After a weekend of over-indulgence in Sydney's inner-west, we packed up our things and moved eastwards, to be closer to the place I was working at in Randwick. Leaving behind Sydney's veg*n ground zero and heading into the much less promising Eastern suburbs, we were a bit unsure of our options. Still, after a bit of poking around the web, I discovered that Randwick is a bit of a hotspot for Indonesian food, with Java in particular having a reputation as an excellent and cheap source of tempeh-related good-times.
Java has been around since the 1980s, and it's clear that they haven't upgraded their signage for quite some time. It's a pretty unassuming looking place that's putting more energy into their food than into their fit-out. The staff were friendly and helpful when we turned up lugging our suitcases, quickly making space for us to squeeze in. The menu is huge, with an array of noodle and rice dishes, heaps of Balinese-style grilled goodies (including an eggplant option) and a good range of vegetarian dishes. The labeling isn't super thorough throughout the menu (so, for example, you'd need to double check the vegetable laksa), but the staff were seemed used to vegos coming in and were happy to help us out. There are some dishes that are clearly vegan, but you'll want to take a bit of care (that goes double for gluten-free diners).
There aren't loads of vegetarian entrees, with spring rolls ($6.90) or martabak sayur ($8.90). Despite not really knowing what we were in for (the description on the menu is: vegetarian ingredients in crispy pastry), we went with the martabak sayur.
This was great - a fried rectangle of crispy goodness, stuffed with a fluffy egg mix including shallots and onions. The dipping sauce was a nice mix of sweet and tangy - with a decent tamarindy kick I think.
Next up was the first of our mains: semur terong (fried battered eggplant with butter and sweet soya sauce, $11.90).
What a dish! The batter on this was stunning - somehow staying crispy for the whole meal (even taking into account Cindy's slow eating). The eggplant was tender and the sauce a great sweet/salty delight. If you add in a smear of the garlic sambal that I ordered on the side ($2) then you're in heaven.
We couldn't resist ordering the tempeh dish on the menu: tahu tempe goreng (fried bean curd and fermented soya beans, $11.90).
Mmmm fried. Crispy fried tempeh with a sweet and syrupy kecap manis/chilli sauce is pretty hard to top, and this was fantastic. Having a bit of shallow-fried tofu alongside the tempeh was a nice touch as well.
Cindy was tempted by the dessert menu (particularly the cendol, $5.80), but we were pretty chockers and the restaurant was booked up solidly - they've clearly developed a following over the years. Java was a great find - I'm going to be hanging out in Randwick quite regularly over the next little while, and I reckon I'll be stopping in again and again.
The review on Veggie Friendly let us know that Java was a safe option for non-meaty types, while omni bloggers have uniformly enjoyed its cheap cheerfulness: Richard Elliot's Blog, Cookbookmaniac, Simon Food Favourites, Stella loves to eat out, on the roof eating cake, Big Green Dinosaur, I Can Eat A Horse.
151 Avoca St, Randwick
(02) 9398 6990
veg mains $8.90-$13.90
Accessibility: Java has a small step on entry and the interior was pretty crowded with tables. There's full table service. We didn't visit the toilets.