The Art of Italian at Scusa

One of Jakarta’s Italian food institutions, Scusa at the InterContinental Jakarta MidPlaza is a surefire bet for a great meal.

The InterContinental MidPlaza Jakarta has opened two new F&B outlets recently, Rasa restaurant and JimBARan Outdoor Lounge, both of which have quickly earned praise. But the first restaurant most long-time Jakarta gourmands associate with that acclaimed hotel is Scusa, its award-winning Italian restaurant. Over the years, Scusa has proven itself to be one of the city’s best and most consistent high-end Italian eateries.

The interior design of Scusa is centred around the floor-to-ceiling use of sleek, polished wood, in various hues, accented by contemporary art and glass elements that sparkle thanks to the dramatic use of lighting. It is a setting that is opulent without being overwhelming, as the restaurant’s layout and sections, including three private mezzanine dining rooms, manage to make it feel intimate even when busy.

The hotel’s Executive Chef, Gary Palm, has done a great job in maintaining Scusa’s high level of quality and consistency over the years, a job which is made easier by the hard work of Sous Chef Wawan Barito Setiawan, who heads up the restaurant’s kitchen. They set the right tone right off the bat with a complimentary serving of walnut and feta bread. Baked daily, this baked good resembles a large savoury scone, with a crusty exterior giving way to a chewy interior studded with large chunks of crunchy walnut and salty feta. It’s the sort of thing you might expect to pay a premium price for at a top-flight bakery but here it’s just the start of the meal.

Chef Gary and Chef Wawan’s menu is filled with contemporary Italian dishes, but the emphasis is definitely on highlighting the natural taste of the ingredients.

A starter of buffalo mozzarella features a generous chunk of the creamy white cheese surrounded by a salad of tomatoes and spicy rocket, seasoned with plenty of pepper and balsamic to awaken the palate. Another simple but satisfying starter is the Italian cold cut platter, which highlights the already delicious slices of parma and coppa ham, salami and bresaola by pairing them with semi dried tomato bruschetta and Parmesan cheese.

Too many Italian restaurants in Jakarta rely upon heavy, cream-laden sauces to make up for a lack of finesse in their cooking. Not so at Scusa. Take, for example, the potato and wild mushroom soup. Mushroom soup is a mainstay on most Western menus in Jakarta, though they tend to be the “cream of” variety. Here, the soup is thickened mostly by the starch of the potatoes, creating a thin but nicely textured liquid platform for the earthiness of the wild mushroom medley, which includes a satisfying touch of truffle.

Pastas are of course a speciality of the house, and Scusa offers a number of classic sauce pairings like spaghetti aglio e olio and linguine alla vongole. Our pick for the liveliest plate of pasta would be the capellini con astice, which features homemade angel hair pasta topped with a rich, piquant tomato sauce, resplendent with chilli, parsley and thick chunks of lobster from Sulawesi. The chilli and parsley lighten the pasta’s feel, but you’ll feel decadent tearing into the half lobster, cooked and served in the shell, that adorns the plate as well. Another popular dish at Scusa is the barramundi fillet, a choice that is both light and full of flavour. The fillet is cooked until the skin achieves just the right level of crispiness and then it is plated alongside baby broccoli, potatoes, capers and parsley, which are all tied together with a delicate white wine emulsion.

There is certainly nothing restrained about the desserts here, though they do exhibit the same high level of polish and presentation as the rest of the dishes. If you like chocolate cake even in the slightest, you’ll want to order Scusa’s signature molten chocolate cake. A gentle indentation with your fork will reveal the cake’s gooey, liquid interior featuring a balance of milk and dark chocolate that prevents it from being too sweet. The cake is paired with a rum & raisin ice cream and vanilla sauce that work together to round out the flavours of this decadent dessert. If you want something more traditional, there’s no going wrong with Scusa’s homemade tiramisu, which is simply a perfectly executed and presented version of the classic coffee-flavoured dessert.

In addition to their standard menu, Scusa is known for an excellent value-for-money lunch and a well regarded Sunday brunch. They often have special promotions highlighting cuisine from different regions of Italy as well as in season ingredients such as white asparagus. While excellent Italian options continue to pop up throughout Jakarta, Scusa is definitely one of the standard-bearers of Italian fine dining in the capital, one you can always rely upon for a memorable meal.