You won't need to don your safari hat or pack your binoculars, but if it's a food and drink adventure you're seeking, the West End's new-ish Jungle Room is a fun and worthy destination.
Launched earlier this year, the Jungle Room posits itself as Vancouver's first jungle-themed cocktail lounge. Now, I haven't fact-checked this assertion, but I have slipped inside the Denman Street's non-kitschy and greenery-filled hideaway, and I can attest that, in fact, they take the jungle motif seriously.
Rather than skew campy, the Jungle Room has opted for "jungle" by way of elegant design and some really thoughtful touches, from the tropical and tiger-themed washroom wallpaper to the modern bird-like lights above one section of tables. The whole space - which was once a neighbourhood pub called the Dover Arms - is divided into three sections; there's the central bar area, a lush dining room zone with cozy banquettes, and then a "library" zone, complete with fireplace.
Bold, modern, creative dishes fuse Indonesian and Japanese flavours with local ingredients
What the Jungle Room is doing with its food and drink is as admirable as the decor choices. Leaning into the backgrounds of the bar-restaurant's on-site chefs, Krisyanto, who hails from Indonesia (hence the lack of surname), and Mariko Foster, who is of Japanese heritage, the Jungle Room worked with consulting chef Alessandro Vianello of Vianello Hospitality to create an exciting menu of fusion dishes that work for early evening happy hour hangouts, late night bites, or a decadent dinner.
Reflecting bold, modern, and creative takes on some familiar (and some not-so-familiar) flavours, Jungle Room's food ranges from suitable for snacking (seasoned popcorn, kicked up "Jungle" fries, or oysters) to sumptuous entrees (plus desserts and weekend brunch). I tried a few of their signature dishes, starting with a light and bright tuna tartare topped with ikura and an herbaceous Sumatran salsa verde enjoyed with taro chips for scooping.
From the mains, the Two Rivers flat iron steak was beautifully cooked, served in jewel-toned med-rare slices atop a green tea-smoked yam puree with broccolini, king oyster mushrooms, smashed potatoes and an umeboshi jus; this was probably the most "western" of the dishes I enjoyed. Another main, the spring salmon, was a tasty mix of the Pacific Northwest thanks to the plump pieces of fish, done with pearled couscous and the earthy sweetness of a silky Javanese "opor" sauce, which is basically a coconut gravy.
My favourite of the dishes I sampled was the "Laksa Bombs." Laksa, the rich, coconutty and spicy broth filled with noodles, is an iconic Malaysian soup, but at Jungle Room, they've encapsulated the dish's hallmark flavours in prawn and truffle dumplings in a lobster laksa broth. The little bundles are a joy to eat.
A few dishes I have already earmarked for a return visit include the Crying Tiger Pork Nelly; Rendang Tacos; Nasi Goreng Arancini; Katsu Sando Sliders; and more of their raw bar selections.
Jungle Room's desserts and drinks shine
Take note of the desserts (and bread) here, as Foster is a talented pastry chef. Her goey Earl Grey and pear cake is a fun sweet finish, and the tea flavour is perfectly present. The Jungle Room dessert menu also has an affogato, which finds fresh espresso poured over tamari and vanilla ice cream with a side of “Churro style” Indonesian banana fritters; you can opt to add on a bit of booze to make this an adult treat, too.
Of course, the Jungle Room is a cocktail lounge, and they have an impressive selection of house-made drinks from their full bar here. I was only able to try one (curses to the evening drive home in the November Vancouver rain and dark), but I opted to try Bar Manager Emily Vey's Tiger Breath, which is one of Jungle Room's current feature cocktails. The drink is delightfully spicy, made with Patrón reposado tequila, lime, pineapple, jalapeño honey, and hibiscus.
Lest you need further incentive to imbibe from this special cocktail list, Jungle Room will contribute a portion of proceeds from sales of this month's feature cocktails to Pacific Wild, an initiative dedicated to preserving British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest.
Jungle Room is a sexy, playful spot (cue Axl Rose singing "Welcome to the Jungle,") that makes for a fun destination for post-work drinks and snacks, a swanky supper, or cheeky late-night eats.
Jungle Room is located at 961 Denman St in Vancouver. Dinner is served daily from 5 to 10 p.m. Weeknight Happy Hour is 3 to 6 p.m. and weekend Happy Hour is 2 to 6 p.m. Late-night food and drink service is offered from 10 p.m. until midnight on weeknights and 1 a.m. on weekends. Brunch is served weekends from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Video: Welcome to the Jungle Room in Vancouver
@forkingawesomevia A jungle-themed cocktail lounge with Indonesian and Japanese-inspired food? Be-leaf it! This unique West End bar-restaurant would be perfect for date night or happy hour! #forkingawesome #vancouverbc #vancouverfoodie 🎙️@LindsayWR ♬ Safari/Wildlife/African Video Background_"Kids in the Jungle"_Animals/Zoo/Rainforest/National Park/Playful/Fun/Cheerful(1327305) - Ney
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