photo credit: Jakob Layman
Racing to the newest restaurant in town is always a thrill, but spending a night eating dinner at a tried-and-true classic has its perks, too. The same servers will be working their regular tables, the bartender already knows what you want to drink, and your go-to dish will taste the exact same way it always does. Simply put, you know what you’re going to get.
But classic restaurants are also capable of some surprises, too. Take Ramayani, one of the oldest Indonesian restaurants in LA and a place that’s slowly morphed from a Westwood neighborhood standby to a spot we obsess over, plan for, and drive across town to experience. It’s time you do as well.
Located in the heart of Westwood’s Little Tehran neighborhood, Ramayani has been in operation since 1983, and unlike the giant shawarma palaces that dot the surrounding blocks, a meal inside the tiny dining room is objectively subdued. Between the orange and yellow walls, giant floral oil paintings, and a grainy TV hanging in the corner, you feel less like you’re in a restaurant and more like you’re visiting your great aunt who only appears at family weddings. It’s entirely possible there hasn’t been a single design change made since the late ’80s, and frankly, we respect that - especially because the food is the real reason you’re here.
Ramayani’s menu is massive, and you could probably eat here every day for a month and not try everything. So let us guide you - start with the lumpia and martabak, a pan-fried bread filled with beef, onions, and egg, and a dish whose leftover crumbs are still hiding in our bed sheets. Whether you’re with a group or slumped over in despair on your lunch hour, these are two dishes that need to hit your table, simply because they taste incredible and offer a true indication of the level of flavor that exists here.
From there, pick a dish from as many sections of the menu as you can and let the comfort parade commence. Whether it’s soto ayam (savory coconut-milk-and-turmeric-chicken soup), beef rendang (perfectly cooked meat in a fragrant, dry curry rub), or nasi goreng (Indonesian fried rice), Ramayani serves the kind of full-bodied, fragrant food that’s so good, you’re disappointed with your body when it gets full. But don’t worry, you’ll have more opportunities to explore the menu - one thing you can always expect before leaving Ramayani is making a plan to return soon.
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If it’s your first time or you’re by yourself, flipping through Ramayani’s giant menu can feel like a first pass at Moby Dick. Calm your ordering anxiety and get the nasi uduk. It’s essentially a massive combination platter - coconut rice, chili beef, coconut curry, fried chicken, beef jerky, corn fritters, and omelette strips - and a great introduction to the many highlights on the menu.
This large Indonesian spring roll is perfectly deep-fried and filled with cabbage, chicken, and bamboo shoots. While we’ve been known to eat several on our own, they’re certainly big enough to share with another person - if that’s the kind of thing you’re into.
If you came to Ramayani with a big group, this pan-fried bread filled with beef, onions, and eggs is a must-order. For one, it’s delicious, and all the ingredients blend together to create an ideal combination of savory and salty. Secondly, everyone can get a piece and point fingers at Todd, who always takes two.
For as packed with flavor as this dish is, it’s a remarkably simple one. Tender beef coated in a dry curry rub (made with a mix of fragrant spices and coconut milk), then fried in the remaining braising juice until it caramelizes. Not sure about you, but that reads like erotica to us.
When our throats do that scratchy, pre-sick thing, we drop whatever we’re doing and drive to Ramayani solely to eat this dish. It’s essentially a bowl of curry chicken soup, but with flavors as savory and soul-curing as this, it’s the only thing we want boosting our shtty immune systems.