Owners Chef Birong Hutabarat & Leslie Caplan

Blue Toba is named after Lake Toba on the island of Sumatra, Indonesia. It is the largest volcanic crater lake in the world. It is where Chef Birong is from, and his long line of ancestry known as Batak Toba.

Owners Leslie & Birong met in Ashland where he’d been living for over twenty years at that time. Leslie had been living in Indonesia for nearly eight years. What were the odds she would come back to the U.S, find her way to Ashland, and meet Birong after spending all those years in Indonesia? A deep, growing connection of friendship turned to marriage over a span of eighteen years.

It was Birong’s dream to represent his culture in the town that was long since now his home. He went back and forth to his homeland to further his depth, alchemy and profound labor-intensive mastery of Indonesian cooking that was passed down for generations.

Leslie and Birong eventually saved enough to buy a food truck. They spent one year, including a hot, smokey summer, serving up Indonesian food at wineries, farmers markets and private parties. The community loved it, following Blue Toba truck around until a tiny ‘hole-in-the-wall’ in an Ashland strip mall came up for rent on the south end of town. They sold the truck and opened the first Indonesian restaurant in the state of Oregon that became one of Ashland’s most beloved and unique offerings.

Leslie and Birong spent eight years working that ‘hole-in-the-wall’ with all their hearts, and it was there that Blue Toba was featured on the Food Network Channel’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, the first Indonesian food ever to air on that show.

Outgrowing the deeply endeared old location, Blue Toba expanded to a beautiful downtown Ashland space where they are now able to offer Chef Birong’s longtime vision.

When you walk into Blue Toba, you step into hundreds of years of tradition imbued into Chef Birong’s cooking. You step into the visual beauty of one-of-a-kind Indonesian ceremonial art, and the welcoming warmth of reverence, family, community, and culture.

It is with deep gratitude, abiding love for such a profoundly beautiful and diverse culture, a longtime friendship turned lifetime partnership, that makes Blue Toba a love story. You can taste it in its food, and you can feel it in the air when you walk through its doors.