Javánka & Co. – Open-Minded Café

“We want people to feel free here. I want visitors to perceive we are tolerant.”

Javánka & Co.is a restaurant that offers mainly Indonesian cuisine with specialties from around the world. This establishment is a place where vegetarians, vegans, and meat lovers come together. One of the two owners, Juanita Kansil, adds: “Yes, we specialize in quality and honest Indonesian cuisine, but we don’t call ourselves an Indonesian restaurant right away. Javánka is first and before anything else, a place where people meet and connect by being cosmopolitan.”

Javánka is a mixture of not only exotic aromas and tastes but also stories of people who work here and customers who come regularly. The owners try to create an atmosphere of tolerance, freedom, honesty and friendship. Javánka presents itself as a “social lounge” and offers a sense of community. It hosts private events that take place irregularly on Mondays, when the restaurant is closed, but also public events, such as Sunday dance evenings.

The name comes from the island of Java, the most populated island in the world, where the capital of Indonesia, Jakarta, is the home of Juanita’s mother. Juanita Kansil was born in Prague, emigrated to Indonesia when she was 15, returned during the Velvet Revolution, then studied history in Amsterdam for several years, and finally returned to her native Prague.

This woman with an eye-catching life story made a great friendship with the Czech Lucie Kluzáková, who founded Bar Duende and managed the Meduza café for sixteen years. Together, they founded Javánka in 2014, which combines dreams of the magnificent poetry by Konstantin Biebl and the popular opinions of Václav Havel.

Do not hesitate, go to delight your senses and enjoy the company of the fantastic duo Ju & Lu.

You cook Indonesian food and your business is named after the Indonesian island of Java, but you don’t consider yourself a purely Indonesian restaurant, café, or bistro. What is the philosophy of Javánka?

Juanita: “Our philosophy is to create a space for people who think globally, openly, that are tolerant and honest. It is a place where people who feel cosmopolitan can meet. Fifty per cent of our customers are foreigners, and some of our employees speak only English. We employ both foreigners and Czechs. Tolerance is important to us.”

You have mentioned several times that you think of yourself as a cosmopolitan person, logically it is based on having spent part of your life in different countries and cultures. But you were born in the Czech Republic, right?

Juanita: “Yes, I was born in the Czech Republic, and my parents are Indonesian. At the age of fifteen, I had to go back to Indonesia with my grandmother, and I lived there for three years. Then I moved back to Prague for a while, in 1989, and then I went to study history in Holland, but I didn’t graduate because I met a Czech in a pub.”

What was it like to emigrate, for a short while, to Indonesia? Did you miss the Czech Republic?

Juanita: “In Indonesia, I missed European culture very much. I missed Baroque, theatres, classical music. I had such a Central European melancholy. Indonesians are very cheerful, and even if you have a difficult life because of poverty, there is a sense of “lightness”. There’s a different style of humour. What I missed a lot were Czech bread and buns. Now I miss a lot of Indonesian dishes.”

And this is the dream that Konstantin Biebl writes about in his poem “With a Ship Importing Tea and Coffee”?

Juanita: “It is a dream about distance, something that one idealizes because you still admire something that somewhere it’s more beautiful and better. But I enjoy the creativity of a man dreaming. And Javánka is a space where bridges are built between those people who dream.”

Photo: Alžběta Diringerová
Photo: Alžběta Diringerová
Photo: Alžběta Diringerová
Photo: Alžběta Diringerová

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