After talking up tempeh on twitter last month, we arranged to make a long overdue return to Warung Agus with a couple of friends. This restaurant's menu has only changed marginally since our last visit but we were still overwhelmed with the options, electing for a vegan banquet selected by the chef ($50pp).
Throughout the meal I sipped an expensive Es Jus Campur ($9), slushie of fruit juice and ice that tasted primarily of banana. Bowls of eye-watering chilli sambal and lemongrass-spiked onion pickle turned up early, to perk up all of what was to come.
Our first bites were the Krapuk Singkong, thick but airy cassava crackers served with the smoothest peanut sauce I've ever eaten, sweetness offset with fried shallots.
Next, mountains of steamed rice and a procession of 'proper' dishes. The room temperature Apokat Mebasa Santen Misi Oong won me with its mushrooms, generous avocado chunks, cherry tomatoes and coconut cream sauce.
Warung tested the strength of our satay love with tofu-tempeh-vegetable skewers drowned in more of the sauce and we passed, clearing the plate with only the briefest of second thoughts. Only I dabbled in the lightly pickled tomatoes and cucumber on the side.
The Pecel was a charming coconut-based stew filled out with mung beans. We'll have to hunt down a recipe for this one, as I reckon it'd make a great stand-alone winter meal to curl up on the couch with.
More of the tempeh we came for! This dry-fried Tempe Jagung, sticky with kecap manis, did not disappoint.
The Mie Goreng, though good, suffered for all the fine food we'd already filled up on. I enjoyed the vegetables but could only pick at it.
I just barely performed better on the widely recommended Tuung Mebasa Santen Lalah Manis, a silky eggplant and tofu dish that's a worthy centrepiece in other circumstances.
To finish, the four of us shared a single bowl of the Bubuh Injin, a thick black rice porridge. While it was comfortingly warm and only gently sweet, we wished for more of the coconut cream to thin it out.
We couldn't even entertain extra warm beverages at this stage, so full were we. (This banquet has previously defeated the largest appetite we know.) This is a huge portion of comforting food in an equally cozy restaurant. Warung Agus is a lovely, gentle family-run business that shows no signs of changing - here's hoping they never do.
You can read about a previous visit to Warung Agus here. Since then it's received entirely positive reviews, from vegos at words@random, The Good Hearted and veganopoulous, then omnivores at All hail your Huiness and Asian Restaurants in Melbourne.
305 Victoria St, West Melbourne
menu: entrees & accompaniments, mains, dessert, drinks
Accessibility: There is a small step up into the restaurant and a step down between the two dining rooms. Tables have only low-to-medium amounts of space around them, though a fairly wide path has been made from the front door, right around to the farthest tables. There's full table service. We didn't visit the toilets. The air is very thick with incense so beware if you have a sensitive olfactory system.