In Short: Kusuka blends Indonesian street food with eggs, bacon and coffee for an altogether original café experience. Be adventurous and try the Mee Pork for eats and Disco Lemonade for your beverage.
Laneway culture is king in Melbourne, and now Sydney is getting in on the act thanks to café’s like Kusuka. When hubby first told me that we were going to a café with an Indonesian influence, I was interested, but not overly intrigued. Then he proceeds to tell me “They specialise in Mie Goreng” and that’s when I said “No way!” I am one of those people who occasionally go through spells of fried noodles cravings and to hear that the humble Mie Goreng, which is a popular form of street noodle from Indonesia, is being elevated and featured as the dish of the day in a cafe, that’s unheard of! But, that is exactly what Kusuka café’s point of differentiation from the run-of-the-mill café fare.
Even though I live in Sydney, Haymarket for me can be a maze. But with Google maps, I let the phone guide me to Bijou Place. The interior of the café is cosy and there are areas of outside seating for days when the weather is nice. On weekends, the crowds tend to willingly spill out into the roadside, just to get a chance to sample the slice of Indonesia in Sydney’s CBD. Oh, and even if you wander down Bijou Lane and you’re still having trouble finding the café, co-owner Mario will be out front to welcome you in. It’s that family-type atmosphere that Mario and his wife Elizabeth have created with Kusuka, that makes it all that more alluring.
Kusuka’s menu is a balance of east-meets-west; Indonesian street food with a western twist, an unusual pairing of ingredients that you would have not thought possible, but yet, surprisingly works well together. Sure there are the usual café favourites, like avo on toas,t but what you should really be trying at Kusuka are their selections on the Warung Mie (Fancy Mie Goreng) section of the menu.
Mie Goreng actually means Fried Noodles. Because it originates from Asia, it is usually cooked with a spicy chilli jam. But to me, what makes a dish truly mie goreng in flavour is the addition of kecap manis, a thick sweet soya sauce, that imparts a distinct sweet, salty flavour to the noodle dish. These are the flavours that you can find in Kusuka’s Mee Pork. As the name suggests, there is the Indomie with the delicious Kusuka roast pork belly, topped with one of Bali’s most famous chilli jams, chilli matah, which consists basically of chilli, onions and lemongrass. To keep the meal balanced, there are kernels of sweet corn, leafy vegetable and cucumbers. Finally, the dish is garnished with a sprinkling of fragrant deep fried shallots. What makes this dish really stand out though is the pork belly. The pork was tender and meaty, and paired with the chilli, it was really sublime.
If you really want to break out from the traditional flavours of Mie Goreng, try Sunshine (Indomie Makan Pagi) which, when translated, means breakfast. Here Mie Goreng noodles are paired with bacon, poached eggs and a hash brown, making this a signature east-meets-west breakfast. The smoky flavours of the bacon actually work well with the noodles, and the poached egg yield a runny yolk which served as a great sauce for the noodle and to bind the dish together.
Kusuka is famous for its noodles, but if you love your rice more, you can have your noodles with rice from the Hungry Bowl section of their menu. We tried the Double Chicken (Ayam Dua), and it was little Coco and Viner Sammi’s favourite! On one side, there are noodles seasoned with kechap manis, sticks of satay grilled chicken topped with strips of fried omelette and leafy vegetables. On the other side, there is rice with fried chicken and corn. In all honesty, this dish reminds me of a deconstructed satay dish, as there are the grilled chicken skewers, peanut sauce, and rice (in replacement of ketupat)
Besides its noodles, Kusuka is also known for its array of innovative drinks. Its Hypovocado (Alay-Pukay) is a filling avocado shake with chocolate drizzle on the inside of the glass, hundreds and thousands on the rim of the glass and a cloud of pink fairy floss sit on the top, with a sprig of mint leaf. This is an Instagram worthy drink that tastes as good as it looks.
Another of Kusuka’s drinks, that is regularly featured on Instagram, is their Pink Latte. It is actually Strawberry milk with a hint of watermelon and rose petal flavors. Drinking it, I felt like a kid because of the strawberry milk, but it’s the watermelon and rose flavors, and it being a warm, that gave this drink an adult feel. In a world where they are many different versions of latte constantly evolving, (like Green Tea latte and Golden Latte), it is interesting that Kusuka has once again found a niche flavor that is unique on its own and it is definitely my favourite drink on the menu.
Kusuka is not one café to rest on its laurels of success though, they have a few new trick drinks up their sleeves! Like the Genesis, which is a watermelon-flavoured drink that has actual edible sparkles in it that when you shake it in the bottle, creates a swirl of colors that is intriguing and fascinating. It’s a mocktail, with the most delicate of flavours. Then there is the Kopi Susu (coffee with milk) and Matcha Melon, which is a mix of Matcha latte with watermelon. Sounds strange, I know, but when I tried it, I was pleasantly surprised and became a definite convert.
Kusuka’s specialty is its innovative food and drinks, which are familiar flavors with unconventional pairings that actually work well together. Kusuka means “I Like” in Indonesian and can I say, the food here is definitely bagus (good) and I (aku) definitely suka (like) this café!
*Coco and Vine dined as guests of Kusuka Cafe