Review: The Java Room, Parnell

By Shandelle Battersby

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Address: 7/317 Parnell Rd, Parnell Village
Phone: (09) 366 1606
Web: javaroom.co.nz
Food: Pan-Asian
Rating: 6/10

The Java Room in Parnell. Photo / Babiche Martens
The Java Room in Parnell. Photo / Babiche Martens

It seemed rather incongruous to find ourselves in the heart of Parnell Village entering a colonial building in search of Balinese cuisine, something you'd associate more with rainforest or beaches.

But it turns out it's not so easy to find Indonesian food in Auckland outside the local foodcourts, so we were forced to go pan-Asian and order selectively.

So it was off to the long-established Java Room in Parnell which has been a part of the dining strip in the village since 1995, and offers fantastic views of the city from its elevated, partially enclosed veranda which twinkles merrily with fairy lights.

It's a balmy night but there's no room outdoors, so we settle in at one of the tables inside the buzzing, brightly-lit restaurant, which has retained the original look of the building with just cursory nods to ethnic decor.

We're determined to try every Balinese dish on offer and this makes our very sweet, smiley waiter actually laugh at me when I reel off our rather large order.

We start with the krupuk - large deep-fried prawns with two dips: a rather ordinary peanut sauce, and a sambal chilli concoction which, despite our love of spicy food, is actually too hot and bitter to enjoy.

In contrast, the hot lava prawns, which are stir-fried with tamarind, sambal chilli, palm sugar and some rather nice okra, are plump and fresh but fail to deliver the volcanic explosion of heat we were anticipating.

We opt for the Malay-style nasi goreng, also a typical Indonesian dish. This arrives as a huge serving of fried rice cooked with both prawns and chicken, as well as toasted shallots, vegetables, and topped with a fried egg. There are no surprises here - it's exactly what you'd expect, though more on a par with a foodcourt meal than a restaurant dish.

The Balinese Baa Baa Curry is probably the best of our main courses, with its sweet and tender slow-cooked lamb and potato flavoured with cardamom and star anise. It melts in your mouth and we'd go back for this dish again.

A typical side of cucumber batons with crushed peanuts is as described, and added a refreshing contrast to the heavy curry and rice dishes.

Our cheerful waiter waved the dessert menu in our direction but he could tell by our uncomfortable expressions we were fit to burst.

Keeping in theme, if we'd had a skerrick of room we would have gone for the Warm Black Rice Pudding but that will have to wait for another day - or preferably a visit to Bali itself.

Drinks: BYO and fully licensed, with a small local wine list and a few popular Asian beers

From the menu: Krupuk ($7); hot lava prawns ($26); Balinese baa baa curry ($20); nasi goreng ($20); coconut rice ($5); and crushed peanuts and cucumber batons ($8)

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