I'm going to make a sweeping statement: Pagi Sore is my favourite Indonesian restaurant in the whole of Singapore. Their Indonesian fare is punchy, robust and truly authentic, and I think they do the best ayam gulai ever. They've only got the 2 outlets in the CBD, so apart from dabao-ing dinners home, I'll sit down for a stomach-churning lunch if I don't have an afternoon meeting to sit through.
Weekdays will find this place packed to the gills, but turnover high, and service efficient but harried and sometimes flustered. Weekends, on the other hand, is bare of diners, and service is consequently much warmer and attentive.
The Ayam Gulai ($7.80 for small portion with 2 chicken parts), curry chicken done Indonesian-style, is a must-try. You'll be remiss if you didn't. The fiery gravy is velvety and luscious, while the chicken is succulent and stewed to a fall-off-the-bone texture. This was completely lapped up. Not a single drop left by the time we were done. Great with their steamed white rice swaddled in their signature banana leaves for aroma.
The Rendang Sapi ($12.80), thoroughly braised to a meltingly tender consistency, is intensely nutty and smoky and utterly sumptuous.
Another mainstay is the sublime Tahu Telor ($10.20), a towering block of egg scramble coated beancurd slathered in an inky kecap manis studded with crushed nuts.
Ever since they took their awesome sayur lodeh off their menu (apparently, too few people order this to make it a worthwhile item on the menu), we've gotten hooked onto their Tumis Kachang Panjang Belacan ($8.80), long beans stir-fried with belacan chilli. This was wonderfully crunchy, dotted with umami dried shrimps and spritely.
The Sotong Pedas ($13.50 for medium) of squid rings sauteed with onions and a sweetly spicy paste, was a smidge overcooked, but the rempah was scrumptious.
The Stuffed Pasgedel ($6.20) was a massive block of potato cutlets stuffed with chicken slices. Too bad it was laced with coriander leaves. Urghh. It would have been a must-order otherwise.
With curry, one must have Nasi Putih ($1.60), and here at Pagi Sore, the steamed rice is swaddled in banana leaves for added fragrance.
The Emping Belinjo ($1.50), a traditional Indonesian cracker, makes for a great appetizer, and counterfoil for the rendang paste. I generally don't like to pay for chilli sauces in restaurants, but the Sambal ($0.30) here, based on a family recipe, is really quite awesome.Still, methinks they may want to rethink this policy of charging for a condiment like this.
For dessert, the Chendol ($5.50) is a popular option. At once refreshing and heady, the milky concoction is dotted with red beans and green jellies, and laced with lashings of gula melaka.
To douse the flames in your belly, the Lemongrass Juice ($3.80), slightly sweetened, is the perfect antidote.
Pagi Sore Indonesian Restaurant
100 Tras Street
100 AM #02-15
Tel: 6636 1373
Open daily from 11am to 9.30pm