Java Restaurant in the Inner Richmond; Serving Indonesian Comfort Food for Over 30 Years

28Sep09

When you have local favorite Burma Superstar down the street from your restaurant serving similarly-influenced cuisine, it would be easy to get lost amidst all the buzz. For family-owned Java Restaurant, they’ve managed to do just fine. So fine, in fact, that they have been in business in the same location in the Inner Richmond since 1977. That’s 32 years, which is probably older than many of my readers. It also means they must be doing something right to stay in business for so long, no small feat in the city with the highest number of restaurants per capita in the U.S.

Though it bears the name “Java,” it isn’t a coffee shop. Java is actually an island of Indonesia, which is the style of cuisine served at Java Restaurant. Indonesian food is essentially fusion food, taking influence from India, China, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. Popular Indonesian dishes that have become assimilated across Asia include satay and rendang, which are especially prevalent in Malaysian and Singaporean cuisine.

At Java Restaurant, they serve a wide variety of Indonesian dishes that aren’t only good, but affordable. At my most recent visit, I tried a bit of everything and came away very satisfied.

The first thing we ordered was the spicy fries, which everyone raves about. I covered them previously in an Examiner article, where I said:

It’s a very simple, but very tasty dish to have as an appetizer before your meal, or even as just a standalone snack. They take perfectly crisp french fries and toss them in a homemade sweet and spicy chili sauce. The result is a perfect combination of salty, sweet, and just a hint of spiciness. The sauce coats the fries in a nice glaze with speckles of chili flakes, and does not overpower the texture or flavor of the fries, rather enhancing it with a nice flavor profile that doesn’t require any additional condiments. After eating at Frjtz dozens of times, I thought I have tried fries every which way imagineable, but Java Restaurant serves them in such a way that would make me return and order multiple plates to share with friends over a few glasses of fresh guava juice. At only $3 an order, you can afford to!

The satay sapi, or beef satay, was incredibly juicy and tender. It came served with a cabbage slaw with vinegar that balanced the sweetness of the peanut sauce, which was very creamy and smooth. All three parts were very well balanced, from the flavors to the textures.

The ayam kari (pictured at the top of the post), or chicken curry in coconut sauce, is a very simple and mild curry. Consisting of mostly chicken and potatoes, it wasn’t too sweet or too spicy, right in the middle.

The bami goreng, or stir fried noodles, was my favorite dish. The noodles are stir fried with shrimp, chicken, beef, and bok choy, and served with a sweet and spicy chili sauce on the side, similar to the sauce used in the spicy french fries, but with less sugar and more spice. The sauce gave it an extra layer of flavor, which made it slightly spicy and sweet, on top of the multiple savory flavors from the combination of meats.

We washed everything down with a cold glass of fresh guava juice, which was the perfect for neutralizing the oils and spices from the other dishes. Just when we thought it couldn’t get any better, we had deep fried banana with vanilla ice cream for dessert. The banana was battered and deep fried with a bit of powdered sugar on top, and the vanilla ice cream was, well, vanilla ice cream.

Overall everything was good, but what makes this place great is the affordable prices and great service. Most dishes are well under $10 for fairly big portions, and they even have a variety of daily lunch specials for just $5.50, which comes with an entree, rice or noodles, and satay or lumpia. The service is very attentive and friendly, which is to be expected from any mom and pop restaurant. The husband and wife team have been running Java Restaurant for over 30 years, back when Clement Street was full of American supermarkets and there was even a comedy club across the street that once hosted a young Robin Williams. Though much has changed in this neighborhood over the years, the friendly service and Indonesian comfort food of Java Restaurant has remained consistent.

Java Restaurant
417 Clement Street
San Francisco, CA 94118
(415) 752-1541

Also check out:
Thailand Restaurant in the Castro; Best Restaurant Name Ever
Tia Margarita in the Outer Richmond
Brenda’s French Soul Food Review; Best Southern Brunch in San Francisco
Cha Cha Cha Tapas Restaurant and Bar in the Haight and Mission
Good Luck Dim Sum in the Inner Richmond serves cheap Chinese for dine-in or take-out
Sweet and savory crepes from Genki Crepes & Mini Mart in the Inner Richmond

Brenda’s French Soul Food Review; Best Southern Brunch in San Francisco
Cha Cha Cha Tapas Restaurant and Bar in the Haight and Mission
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One Response to “Java Restaurant in the Inner Richmond; Serving Indonesian Comfort Food for Over 30 Years”

  1. Nice review! I’ve meant to try this place. Your review definitely moves it higher on my list. thanks! nice photos as usual.


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