With gauzy white curtains and a warm golden glow, Kasuka certainly has an inviting vibe on a miserable wet winter evening. It’s open late for a café, but it makes more sense when you discover it’s modelled on a warung kopi – a humble cafe or coffee shop that sells coffee and snacks in Indonesia.
While Kasuka certainly isn’t the first Asian fusion café to emerge in Sydney, it was likely our first Indonesian fusion café, back when owners Mario El-Haddad and his Indonesian wife Liz Rimbo, opened their initial Haymarket store two years earlier. They have recently consolidated their two venues back down into one store, keeping this pretty pastel space.
Strung with fairy lights and decorated with blooms, it might surprise you to see Kasuka attract a steady stream of men and women in blue, from the Goulburn Street cop shop just around the corner. Shift work requires a good supply of caffeine, and clearly Kasuka’s range of regular and Indonesian coffees hit the mark.
The desire to go to sleep at a regular hour sees me drinking the Kusuka Green Milk Tea ($5). It’s brewed on a fragrant green tea and sufficiently sweetened to be easy drinking without becoming a sugar pit. Despite the Persian fairy floss topper, the Lychee Calamansi House Soda ($7.50) is similarly pleasing – light on the sugar and nicely flavoured with lychee and calamansi lime - just give it a good stir before drinking.
While Kasuka does put out the Instagram-worthy, whimsical desserts I’ve come to expect from pastel themed cafés, what I didn’t expect was such a great line in savoury eats. Your go-to dish here is their tricked out Indomie (Indonesian noodles). Superbowl ($20) gives you three meats – crispy pork belly, sliced sausage and Indonesian corned beef – neatly arranged over mi goreng (fried noodles) with creamy corn kernels, melted cheese and chilli matah. The latter is a lightly cooked off chilli, onion and lemongrass sambal that goes gangbusters with the noodles, so if you can handle a little heat, ask them for an extra helping! The ribbons of cucumber will help cool your mouth.
Krispy Rendang ($18) served with a Rice Bear ($4) gives you the kawaii capture your Instagram followers are waiting for. More than just for looks, the dish is actually a dig at MasterChef UK who eliminated Malaysian contestant, Zaleha Kadir Olpin, for failing to produce a crispy skinned chicken rendang in 2018. Everyone from the British High Commissioner to Malaysia to the then-Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, critiqued the middle-aged, Caucasian, male judges for their lack of understanding of Malaysian cuisine.
Playing upon this notion, the Kusuka team have blanketed rice and fried chicken with an omelette and given you a pot of rendang sauce to pour over everything. It’s fun to eat and makes the point that now, in 2019, we should all be broadly familiar with a range of global cuisines.
We rounded out our dinner with loaded fries. Beef’n’Fries Melt ($12) teams Kusuka’s signature seasoned French fries with spicy wagyu beef and cheese. It’s hard to stop eating them, so it’s lucky for me the serving size is ample rather than immense - after all, I still had dessert to contend with.
Urged by friendly floor staff into Ropang Jupiter ($13), my dining companion and I took on a fairy floss-topped mountain of thick cut French toast (ropang) spread with pink latte jam (made with berries and watermelon) and surrounded by fresh fruit and chocolate crumble.
It’s accompanied by a warm purple liquid – perfect for Wear It Purple Day today - made from sweet potato and taro, then topped with edible sparkles. The idea is you pour it over the dish to melt the ice cream into a tasty purple lake. Who was I to argue? Look, it’s hectic but actually quite tasty in combination with the golden pan-fried toast. What Kusuka do well is actually insert flavour into the kind of dishes everybody is oohing-and-ahhing over in photo form.
12/339 Sussex Street, Haymarket
Ph: (02) 8033 0532