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Jungle Room, DOVF 2024

In this post we were getting a sneak peek look at what some of Vancouver’s most recognizable restaurants are offering for Dine Out Vancouver 2024. This was a guided tour that started at Arc downtown waterfront and then brought us to Jungle Room at the West End, for our first stop.

I have been meaning to check out Jungle Room, since they open last year of April, but the distance from my place on Burnaby Mountain to them has been the reason for the delay. So I was ecstatic to learn that I would get my first taste with their Dine Out menu, which I suspect will be the case for many, needing an extra push and incentive for the drive out. And trust me, it is well worth it.

Originally, when they first open Jungle Room was conceived as a cocktail bar. Concocted from the mind of Kevin Frank, the owner of the now shuttered Kevin and Kevin juice bar in Chinatown. They eventually hired a PR firm that saw potential and suggested they flush out a full food menu to compliment their bar program. This proved wildly successful, and they have not looked back since. They saw full bookings and long wait times all through the holiday season and continuing into the start of 2024. So expect their Dine Out reservation slots to book up quick, if they haven’t ready done so.

Their menu is Asian fusion helmed by an Indonesian head chef who has immigrated to Canada 7 years ago. His South East Asian cuisine with tropical fruits and an exotic ingredient list well matches the theme of the restaurant. Dark and moody with lush greenery, and lights that resemble a waterfall and parrots sitting on branch. And for dessert they have a Japanese pastry chef, who too leans on her personal experiences and background. And spoiler, I loved every single dish and was surprised that I liked the vegan and vegetarian options more over the meaty ones. I have yet to see Indonesian being represented this well in Vancouver, and am especially keen as the cuisine is similar to that which I first had in Brunei. These familiar flavours I grew up with, made modern and approachable, to garner a wider appeal.

We started with a few cocktails, seeing as that is their staple. Wanting something more savoury, I took our server’s suggestion of the “Green with Emvey”. Tanqueray, Green Chartreuse, cucumber cordial, pineapple, lime, toasted sesame oil, and fennel. It was creamy and almost foamy. This reminded me of a fresh pressed green juice with the cucumber and fruit. Given the hints of pepper this is a great cocktail to have with food.

The “Hand of the Desert“ is an ever evolving cocktail. Every month a different spirit is featured in this mix and a portion of its proceeds are donated to a different rotating charity. This month it is “ Pacific Wild, an initiative founded in 2008 to bring awareness and help protect British Colombia’s own Great Bear Rainforest” (as taken from the website). As for the cocktail itself, it is a brown butter-washed El Gobernador Chilean pisco with acid-adjusted soursop and orgeat. This is a stiffer mix that is also complimentary to the food, thanks to its salty nature fragranced with notes of citrus and nuts.

The “La Jefa” is a fun one to say. Coconut Cartel añejo rum, Noilly dry vermouth, Cocchi Americano, acid-adjusted mango cordial, angostura bitters, and a king cube. It is most accurately described as a rum old fashion. More notably mello with the sugars from the spirit. This one was best paired with dishes that are similarly on the sweet side, like the beef ribs and squash below.

As for the Dine Out menu, the list includes dishes from their regular offerings and ones exclusively for these 2.5 weeks. Dine Out Vancouver runs from January 17th to February 4th, 2023.

Available all the time is their Ahi Tuna Tartare which is presented with taro chips for scooping. Sumatran salsa verde, ginger emulsion, ikura, and chives. This served as a bright and tangy aperitif, with the dull burn of fragrant ginger at the forefront, accentuating the fresh fish. Think ceviche, but warm and spicy instead of cold and citrusy.

Their vegan and gluten free option in this round is the Wild Mushroom Burbur. This is an Indonesian style congee topped with XO, walnut, burnt scallion oil, kecap manis, and crispy yam. It was chunky and thick, eating more like a soften risotto than a liquid based slurry. It got zesty Mexican style ground beef spices that ended with a back of throat heat. This was ann encompassing flavour that coated the mouth. I surprised myself by enjoying this dish the most out of everything we had. Its warmth was ideal for the colder temperatures and gave me comfort. This would definitely be my pick for the starter, and is a dish I would recommend and order again.

The third option is Udang Balado which is sauteed jumbo prawns tossed in their house made sambal and topped with grilled scallions. Thick and meaty prawns made unique with the almost salted plum-like flavour of tamarind. This paired exceptionally well with some tangy apple slaw that soaked up the excess tamarind essence.

For entrees our group ate up the Beef Ribs. Not on the regular menu, this one came with a back story. This was from the mind of the consulting chef who recalled his personal experience. He fondly reflected having similar ribs on the side of the road and wanting to re-live that lick your fingers clean sensation, here at Jungle Room. And speaking of clean, the meat came clean off the bone. It was chewy and tender, dressed in their “Naughty Nuri’s” sauce and served with steamed coconut rice and acar pickled vegetables on the side. The topping of puffed crushed rice and crispy shallot added a nice crunchy texture to the honeyed meat. You indeed wanted to lick your fingers clean, but will not because the dish and setting are just so refined.

The seafood entree option was their Seared Spring Salmon with a Javanese opor sauce, pearl couscous, caramelized cabbage, chilli oil, sambal matah, and toasted coconut. I will never get tired of a coconut sauce, and especially one this fragrant with lemongrass. And here, there was plenty of it to really coat and accentuated the gentle bubbles of cousocous and the flakey fish. I just could have used some rice to soak up the excess.

Once again my choice goes to the vegan and gluten-free option with the Miso Braised Squash. There was so much nuance to this, layers of flavour built off of more coconut milk. Charred shallot, roasted hakurei turnips & sauteed greens, Sumatran salsa verde, and curried squash purée. This was so comforting as the chunks of squash melted into a purée themselves, under the weight of your utensil or tongue. I just would have liked a base of either rice or noodles with this. Because as good as it was, it felt like a side in need of a base. It would have also partnered well with the beef ribs.

And for dessert I would keep with my vegan and gluten-free presence and recommend the Mango Sticky Rice. Anyone familiar appreciates the classic combination of coconut and mango, made fulsome with rice that some how comes across as pudding. Coconut glutinous rice, coconut snow, pandan oil, and mango lime sorbet. The presentation was so refined and delicate, my eyes were full before I dug in. Tart mango, sweet coconut, and a touch of ginger to make it digestive friendly. I just didn’t weed out any pandan, which is one of my favourite flavours.

The most eye catching dessert has to be the Ice Cream Sando with either ends dipped in white chocolate and printed with their branded logo. This is an in-house made almond shortbread sandwiching a miso caramel ice cream. I appreciated how slowly this melted to be able to enjoy its firm and solid texture for longer. And how the salty umami of the miso came through in this, thus having it not be too sweet.

And for the chocolate lovers, the Chocolate Mousse is the one to get with togarashi seasoning and a banana jam filling. Rich and dense chocolate that you need to repeatedly lick off your spoon. A mouthful with less banana than dark bitter cocoa, but well offset by the spicy sesame and coconut soil that it sits on.

Dine out or not, Jungle Room is worth visiting. But if you need a reason, let it be for Dine Out. I, myself will definitely return to try the laksa bombs, lumpia, and Nasi goreng arancini. Can’t wait to see how they elevate more of the foods I grew up with.

Jungle Room
961 Denman St, Vancouver, BC V6G 2M3
(604) 558-4343

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