Foodie: Bambang Wisanggeni of Wisanggeni Pawon

Indonesian transplant Bambang Wisanggeni is on a mission to introduce Indy to his island nation’s diverse but little-known cuisine.
Photography by Jay Goldz

INDONESIAN food might not be the first thing diners in Indiana look for in Asian cuisine, but Bambang Wisanggeni and his wife Putri Pratiwi are trying to change that, one aromatic, spice-rich dish at a time.

Wisanggeni first came to the United States in 2016 after his plans to open a restaurant in the Netherlands didn’t work out. After more than a year in New York working in restaurants, he and his wife, a native of Jakarta whom he met while cooking on a cruise ship, made Indianapolis their home. The pair became some of the first tenants of downtown restaurant incubator Circle City Eats in 2021, where they found an enthusiastic audience for their juicy blackened chicken, noodle dishes, and street food snacks.

But Wisanggeni yearned for a space of his own, as well as a dining room where he and Pratiwi could meet and serve a growing clientele.

In late autumn 2023, they opened the namesake restaurant Wisanggeni Pawon in the recently shuttered Sakura Mart on North Keystone Avenue, now a humble yet cheery storefront where they showcase one of the world’s richest and most varied culinary diasporas. “We have over 17,000 islands in Indonesia,” Wisanggeni says, “so our food is especially complex. It’s intense labor, and we have to get in early to start.” That labor results in dishes such as beef rendang simmered in coconut milk for hours, with a lightning-hot house-made sambal dipping sauce made with spicy Thai chiles. “The diversity of Indonesia means that we recognize six different religions,” he says. “We want everyone, not just Southeast Asians, to be able to eat and enjoy our food. We already have regulars who come several times a week.”

Favorite Things 

Photo courtesy Baek Hee Kim

(1) Cafe Korea. “We love the galbi (short ribs) and all of the great side dishes.”

(2) Coconut. “Coconuts are everywhere in Java, and it’s the base flavor of so many of our dishes.”

(3) Chili. “One of my favorite American dishes.”

(4) Soybean tempeh. “It’s not just a vegetarian thing—it’s so important to Javanese cuisine.”

(5) Indonesian street food. Such as Wisanggeni Pawon’s take on martabak telor, a beef omelet in crispy egg roll skins.