Everybody’s heard of a walnut, the versatile ingredient that requires cracking and factors into sweet and savory dishes. Far fewer people know about Walnut, a small town in the eastern San Gabriel Valley that has very few restaurants, let alone good ones. A notable exception is Sate House. Owners Cheong Hi Cheung and wife Lie Ing Kwee hail from Surabaya in east Java and opened an Indonesian restaurant in the back corner of a strip mall in August 2011, and at least for me, they put Walnut on the map.
The space houses green booths, flowered carpet, a fish tank, faux plants and a flat screen TV, which is where we watched some of Super Bowl XLVII, Christmas lights blinking in the background.
Sate House has a page devoted to appetizers, all fried and filled with chicken, including Resoles (flour) and Kroket (mashed potato), but we opted for more substantial fare.
Sate House specializes in BBQ meats, and they’ll sell you 6 skewers of Regular Sate for $7.25 if you sacrifice rice, 5 skewers if you want starch. They offer a choice of pork, chicken, beef or lamb, and of course we opted for pork, even though the vast majority of Indonesia’s population wouldn’t even eat them, given they’re Muslim. Regardless, at Sate House, intense marinated chunks of butt and leg meat arrived with syrupy sweet soy and peanut sauces, scattered with crinkle cut pickled yellow radish.
Nasi Goreng ($6.95) deserves a nomination for best fried rice in L.A. County thanks to shrimp paste that imparts a savory quality that makes it impossible to stop eating. Sure, the chicken, pork, and shrimp all meld seamlessly with the spiced grains, and a fried egg never hurts.
We returned and gladly repeated the sate, and explored one new category of dish, Balado. The sweet and savory sauce contains onion, garlic and citrus leaf and brought intensity to Cumi Goreng Balado ($7.75) tender, crisp-coated rings of fried calamari.
Sate House is located about 90 minutes from my place, round-trip, and outside of the Saturday market in Duarte, Pondok Kaki Lima, it’s become the only Indonesian culinary destination food I’ve encountered in the San Gabriel Valley.