Are you a rice lover? Well, then NUSA is just the thing for you!
Before diving into NUSA I did a little research on the concept of rice table (Rijsttafel in Dutch), to understand its origin.
The Rice Table is an Indonesian elaborate meal adapted by the Dutch following the hidang presentation of nasi padang from the Padang region of West Sumatra. It consists of many (forty is not an unusual number) side dishes served in small portions, accompanied by rice prepared in several different ways. Popular side dishes include egg rolls, sambals, satay, fish, fruit, vegetables, pickles, and nuts. In most areas where it is served, such as the Netherlands, and other areas of strong Dutch influence.
The rijsttafel was created to provide a festive and official type of banquet that would represent the multi-ethnic nature of the Indonesian archipelago. Despite its popularity in the Netherlands and abroad, the rijsttafel is rarely found in Indonesia. That is probably because most Indonesian meals consist of rice accompanied by only one, two or three dishes, mostly consisting of lauk (fish, chicken, meat, egg, or other sources of protein), sayur (vegetable), and other side dishes. To consume more than that number of dishes at once (a rijsttafel might range from seven to forty dishes) is considered too extravagant and too expensive. The closest versions to rice table dishes readily available in Indonesia are local nasi Padang and nasi campur. However, in Indonesian restaurants around the world, especially in Belgium, the Netherlands, and South Africa, the rijsttafel is still popular.
Now, NUSA, a rice table concept restaurant, has been established in The Netherlands for quite some time and gained popularity that has been carried to Aruba by the Dutch expats, who seemed to be their main patrons. Being hit by the pandemic, they have closed some locations and set sail to conquer other territories, being Aruba one on the list.
NUSA, was created by Wayan Rusmini and Joost van Vliet, being Wayan an Indonesian herself, from Nusa Penida, an island off the coast of Bali.
The Ambiance & Location.
Located right at the heart of downtown Oranjestad, NUSA's owners restored a traditional Cunucu house to its original glory and turned it into a beautiful dining salon and patio. The style is predominantly Indonesian with lots of natural colors and materials. Outside, string lights beam over the patio and bar, filled with wooden tables and green canvas chairs. Located next to Flor de Oriente, it is a very charming location. Perfect if you want to experience the true vibe of Oranjestad.
The Rice Table Experience.
If you are going to NUSA you have to be craving rice. Choose from a rice table of 5, 7, or 9 small dishes. From a list of 16, you can take your picks. These 16 dishes are a range of the most popular Indonesian specialties, like Rendang (beef stew), Telor (eggs), or Sateh Ayam (chicken skewer). Here is the menu with all options:
Whenever there's Kroepoek with Peanut Sauce I am going to have it. it is the perfect appetizer to reduce the anxiety that you feel when hungry. The starchy, fried crackers are the perfect vessel for a creamy or chunky peanut sauce. Nusa's version: sweet and chunky. $3,50
The beer menu is great, one of my favorite beers is listed, Red Stripe from Jamaica. Light and refreshing. $7 each.
There are also wines, cocktails, and other things. I would say decently priced.
Another favorite from Indonesian cuisine is on the menu: Soto Soup. This soup has a broth base with protein, mainly chicken, vegetables, fried onions on top, and always an egg! It was good but I thought It was a little small. $7,50.
We have ordered the rice table with 5 dishes. Mostly suggested by our waiter, Tomás. He mentioned those are the quintessential dishes to go with the rice and we went for it. There is one thing that is not on the menu and was not mentioned by him, the spice level of each dish. For some people, like my dinner date, some dishes were so hot that were inedible.
The order arrives and it is a steam basket with rice and some small bowls with each dish. I would say 4 spoonfuls of each thing.
Loempias: crispy and delicious. We ordered the vegetarian version. Comes with sweet chili sauce.
Kare Ikan - Fish Curry: To my opinion, it tasted more like vegetable curry. Maybe the fish got lost in the sauce.
Rendang - Beef Stew: a very hot and tender beef stew.
Pulled Ayam - Pulled Chicken: a pulled chicken that felt more like a spreadable paste. Also hot!
Telor Balado - Smothered Eggs: Delicious and saucy, these boiled eggs are served with some sliced leek and chili.
On the side 3 condiments: Hot sauce or Sambal, coconut flakes, and some pickled cabbage.
The idea is for you to make your own plate, complimenting each thing with white rice. Being the rice so important to this table, I feel that It was not really on the point it should have been. Maybe that is just the style. The rice table for 2 with 5 dishes was $45.
Visiting a recently opened restaurant is being able to give them a second shot for a definitive review, there is always something to improve! Of course, it is worth mentioning that the service and the ambiance were spectacular! Now, where do I buy those chairs?!
Mr. Guido Quiroz, the restaurant manager was telling me how they plan to make the area more beautiful and informed me of an upcoming beer garden being built next door Hardgrooves Café, that's exciting! you can really tell how good they are at returning these houses to their original glory.
Have you been to NUSA yet? Share with me your experience!
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