Indonesian Gem: Novi and Jeff Rickert’s Candle Nut Restaurant
If you are looking for a restaurant gem in Wilmington, make sure your next lunch or dinner stop is Candle Nut Restaurant. Owners Jeff and Novi Rickert have created an Indonesian restaurant that offers meals with Malaysia, Singapore and Dutch influences.
In my opinion, Indonesian food is some of the best food in the world. It offers many geographic elements in each dish.
Novi is native to Surabaya, Indonesia, where she gained her cooking experience from her mother and aunts, using fresh roots and spices traditional to Indonesia. She has recreated many of these dishes as her own, while making sure to preserve culture and family traditions.
Jeff Rickert lived and worked in Saudi Arabia, and has visited 45 countries. Throughout his travels has passion has been visiting local spice markets, and he has learned and developed a specialty of blending spices.
Novi and Jeff are global travelers: they bring their passion and cooking skills for Indonesian food to Candle Nut Restaurant. We are so fortunate to have their ethnic, authentic family meals in our beautiful river town of Wilmington NC.
When dining at Candle Nut recently, I was most pleased by the fact that the owners never use canned products. Everything is prepared fresh daily. You may be surprised by this statement, as it is still unique to find a restaurant that offers the freshest spices, roots, vegetables and broths, while keeping their dishes homemade. Besides the soups that are prepped a day ahead, all other meals are made fresh-to-the-plate. Their methods of cooking add to the taste, quality and uniqueness of their dishes.
The Candle Nut menu offers diners multiple choices of proteins, which consist of tofu, chicken, beef, and seafood. Menu options are also vegetarian and vegan-friendly. All of Candle Nut’s wok dishes have very little oil and consist mainly of water or home-made broth with no MSGs.
Jeff and Novi pride themselves on keeping their dishes healthy, authentic and fresh for every meal.
On my recent lunch visit, owner Mr. Rickert graciously provided us with a few samples of some of their most popular menu items. Let’s begin with the beef rendang. My mouth is watering as I write this as there no way to describe how exquisite this dish is. Rendang is a popular slow-cooked Indonesian dish. It is one of the original cuisines of Minangkabau decent and Sumatra’s culture. This dish is often served at ceremonial events to honor guests. This wonderful beef dish is slowly cooked in coconut milk, soaking in a variety of herbs and spices (specially blended by Jeff) and served with just the perfect amount of sauce. Novi Rickert prefers to keep her rendang slightly moist, yet perfectly balancing on how rendang is cooked. I could keep writing about this dish all day, my advice is to make this a must order dish on your foodie bucket list.
Next, we were presented with a satay of lamb, marinated for 24 hours, grilled, and then served with Candle Nut’s popular coconut rice garnished with fried onion. The meat was well flavored, tender and loaded with spice.
At this point my belly was getting full but my taste buds are screaming for more. For lunch, my other foodie enthusiast and I decided to start with a side of the spring rolls. The rolls were fried in soybean oil, and served light and crispy. Each roll is filled with cabbage, vermicelli, and shrimp.
We then followed up with a lunch order of the Javenese chicken bowl (native to the Indonesian island of Java) and the savory beef soup. The Javenese bowl was presented with a wholesome, healthy portion of homemade herbal chicken broth, loaded with turmeric and lemon grass, filled with glass noodles, cabbage, shredded chicken, and topped with a perfect hard-boiled egg.
My foodie partner thoroughly enjoyed the aromatic Savory beef soup which is slow-cooked with a healthy offering of potatoes, carrots, multiple herbs, and tender beef. Candle Nut’s soup and noodle bowls offer extremely generous portions and are truly meals on their own.
Served alongside with our lunch was a diverse plate of sambals. Sambals are a staple at all Indonesian tables. This is a plate of condiments made with a variety of ingredients such as garlic, shallots, ginger, shrimp paste, chili peppers, and lime juice. The sambals are the perfect complement to the flavors of an Indonesian meal, and can be added at the table to soups, stews, meats, and noodle dishes. Sambals offer a variation of heat, sweet, tang and sour.
Candle Nut Restaurant offers a welcoming atmosphere and an exceptional dining experience. The food is fresh, with a perfect balance of spices, and the friendly staff and reasonable prices add to the appeal of this restaurant.
In our own homes and lives, we carry a strong food heritage. Jeff and Novi Rickert, through Candle Nut, are sharing a cultural experience with authentic, carefully prepared dishes on a menu that is inspired by family traditions.
Contributing blogger: Sarah Koob is a foodie, home cook, and lover of seafood, Bloody Marys, and is always up for any kind of food adventure.