Hardena – Indonesian Deep In South Philly

On the urging of my new friends at Philly Food Guys, we ventured out on frigid and slushy Sunday for a late lunch at Hardena. It’s gotten plenty of press lately, from both the blogging and traditional media worlds. Located deep in South Philly on Hicks Street, the place is indeed a hole in the wall. It’s tiny. You walk in and it’s one small room, with a few tables, the cooking done on the left, the food presented in the middle, the ordering done behind and to the side of the food.

There’s no menu here. While we were there, we were the only non-Indonesian people there. Ena, the chef, will see any of the non-Indonesians, and then guide you through the process. Basically, she just serves you a plate with rice and three or four of the various selections from the rijstaffel. You can tell her what you want, but mostly, she just points out stuff and says what about this, and you say no, yes, why not?

C went first. The stuff at the far bottom is a baby squid and tofu dish. C thought it was ok, but I wasn’t a big fan of it. It was a bit too fishy. On the left, some tempeh. C was totally in love with it. Behind the big fried thing at the top was the lamb rendang. Pretty good, even though I don’t like stuff with coconut milk. The big fried thing was full of veggies, and when dipped in the sweet and salty sauce that came with the satay (more down below), it was delish. Whatever that sauce was, I could put it on everything.

My turn! All the way in the back is something I still don’t have any idea what it was. It was crunchy, sweet and salty, had some kind of starchy veggies, and some peanuts. Whatever it was, I liked it. At ten o’clock you’ve got some kind of greens. I’m not typically into greens but I thought I’d be open minded. They were coconut milky. Blech. I passed. It’s a good thing C loves greens. On the front was some sweet and sour fish. It was made from dried fish, so it was very hard and chewy. It wasn’t that exciting, and a word of warning, there are bones. And smack dab on top was my favorite of the day – eggplant. Yum. I could have eaten a whole plate of this.

We also had to order the satay as it seems to be some kind of rule! They offer lamb and chicken and we got a taste of both. Satay is only available on the weekends here. I enjoyed the satay quite a bit, but preferred the chicken. It’s very heavy on the sauce.

All this food set us back $18. And let me just say that the night before we’d had a couple of burgers and fries at the Nodding Head and that cost more than $18. And not that there’s anything back about the burgers there (although the buns are way too big for the meat and also a big too hard and crunchy), but really, at Hardena you get so much more food, variety, and best of all, love. One thing I would change about this place – how about some heat? That day was beyond cold and we ate with our coats and hats on. And every timone someone came in, it brought in another rush of freezing temp air. Brrrr…. I’ll definitely be back here, and the best thing, since they offer so many different dishes, I can try something new each time.

Hardena Restaurant
1754 Hicks St.

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