. In a rare accolade for Southeast Asian dining, Borneo Eatery was even honored with a Michelin Guide recognition in 2019.
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Rendang from Cassia, topped with peanuts.
(Cassia)

Cassia

Santa Monica Southeast Asian $$$
L.A. Times’ 101 Best Restaurants
| 2023
You know you’ve nailed it when your rendang was food critic Jonathan Gold’s favorite dish on the menu. Chef Bryant Ng’s beloved Santa Monica gem serves a standout rendition, thanks to his use of beef cheek — a cut that achieves melt-in-your-mouth tenderness through slow-cooking. Unlike the traditional “dry” rendang, Ng’s version is delectably saucy and slathered in mouth-watering gravy. Topped with anchovy peanuts wok-tossed with shallots, garlic, Vietnamese chiles and fermented shrimp, each bite is a complex interplay of texture and flavor. The finishing touch? A rich sambal with a coconut twist that expertly balances the spice and leaves a lasting impression.
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A small bowl of beef rendang with crispy shallots on a porcelain platter with chile at Cobi's in Santa Monica.
(Stephanie Breijo / Los Angeles Times)

Cobi's

Santa Monica Southeast Asian $$
This Southeast Asian hot spot was born from owner Cobi Marsh’s love for rendang. Raised between Melbourne and Bali, Marsh was barely a teenager when she began making the dish from scratch, discovering that the key to its deep, complex flavors hinged on thoroughly reducing the sauce. At her namesake restaurant, the rendang stays true to its traditional preparation. While the Minangkabau people originally used buffalo meat, a tougher cut that benefited from rendang’s slow-cooking technique, Cobi’s uses collagen-rich chuck or brisket. Loaded with connective tissue, these cuts turn into juicy morsels as the gelatin slowly renders during the long cooking process. Finally, the flavor-charged dish is finished with a blanket of crispy shallots for added crunch and served alongside chile sambal and gulai — a soupy curry sauce considered the first phase of rendang before it achieves its rich, thick, caramelized consistency.
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Rendang from Dapoer Bunda.
(Tiffany Tse)

Dapoer Bunda

Indonesian $
Getting laid off during the pandemic inspired Eni Indrati to turn her side hustle into a full-time gig with Dapoer Bunda, meaning “mom’s kitchen.” Specializing in traditional Indonesian food through her creative lens, she crafts rendang based on her mother’s recipe — with a few tweaks. Beef brisket is simmered with shallots, garlic, chiles, red bell peppers, grated roasted coconut, coconut milk and more, but the real secret lies in a blend of spices she brings over from Indonesia. The mix of galangal, cumin, coriander, turmeric, white pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves delivers an earthy, nuanced flavor that’s out of this world. Beyond catering for large events, Eni offers à la carte dishes available for order via her Instagram.
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Rendang from LaaLaaPan on a square plate
(Oscar Del Aguila)

LaaLaaPan

Woodland Hills Indonesian $
With her husband, owner Lili Winahyu opened this cozy eatery last year to bring authentic Indonesian flavors to their San Fernando Valley neighborhood. The duo faithfully re-creates dishes based on Winahyu’s grandmother’s recipes, including mie goreng, oxtail soup and beef rendang. Though some say that leftover rendang intensifies in flavor the next day, LaaLaaPan’s rendition delivers a full-flavored sensation from the first bite. As one of the last steps once the beef is tender and the sauce is appropriately thick and dark, Winahyu adds strained tamarind pulp — a touch of her grandmother’s tradition — that infuses the rendang with a velvety texture and elevates it with a molasses-like complexity.
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Rendang in a sectioned plate from Medan Kitchen.
(Tiffany Tse)

Medan Kitchen

Rosemead Indonesian $
People travel from as far as New York to savor the delights at this strip-mall haunt, where 79-year-old Siu Chen prepares some of L.A.’s finest traditional rendang: tender, sizable chunks of meat with a slow-building heat and satisfying chew. For more than 15 years, Chen cooked for her church community, but after the pandemic left her feeling idle, her son-in-law Johan Arifin sensed an opportunity and opened a restaurant, along with a well-stocked Indonesian grocery store, in the San Gabriel Valley. Now Johan and his wife, Susianti, manage the business while Chen cooks to her heart’s content. Check Instagram for daily updates on her grab-and-go dishes and banana-leaf-wrapped meals, but no matter what, you can always count on finding several dishes, with rendang among her offerings.
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Rendang from Simpang Asia.
(Simpang Asia)

Simpang Asia

Palms Indonesian $$
After graduating from college, Welly Effendy and his wife, Leni Kumalasari, craved the tastes of home but found only formal Indonesian restaurants in L.A. Their answer was Simpang Asia, which has come a long way from its origins as a mini-mart in Palms selling groceries, snacks and spices from Asia. Evolving into a full-fledged restaurant with an expansion to Venice, it’s now a go-to for Westsiders seeking authentic Indonesian flavors. Its fork-tender rendang, prepared with halal meat like most items on the menu, boasts a deeply complex flavor profile that achieves the perfect harmony between spicy notes and the essence of coconut.
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Rendang with a mound of yellow rice, served on a banana leaf with a pickled vegetable salad
(Tiffany Tse)

Singapore’s Banana Leaf

Fairfax Singaporean $
For 23 years, Albert Gazal, his brother Michael and their parents have operated this long-standing eatery at the Original Farmers Market. The menu is based on their mother’s recipes from Singapore and showcases the country’s diverse culinary influences, including Chinese, Malay, Indian and Indonesian. A highlight is the beef rendang, prepared as his mother was originally taught — with an inside round of beef, hammered to tenderize and then slow-cooked to perfection. True to the restaurant’s name, it’s served on a banana leaf as you’d find at a Singaporean hawker stall, alongside turmeric rice and a tangy pickled vegetable salad that cuts through the rendang’s richness. Singapore’s Banana Leaf also offers chicken rendang, crafted with the same low-and-slow technique, and fish rendang, which has a shorter cooking time but is equally flavorful.
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Rendang from Wallflower on a blue and white patterned plate
(Wallflower)

Wallflower

Venice Indonesian $$
Since day one, rendang has been a standout at this Southeast Asian gem founded by Dustin Miles. With its rich, dark, caramelized flavor and just a hint of sauce clinging to tender, bite-size chunks of meat, this crowd favorite remains true to its roots. Chef and owner Brian Kim occasionally fine-tunes the recipe, adjusting the spice level or enhancing the aromatics based on seasonal ingredients. In the past, he’s dialed down the heat to cater to customer preferences, but lately he’s been cranking up the spice just a bit more, allowing fresh Fresno and Thai chiles to shine through in every exquisite bite.
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