Hidden Indonesian

COCONUT VILLAGE (389 Roncesvalles, at Neepawa, 416-536-7111) This low-key gem -- locals swear it's not there -- offers familiar takes.


COCONUT VILLAGE (389 Roncesvalles, at Neepawa, 416-536-7111) This low-key gem — locals swear it’s not there — offers familiar takes on Southeast Asian standards (pad thai, satays), but broadens its focus with more unusual Indonesian and Malaysian regional dishes. Complete meals for $20 per person ($12 at lunch), including all taxes, tip and a domestic lager. Open daily noon to 10 pm. Closed Thanksgiving. Fully licensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN

the gta could lose a few pad thai parlours and use a few more Indonesian eateries. The Indonesia on Yonge closed several years ago, to be replaced by two Thai restos, and only ghastly Garuda on Eglinton West keeps up the multi-course rijstaffel shtick.

But two new spots, one in the west end, the other where Riverdale meets Chinatown East, have revived a far-reaching fare that combines Chinese, Arab, Hindu, Portuguese and Dutch influences.

The Roncesvalles nabe is definitely heating up. Sure, the old-school Polish delis and haberdashers outnumber happening it-spots, but there’s a vibrancy to this three-mile strip that’s uniquely Toronto. Now we can throw Coconut Village, a two-month-old eatery that not only does Indonesian dishes but Malay and Thai, too, into this multiculti mix.

Despite its nondescript signage, laminated batik-topped tables and the plastic palm in the window, Coconut Village delivers considerable clout for the dollar. But owner-chefs David Then and Ivan Low need to invest in some atmospheric CDs — the Rough Guide series make superb supper soundscapes — and get rid of the mind-numbing muzak that accompanies most meals. You Light Up My Life? I think not.

Start with Ngoh Hiang spring rolls ($6.95), actually one large, sliced burrito-like rolled bean-curd sheet stuffed with ground pork and shrimp scented with cinnamon, or Tahu Goreng ($3.95), deep-fried tofu cubes topped with raw bean sprouts, julienned cuke and slightly oily peanut sauce. Addictive.

Pandan chicken is the kind of upmarket street food that Andrew Chase and crew attempted at Youki a few years back. Here, chicken brochettes come bundled in screwpine leaf, which gives the grilled bundles a delicious tea scent. Slow-stewed beef Rendang (both $8.95) nearly disintegrates, its meat tenderized by coconut milk and inflamed with subtle chili fire.

The perfect side for both, Briani rice ($3.95) comes studded with sweet sultanas. Or go with Kangkong Blachan ($8.95), stir-fried greens with the tiniest suggestion of shrimp paste (see Fresh Dish, page 41).

You’ll need to be drinking (Sleemans Honey Brown, $3.50) to enjoy Ikan Bilis ($5.95), a bar snack of approximately 53 roasted peanuts and 112 dried miniature anchovies.

You can pass on Murtabak ($6.95), Asian-style roti with under-powered chicken-potato curry, and Sayur Lodeh ($7.95), a dull veggie ragout. Otherwise, the welcome is warm and some of the menu really quite wonderful. Now, where did I put that Rough Guide CD?

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