The term rijsttafel, a Dutch word that translates to “rice table,” refers to a large, elaborate, banquet-style meal that incorporates dishes that span Indonesia’s more than 17,000 islands. Restaurants that serve rijsttafel cover tables in rice dishes, stews, braises, and curries, with a smattering of sambals and pickles as accoutrement. When Thomas and Mariah Pisha-Duffly first opened their Indonesian restaurant Gado Gado in the Hollywood District, they offered their own version of a rice table, a feast involving dishes like beef rendang, sambals, and Thomas Pisha-Duffly’s grandmother’s aromatic rice, scented with cloves and fried shallots.
As Gado Gado grew into a phenomenon, it became harder to pull off larger-format meals like the restaurant’s rice table, and it eventually disappeared from the menu. But when Gado Gado reopens on September 17, the rice table will be the centerpiece of the restaurant: multi-dish, set-price banquets with dishes like variations on asam laksa, duck satay, creamed shishitos, and a whole new assortment of sambals.
Gado Gado’s rice table tastings will come in three different variations: Vegan, pescatarian, and omnivorous, all at $75 per person. Each meal will come in three general waves, with a first course of fried snacks and smaller bites, the “main event” with rice and larger dishes, and a dessert course incorporating things like tapioca, sticky rice desserts, and orange-cardamom apple cider donuts. “It’ll definitely be lively and convivial and exciting and still loud and chaotic and bright — a parade of dishes,” Mariah Pisha-Duffly says. “We’re going to go back to that family-style, really indulgent, multi-dish feast, and that will be the core of the service that we offer now.”
While Gado Gado will still offer a la carte dishes for takeout and offer a few of the restaurant’s greatest hits (dumplings, roti canai), the couple really wants the rice table to be the core of what Gado Gado does moving forward. Now that Oma’s Hideaway, the more casual sibling to Gado Gado, has settled into its latest iteration, the Pisha-Dufflys wanted to figure out a way to make their first restaurant feel distinct and celebratory while still being true to its roots. “We think our food isn’t its greatest as a one-dish meal, so we’re leaning into this feeling of specialness,” Thomas Pisha-Duffly says. “We’ve been trying to cater to the needs of COVID-19 — a good menu for dine-in that works really well for delivery. But we want to go all-in with the dine-in experience.”
Gado Gado’s new menu is still in development, but Thomas Pisha-Duffly says he’s been working closely with an old colleague who recently joined the team: He first met Jesse Moore while working for Big Tree Hospitality in Portland, Maine, which owns restaurants like celebrated Eventide Oyster Co. Moore and Thomas Pisha-Duffly have been working on dishes for the restaurant’s incoming vegan and pescatarian rice table menus: shrimp and mackerel mousse, caramelized onion fritters with stone fruit chutney, chickpea puffs with creamed corn and fermented coconut yogurt. But, like all of the Pisha-Duffly restaurants, the menus will change often and based on whim, which was part of the appeal of the shift.
“We were thinking about winter, the sustainability of the restaurant and the mental health of ourselves and our team, and this model feels much more sustainable for us,” Mariah Pisha-Duffly says. “It feels like a way we can stay really creative and spontaneous without burning out.”
• Gado Gado [Official]
• Inside the Colorful Dining Room and Dishes of Gado Gado [EPDX]
• At Oma’s Hideaway, Chinese Barbecue Pops Against a Backdrop of Black Light Posters [EPDX]
• Previous Gado Gado coverage [EPDX]