- Griffin Swartzell
- Cubes of fried tofu soak up savory broth in this five-spice noodle bowl.
Editor's note: The original version of this story erroneously left out that Javalato's five-spice noodle bowl has cubes of fried tofu, not egg.
Sometimes all it takes is one offering, one dish, one specialty to catapult a restaurant from good to great. At Javalato, a large yet unassuming café and gelateria — owned by Tanya Baros, also owner of OCC’s Yellow Mountain Tea House — greatness comes with the housemade ice creams.
When we visited the spot in April, we enjoyed chocolate marshmallow, salted caramel and banana cashew gelatos. This time, we lean into fruity options, starting with a grapefruit sorbet. It’s true to the flavor of a pink grapefruit, and by true, we mean seriously committed true, with sunshine-bright bitter and sour notes, but enough sweetness to remain a dessert. For our palate, it’s summer magic, though this might not be a hit with all of the kiddos.
More kid-friendly but no less excellent, we enjoy raspberry cheesecake ice cream, which again tastes true to the fruit, though a smooth, rich, creamy base mellows its sharpness. Similarly, strawberry white chocolate ice cream tastes sweet and faintly tart, the overall flavor adding up to the strawberry milk we had as kids — the way we remember it, not the artificial flavor it actually had.
We also try a toasted almond vegan ice cream, which tastes creamy, toasty and perfectly nutty. We’re torn between eating it straight and dumping it into our coffee.
Which brings us tidily to the sole friction spot on our visit: The coffee, brewed from beans roasted at Dillanos Coffee Roasters of Sumner, Washington, needs some work. Their light roast informs a latte with a prominent roasty-to-burnt flavor, though it’s properly proportioned. We’re not sure at first whether it’s a problem with the beans or the barista, who’s in training, but a pour-over made with the same beans confirms that it’s the roast. Whatever; call it one more reason to spring for a scoop of the cold and creamy stuff and stir it in.
More health-conscious folks, though, have sound beverage options. A house juice blend incorporates apples, carrots, ginger and beets, vivid red in the glass. Carrot and apple lead the sip, and ginger plays a mellow role at the end of each sip. On the warmer end, we enjoy a cup of moon milk, a beverage anchored on house-made oat milk and an herb called ashwagandha, or winter cherry — purported to have a variety of health benefits in Indian Ayurvedic medicine. Javalato offers three moon milks, and we go pink, which includes hibiscus, rose, dragonfruit, beet, ginger and cardamom, served with nutmeg atop. Rose leads the nose, and each sip holds lots of cardamom, with a mild beet sweetness.
Javalato offers breakfast, lunch and dinner, too. So we stop in at supper for a veggie panini and a five-spice noodle bowl. The former comes on wheat bread, featuring marinated tofu with onions, mushrooms, pesto and sun-dried tomato, rich and savory overall, with tomato acidity doing good things to keep each bite clean. We’re very fond of the latter’s savory-spicy broth, which holds thin-sliced beef, delicate and slender house-made noodles, bean sprouts and mustard greens. It’s also full of cubes of fried tofu that hold their structure and fill with broth like sponges, the ultimate soup croutons.
But, if we’re walking out without something cold and sweet in the end, we’re doing ourselves dirty and missing Javalato’s finest offering.