Indonesian restaurant Kartika: the fastest rijsttafel in Amsterdam

Still on my quest for outstanding Indonesian food in Amsterdam, we arrived at restaurant Kartika at 18:30 without a reservation (their phone has been broken for seven months, we were told). At 18:38 precisely, our rijsttafel was on the table. During those 8 minutes, we’d managed to order the most expensive bottle of red wine, and still be charged €6 for water. (Kartika’s taps, apparently, do not work – which must make washing up rather challenging.) The waitress was still trying to pour the wine by the time the food arrived. Meanwhile, I wasn’t even aware we’d ordered.

Let’s just say: first impressions were not glowing. And when I challenged our waitress on why we were being forced to pay for water, or whether our table was booked again in half an hour, I was met with an “I don’t know – I just work here” kind of response. Clearly, rational inquiry was going to get me nowhere.

So I’m almost disappointed to report, after all this, that the food was actually quite good. Beef rendang had excellent warm spices and a rich sauce; gado-gado was fresh and fragrant, not cloying with peanut butter as is often the case. Two chicken dishes were good and distinctly different from each other: a hotter version in a thin, chilli-based broth; and a milder version in a sweet, soy-based sauce with plenty of aromatic anise. Other vegetable dishes were tasty too: green beans in a spicy sauce, and potatoes (or perhaps yams?) in a dry sambal.

Kartika Indonesian restaurant in Amsterdam - rijsttafel
The record-time rijsttafel at Kartika

Less good was the chicken satay – there was nothing wrong with the sauce but the meat was dry, probably from being pre-cooked and re-heated. I wasn’t a huge fan of the tofu and tempeh dish either – but then again I never am. Oh, and the shrimp and cassava crackers at the start were stale. The bakabana wasn’t bad, if you like that kind of thing, and we were randomly given a free scoop of coconut ice-cream to round off our record-time dinner.

I can’t slam Kartika, because what we ate was some of the better Indonesian rijsttafel I’ve had in Amsterdam. But the circumstances of our meal were such that I’d never go back. That is, unless I had a burning desire to gulp down a dozen dishes in 30 minutes.

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Kartika (Indonesian)


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