Hidden Indonesian Food from Java Colonial

I like to do some of my grocery shopping at the Asian market on 12th and Washington. It is part of a small shopping plaza, the same one that is attached to Pho 75. While walking through the plaza from Pho to the grocery store, I came across a small Indonesian restaurant I had never heard about, Java Colonial.  Full from pho, I made a note to come back with friends to try out the menu  which was full of things that were new to me.

On our trip to Java Colonial we started with lamb satay: 5 skewers for $7.50 with an awesome peanut sauce. The lamb was just the right amount of gamey and fairly tender.

I was really looking forward to the fried chicken, hopeful it would be crispy and battered like Korean fried chicken, but with different seasoning. But it wasn’t the  super deep fried, artery clogger I was expecting. It wasn’t battered at all. The skin was crispy, but the meat was a little dry.

All was redeemed, because Java Colonial knows how to fry fish.

For only $5 I got a plate with a whole fried tilapia. It wasn’t very big, but it had a lot of white meat available to dig in to. I was happy to find the fish had a clean, mild taste. The skin crackled as I dug my fork into it. I highly recommend this.

A funky, yet successful plate consisted of spicy coconut beef, white rice, lettuce with peanut chili sauce and a sort of peanut brittle. This is called “nasi pecel and bali daging,” is described as ” vegetables with peanut sauce on steamed rice with spicy beef,” and costs $7. Everything was different, this plate is a great lunch for someone who likes variety.

I really can’t tell you much about the sheets of peanut brittle, I have no idea how they make it or what is in it. It was salty and crumbly and  I liked it a lot.

The beef tasted like a leaner, less creamy, more spicy, beef rendang.

We were hoping for more actual vegetables,  but the “pecel”- the chili, peanut, coconut sauce on top of the lettuce was so good that we didn’t care what it covered.

More funky, less successful though was the soup.

I took a risk and picked a  soup  because I was puzzled by its ingredients. Rawon is a very traditional soup made using a black nut called keluak. When I asked the staff if they could think of anything that was comparable to the flavor of keluak to help explain what it tasted like, they couldn’t think of a single thing. This is a unique nut apparently. The soup ($7) also has beef and a slew of spices including ginger and garlic. It turns out, I am not a keluak fan. There was a very unusual funk that overwhelmed me. I would have probably been happier with the beef coconut soup.

The shrimp crackers that come with this soup are great though. I would buy a big bag of them on their own to take home. Be careful of the accompanying hot sauce! I touched the container, didn’t even open it, and when I rubbed my eyes 10 minutes later they were on fire. Oops.

THE + (What somebody who likes this place would say)

  • A fun menu of Indonesian specialties for cheap
  • Whole fried fish for $5

THE – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)

  • Fried chicken is dry
  • Rowan brings the noise and way too much funk

Java Colonial, 1122 Washington Ave (inside the shopping plaza),  215 271 8900



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