To celebrate duanwu or the Dragonboat Festival, two friends and I decided to pay a culinary tribute to Aung San Suu Kyi who is currently on trial, by having dinner at an Indonesian/Burmese restaurant.
It's located in the embassy district area, which despite having the various embassies shoulder-to-shoulder, there are still pockets where a number of small restaurants and western-style grocery stores thrive along the tree-lined lanes.
Java & Yangon is situated behind the German embassy in a quaint small space with al fresco dining. However, we opted to eat inside and took in the perpetual Christmas decor with plastic evergreen boughs that lined the ceiling complete with blinking lights.
The menu is extensive, with a large selection of Indonesian and Burmese dishes complete with pictures that looked good to eat, making it hard to decide what to order.
Papaya salad is a refreshing starter -- but caught my two dining companions off guard because they were expecting papaya, not green papaya which is tart and more like a vegetable. Nevertheless, they took to it right away, with thin slices of the papaya with red onion, roasted peanuts, and sauce of shrimp paste and lime.
We also had bakwan, deep-fried vegetable cakes that came with a spicy and sour orangey-red dipping sauce. There were too many pieces as an appetizer for three, but ideal for a bigger group.
A winner was the mee goreng, a classic Indonesian dish of fried noodles with fish balls, tofu, egg, chicken and shrimp. While we liked the sauce for the lamb curry with Indonesian spices coconut milk, it was unfortunately the cubes of lamb were tough, revealing inferior meat quality or not enough tenderizing before cooking.
I asked the server for less spice in all the dishes, but the stir-fried morning glory with chili was too spicy to eat without having to douse the flames with water.
My two friends enjoyed the deep-fried yellow croaker with a mango sauce and virtually finished most of it... until one of them spied a sign at the front of the restaurant declaring the dining establishment a "C" for its cleanliness.
We joked that perhaps the restaurant didn't pay off the health inspectors and thought the dinner was pretty good and reasonably priced too.
But we paid for it the following day when my two friends reported having stomach aches and had to be close to the bathroom for a good part of the day.
We suspect it's the fish dish as I didn't eat much of it and I only had minor stomach problems.
Too bad... otherwise we would surely come again.
Java & Yangon
Sanlitun West Fifth Street
(Opposite northeast corner of German Embassy)