music in the park san jose

.Former Pop-Up Fikscue Moves Into Mama Judy’s Spot

Where barbecue and Indonesian dishes meet in Alameda

music in the park san jose

Chefs making the transition from running a pop-up to opening a brick-and-mortar are immediately confronted with a series of unexpected challenges. Pop-ups offer more freedom but a fluctuating source of income. Brick-and-mortars, on the other hand, bear the sudden weight of employee paychecks and a due date for the recurring monthly rent check. Shortly after Judy Wee opened Mama Judy Singapore Hawker last fall, the chef shut her Alameda restaurant down before returning to a more manageable catering schedule with occasional pop-ups.

While making Saturday deliveries in Alameda last year for their pop-up Fikscue, Reka and Fik Saleh found out Mama Judy’s had closed. The following week serendipity intervened—a mutual customer asked the chefs if they wanted to take over the restaurant. The Salehs had been on the lookout for their own space, but most of the ones they’d seen couldn’t accommodate their barbecue smoker. But Mama Judy’s had room for it, so the Fikscue team moved in.

On the heels of much acclaim in the local press, lines at the newly opened Fikscue began to form early. When I spoke with the Salehs in January, Fik told me customers arrived to get in line at 10am; the restaurant opens at noon.

“Around 2:30pm, we still had over 50 people in line,” Fik said. “Then we had to turn people away. We truly didn’t anticipate the long lines. And we’re truly thankful and grateful for the support of the community, and for them to be very patient with us as we navigate trying to speed up the lines, to get the orders in and expedite them. So it’s still a learning curve for us.”

Increased production is one of the couple’s biggest challenges.

“When you’re popping up, you can set a limit. But now you’re open to the public,” Fik said. At this early stage, they’ve decided to keep Fikscue open only on Saturdays and Sundays. “We’re trying to keep the quality up,” he said. “We want to ensure that we do it right, to hire people who can carry out our recipes and techniques—and that’s the tough part, to translate that to somebody.”

Fik indicated that the restaurant has proved a blessing for them—exactly what they’d envisioned and imagined it would be, but, he added, “a lot more work and a lot more stress.” Before they decided to combine Reka’s pop-up Gurih Table with Fik’s take on Texas barbecue, they had both worked in the restaurant industry in different capacities. “Cooking has always been our passion, but the pandemic helped jumpstart our small business,” Fik said.   

When they first started out, Reka concentrated on making Indonesian food, Fik on barbecue. Over time, they developed fusion dishes such as the balado plate which includes smoked beef brisket ($20) or chicken ($18) topped with sambal and served with rice, an omelette, kale curry and garlic chips.

When Reka started Gurih Table, she didn’t intend to sell savory food. She was making Indonesian delicacies and confections, cookies and sweets. Things changed one day when Reka added Indonesian ingredients to some leftover brisket Fik made and came up with a completely new and different flavor profile. When their dishes went out to the public, the response was an enthusiastic, “More, please!” Fikscue had found its niche.

Those sweet confections are currently on hold because the chefs’ time is so limited. There’s a great deal of food to prepare throughout the week.

“One day we’re just doing sausage or trimming briskets and prepping all the ingredients to cook the Indonesian food,” Fik said. In January, they sought to hire another chef to help in the kitchen and run the barbecue pit. “Right now, I’m the only one doing it, and cooking briskets takes anywhere from 12 to 14 hours,” he said.

That amount of intensive labor is the main reason Fikscue isn’t open every day.

Fikscue, open Sat and Sun, noon to 5pm; 1708 Park St., Ste. 120, Alameda. 510.463.1303. fikscue.com.

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