When a long-time restaurant changes its name and menu, that’s news. The first thought that comes to mind is “Why?” and the second thought is “Is it better?” And it’s even more newsworthy when it gets spectacular customer reviews.

Dhaba was a favorite Indian restaurant in Santa Monica for at least 50 years. The couple that owned it were usually there, and the food was good and dependable. The interior was old-style and comfortable, and there was a lovely patio.

Now I guess the owners have retired and turned it over to new owners, and the décor and the menu are quite different. The food is now billed as Indonesian instead of Indian and is quite different. And as my son replies when you ask him how his love life is going, “There’s some good news and some bad news.”

First of all, the music inside is way too loud, and doesn’t fit in with the cuisine.

The interior is a bit overstated, but some might find it interesting. I must be out of touch because the reviews online are almost unanimous in loving the new décor.

The pleasant patio is still there, but the lighting is so low it’s hard to see the food, let alone your companion.

There are a lot of Indian restaurants around the west side, but it’s hard to find an Indonesian restaurant. That alone makes this a wonderful addition to the restaurant scene. So, what is Indonesian food?

My first experience with Indonesian food was in the south of the Netherlands in 1962. It was a small restaurant with a fixed menu and the names of the foods were all unfamiliar to me. But what arrived was a silver candelabra with many little cups, each filled with a different food. A plate of fried rice was served, and we scooped up the contents of the silver cups onto our rice. There were some vegetable dishes, rice, and curry-like meats. It was wonderful, and I had my first glass of Heineken beer.

The government of Indonesia has a list of what they consider to be Indonesian foods. The most popular are Nasi goring, gado-gado, satay, and soto. But those are only four out of about 500 dishes indigenous to the multiple ethnic regions of Indonesia, and the variety is amazing. My favorite Indonesian dish is the pointed mountain of fried rice, with a variety of spicy foods around the base. That’s not on the menu at Gobi, but maybe they will add it.

Nasi goring is just fried rice with some meat and vegetables mixed in. Gado-gado is a salad of steamed vegetables, boiled egg, tofu, potatoes, and rice wrapped in a banana leaf, all covered in a peanut sauce. What makes it Indonesian is the complex sauce, made from fried crushed savory peanuts, sweet palm sugar, garlic, chilies, salt, tamarind, and a squeeze of lime. Satay is sticks of marinated meat, often chicken, seasoned and grilled, usually over an open fire. And soto is a meat and vegetable soup. Some regions are more influenced by Indian foods and trend more toward curries, but rice is definitely a staple everywhere.

As you can tell, the ingredients in Indonesian food are not all that exotic. What makes dishes Indonesian are the seasonings. Indonesian food is often spiced with a mix of seasonings peculiar to various regions, but often using soy sauce and turmeric as well as hot pepper seasoning. As Justice Steward of the Supreme Court would say (although he was talking about pornography), “I can’t describe it, but I know it when I see it.” So here he might say “I can’t describe it, but I know it when I taste it.”

While Cobi’s has some elements of Indonesian food, in general I would call it more “mixed ethnic” than Indonesian. Kanpachi is more Japanese than Indonesian. Putting curry powder on grilled branzino doesn’t really make it Indonesian. But some of the chicken dishes at Cobi’s are very good and have different flavors than we taste in Indian restaurants – the closest thing we have to Indonesian food. I will go back for the chicken dishes which I found delicious.

I usually drink beer with spicy food, but I could not pass up a bottle of wine here because the wine list is exceptional both in selections and price, so I couldn’t resist.

I will miss Dhaba, but I like Cobi’s and consider it to have the potential to be an even better addition to the Santa Monica restaurant scene.

Cobi’s at Dhaba, 2104 Main Street in Santa Monica, 424-238-5195

Dinner only for now.

Merv Hecht, like many Harvard Law School graduates, went into the wine business after law. In 1988, he began writing restaurant reviews and books. His latest book “The Instant Wine Connoisseur, 3rd Edition” is available on Amazon. He currently works for several companies that source and distribute food and wine products internationally. Please send your comments to: mervynhecht@yahoo.com