Favorite Finds

Restaurants You Shouldn't Miss

Java Noodles Restaurant

2400 E. Oltorf, Ste. 14 & 15, 443-JAVA

Mon-Fri, 11am-2:30pm, 5-10pm; Sat, 6-10pm; Sun, noon-3pm

When I went on a food pilgrimage to New York City last fall, I made a point of eating at the two top-rated Indonesian restaurants there, just so I could have a base against which to judge the food at Java Noodles. I'm pleased to find that my love of Java Noodles was well-founded, as the food in New York was more than twice as expensive, and not half as good. Austin is uncommonly blessed to have an Indonesian restaurant of this caliber, and it's a culinary treat not to be missed.

Johannes Muljadi and his wife Shínta are masters of their culinary world, employing the full range of spices found in the Indonesian archipelago. Exotic seasonings such as cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, salam leaves, candlenut, tamarind, galangal, and nutmeg blend with the chiles and coconut milk to create unique tastes found in no other cuisine. Their food is the stuff of dreams.

Perhaps the best introduction to the foods of the Spice Islands can be found at Java's Sunday Brunch (or "Rijsttafel," Dutch for rice table) from noon to 3pm for $6.95. A veritable groaning board of treats awaits the diner, with two soups, two appetizers, two types of rice, eight entrees, and two desserts, presented in an all-you-can-eat format. Not to be missed are the fried tofu and fruits in red curry, the chicken saté, the beef rendang (the Indonesian equivalent to carne guisada), and the banana egg rolls with sweet condensed milk.

Lunch at Java comes with a mini-buffet containing two different soups and incredibly spicy (read: spices, not chile) chicken wings, and all plates come with a sweet and sour cucumber salad, shrimp chips, and Java's wonderful homemade sambal chile sauce. For $4.95 to 5.95, you're offered a full range of different meat and veggie offerings, prepared in numerous ways.

Dinner at Java brings forth the full menu of delightful dishes. This is the restaurant where you should pull out all the stops and be adventurous with your palate. The perfect meal might begin with fried tofu with veggies and shrimp, or fish cake and noodles with special sauce. Follow that with a huge bowl of spicy lemongrass shrimp soup with mushrooms to clear the palate and sinuses, and you're ready for some entree action.

The spicy eggplant is a smoky, intensely flavored melange of vegetables that our vegan friends always go gaga over. The satés are absolutely incredible, and if you're with a group you should make sure that someone at the table gets an order, or, better yet, get an order to split as an appetizer. One of our personal favorites is the grilled chicken or fried fish fillet with special red curry sauce over noodles and steamed vegetables. This dish produces an explosion of flavors in your mouth guaranteed to make you smile.

Every Austinite, and every visitor, should put Java Noodles at or near the top of their list of restaurants that never fail to satisfy. The portions are quite large, the prices very reasonable, the staff engaging and friendly, and the food fantastic. Save the thousand-dollar airfare to Indonesia, and head east on Oltorf to the most unique taste in town.

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