More Insta-worthy, than taste-worthy.
We’ve been attempting to dine at Kasuka on Sussex for almost 10 months now, developing a habit that we’d slow our pace each time when walking past just to see if they have any empty tables- but to this point we haven’t chanced on any available seats yet, until today! On this Saturday morning we had things to do at 1pm, thus we had planned for an early lunch. So by 11.15am we arrived, and for once the restaurant was emptier than it was full- although half of the vacant tables had a “reserved” sign placed upon them.
If you can’t picture where Kusuka is located on Sussex Street, if you’re super familiar with the area, you might remember a Chinese dessert place called LCM? Well, Kusuka now occupies LCM’s old shop, situated only a couple of stores from the Sussex and Liverpool Street intersection. When we arrived we were greeted by their friendly staff and were offered the last of the unreserved tables for 2, and the first thing we’d noticed about the shop’s interior was how bright and inviting it was (sun shining in from a north-facing glass wall). We were informed that when we were ready to order just to make our way to the counter, and we started to study their menu. Kusuka is an Indonesian fusion café, thus they served western style breakfast options; mixed in were also a few Asian breakfast options; coffees with a twist; a number of interesting cold drinks; lunch and dinner options which sounded like your Indo fan favourites- again with a twist to them; and a number of baked sweet things for dessert or for afternoon tea.
Kusuka is known for its Insta-worthy multi-coloured drinks so we naturally ordered one of them (Disco Princess- $9); I ordered the Krispy Rendang ($18.00); and my wife ordered the Mighty Nest ($17.00).
After placing our orders and making payment, we properly took in the store’s ambience- a re-appropriated Bible verse was scrolled on one wall (which might suggest why they’re closed on Sundays); the open kitchen area added some drama; and there is little wonder why they’re always full, as the available space for seating is very limited- a row of 4 tables for 2, around the corner a table or two for larger groups, and perhaps 2 tables out front and that was the totality of their capacity. So you can understand why their prices are a little higher, as they’re not going to make a profit due to volume of sales alone (although you can order their food via various delivery apps).
By 11.45am, the restaurant had reached capacity, and by 12 noon everyone who were hoping to be walk-ups were turned away- usually those guys were us! Haaha. So as the restaurant filled up, the one thing that I did notice about their clientele was that almost everyone who ate here were female (pairs of girls catching up over lunch). And if they weren’t pairs of younger girls, then they were couples- either a boyfriend being dragged along by his better half, or in our case a husband trying to score brownie points with his wife- for bringing her to this nice looking venue! Hehehe.
Soon our Disco Princess arrived- a grouping of 3 glasses (a glass tumbler, and 2 smaller accompanying glass vessels), each containing a different coloured liquid. The tumbler held a bluish-purple coloured blueberry infused juice, the pale yellow was a sour lemonade, and the last held a thicker orange coloured liquid (apricot nectar). Before leaving, the waiter explained what to do- first pour all the lemonade into the big glass, then add the nectar in to taste, just until you reach a sweetness level which you like. And then we watched the colours change! Like a science experiment it was.
Very Insta-worthy indeed, but unfortunately it wasn’t that tasty though. When the flavours were mixed together, it made for a non-descript taste and it actually left a bit of a weird aftertaste. The one interesting thing was that, the liquids don’t fully blend together, therefore throughout the meal as we sipped on our Disco-P, the flavours actually changed depending if you happened to get more sour lemonade or if you’d reached the sweeter nectar.
When our food arrived, the bowl/plates in which they came on took up much of our remaining table space. And it wasn’t just large plates with a small clump of food in the centre, but the food was piled on and garnished to maximum effect. And it definitely was fusion, as it was Indo food but mixed in were western ingredients- it was obvious that a lot of thought had been placed into the types of ingredient parings, to maximise texture and flavour profiles.
For me, my Krispy Rendang included a bed of rice, many pieces of battered deep fried chicken, a thin egg omelette, a potato hash-brown, thinly sliced raw radish circles, a sprinkling of tiny diced up pickled radish bits, a crushed rose petal (?) garnish, and a piccolo sized ramekin with Rendang sauce which you pour over your food. Again, very Insta worthy! And reading out the list alone, it sounded like it was going to be delicious!?
But unfortunately, it wasn’t all that tasty though. *Sad look*. The ramekin of Rendang sauce, was only half filled to the top, thus I was only able to pour a drizzle of sauce onto my food; there just wasn’t enough to go around. The dish wasn’t spicy like you’d expect from traditional Rendangs, each element on the dish weren’t seasoned with additional flavours i.e. not cooked in spices; so putting it nicely, each element maintained its ‘natural’ flavours, but calling a spade a spade- my dish was dry and by-and-large tasteless. And the fried chicken had this not-so-pleasant taste to it, methinks the flavour comes from not changing the deep fryer oil frequent enough? So unfortunately I was disappointed with my dish. It was very large and filling, but disappointing.
My wife’s dish was much the same. Her dish was described on the menu as “Fried Chicken smashed in with fragrant chilli mata and corn with fried egg and a nest of crunchy mi goreng”. In reality the mata was a small dollop of sauce which you mixed in, so again my wife’s dish was also dry and tasteless. And the mi goreng fries were actually just like uncooked instant Maggi noodles (although they probably were deep fried), crumbled into little bits and sprinkled over the dish to add texture. So like me, she wasn’t all that impressed either.
In the end, I think Kusuka on Sussex’s offerings read better on paper, and presented better as visuals for your eyes’ consumption . But when it came to actually putting it in your mouth for your literal consumption? It had texture, but just didn’t taste all that wow. Granted, the venue was very nice, a perfect little spot to catch-up with friends if the reason for dining here was as much as a social thing as if it was for the food. But for us our end verdict was 3.0 Stars from 5.0 (1.5 from 3 for Food; 0.5 from 0.5 for Service (the waiter was real friendly); 0.5 from 0.5 for Atmosphere (as they played pop music at the right volume levels, and the look and feel of the place was very inviting); and 0.5 from 1 for Value for money (sure, the food servings were large so you could see the $17 value there, but the drink was essentially juice and soda totalling 250ml- but priced at $9)).
To appease our inner FOMO we had to try Kusuka on Sussex for ourselves, but now that we’ve been there, done that, I don’t feel a great urge to come back though. Unless it was for something completely different- say dropping in for their breakfast menu or their afternoon treats.
Kusuka on Sussex- Saturday 6 April (3.0 Stars).
PH: (02) 8318 0469
12/339 Sussex Street, Sydney
Mon-Sat 7am – 9.30pm