Suka suka is an Indonesian term that roughly translates to “as you like” or “whatever you like”, according to Michelle Ciam. It also guides the approach of the former Fishbank supervisor’s new cafe of the same name, which she opened last month with her chef husband Steven Suwarna and her brother William.
“We want to be creative … We want to provide something different for people,” says Ciam. “I really like cafes that do fusion food, and Steven really likes to play with food as well – it’s something that’s interesting and challenging for him.”
Ciam (who also studied animation in Sydney and is responsible for the foliage-laden map of Indonesia inside the cafe) and Suwarna (who was at Nola for four years, working his way up from chef de partie to head chef) had thought about opening their own cafe since moving to Adelaide four years ago. When Ciam’s brother, who’s also a cook, moved over a few months ago, he was the final piece of the puzzle.
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“We missed home, and there’s not many Indonesian restaurants or cafes in Adelaide,” says Ciam. It’s certainly an under-represented cuisine in SA’s dining scene – surprisingly, given the archipelago is one of Australia’s closest neighbours – and because of that, the trio is starting off with a menu that riffs on Western and Indonesian flavours.
“Indonesian food has a lot of spices – there’s a lot of things going on in it, but we wanted to create something for everyone,” says Ciam. “So it’s exciting and bold, but at the same time familiar and comforting.”
Visit in the morning for Indo-Western remixes like breakfast bakmi, a jumble of house-made egg noodles with sauteed chicken, mushrooms and greens, topped with a fried egg and crisp-fried wonton skin, and rendang Benedict – pulled beef in rendang curry with baby spinach, a poached egg and rendang hollandaise on sourdough toast.
Lunch sees a shift to more classic Indonesian flavours – a mix of the food Ciam and Suwarna grew up eating in Jakarta and Bandung, respectively – with some modern twists. There’s lumpia (crisp spring rolls) stuffed with minced beef and shredded vegetables, and chargrilled corn ribs smothered with garlic butter and snow cheese. Plus, those eggy noodles submerged in chicken broth and served with either crispy-skinned roast pork, barbequed char siu pork, chicken and mushroom, or tofu and mushroom (you can also choose to combine them). “Bakmi is my comfort food from back home,” says Ciam, with a smile.
“In Jakarta it’s pretty much like Sydney or Melbourne – all the food is mixed. But in Steven’s hometown it’s more traditional,” she adds. One of those regional dishes is penyet, a mixed plate of house-made sambal (choose between spicy, mild and non-spicy), a scoop of steamed white rice and your choice of protein (grilled or fried chicken, grilled corned beef, grilled eggplant or deep-fried tofu and tempeh), served with fresh tomato, cucumber and lettuce. Another is the West Javanese-style bakwan sayur (fritters filled with shredded and fried onion, cabbage and carrot), which arrive plump and spongy (compared to the thin and crispy fritters served in other parts of Indonesia) and served with peanut sauce.
Other classics include gado gado (a salad of cabbage, spinach, potato, bean sprouts, tofu and tempeh served with boiled egg, peanut dressing and crackers) and ayam geprek (smashed fried chicken).
The drinks might be just as enticing as the food – round out your meal with a tiramisu or “pandanmisu” latte, which both come topped with mascarpone and a ladyfinger biscuit. There’s also spiced bandrek and sticky-sweet bajigur lattes (they’re normally brewed with hot water and creamer, says Ciam, but she steams them with milk, chai latte-style) and a “joyful soda” made with coconut-pandan syrup and condensed milk that Ciam compares to a spider. “It’s creamy, sweet, delicious and sparkling.”
Kafe Suka Suka
358 King William Road, Adelaide
Mon to Sat 8am–3pm