Sun, 02 Feb 2003

Scusa: Sparkling new venue lights up Jakarta pub scene

I don't know about you, but I've never had much time for those pubs-cum-restaurants, and visa versa, where the diners and imbibers are forced to sit in unholy proximity to each other.

You know, those poorly thought-out joints where the dining tables are crowded all the way right up to the bar, where the likes of your's truly and mates are happily ensconced.

Now, this wouldn't be such a major problem should all that is served by the bar be orangeade, milk or some other similarly harmless beverage.

But this is rarely the case, thank heavens, and what normally happens is that the punters at the bar tend to get a little animated after a couple of glugs, the voices start rising, and the odd swear word, or ten, starts creeping into the conversation.

Which, of course, is not exactly amusing if you happen to be out for a slap-up meal with family and friends to celebrate little Johnnie's success in the national school yodeling competition or your poor old geriatric grannie's 99th birthday. Obviously, the last thing in the world you would want in such a situation is to be accosted by a crew of drunken yobbos eagerly eyeing up the younger females in your party.

This is where trouble could well arise unless one of the competing sides either puts up or shuts up.

Which is why, generally speaking, such misguided establishments either end up with a crowded bar and an empty restaurant, or the other way around.

This, however, should never be a problem in Scusa, a flashy new venue that opened its doors all of three weeks ago in the Hotel Inter-Continental MidPlaza right in the center of Jakarta.

For the canny chaps who designed this particular gluggery-cum- eatery certainly seem to know their Ps and Qs when its comes to the hospitality industry, as well as how to keep potentially murderous diners and tipplers at a safe distance from each others' throats.

Stylish, sophisticated and oh so very, very cool, this, in my book, must be well up in the running as one of the best designed venues here in the big smoke.

For in an area that's not expansive by anybody's standards, they've managed to fit in a fine Mediterranean restaurant, a groovy bar, and a great dance floor and stage, all neatly cordoned off from each other in a muted, unobtrusive sort of way -- thus avoiding any of the potentially unfortunate conflicts I referred to above.

When you walk through the entrance of Scusa, the first thing you see laid out before you, behind a gleaming flight of stairs leading up to the private rooms on the mezzanine, is one of the coolest of cool bars I've come across here in Jakarta.

All chrome and marble, but at the same time neither cold nor unwelcoming, I reckon this could be a great spot to rid yourself of the cares of the world over a few quick ones after work.

Having completed this process, it might well be time to venture into the dining area over to your right, behind the partition. Again, replete with lots of chrome and shiny stuff, this is as snazzy an eatery as any you're likely to find, and one in which families will feel just as much at home in as hungry tipplers, even as the evening wears on and the tipplers start behaving more exotically.

By the time refueling has been completed, the band should be up and running on the stage in the separate dance area. Designed by Mr. Yasuhiro Koichi of Spin Studio, Tokyo, this is just the place to trip the light fantastic for a spell, and work off some of those beastly calories.

And speaking of the band, these guys are good. Calling themselves the Sol Latinos, they are five seriously talented musicians from Columbia specializing, as you'd expect from that part of the world, in Salsa, other Latin, as well as Top 40. Even if you are more into Techno or Acid House, I think you'll still find these desperados have a lot going for them, especially the dude on the sax!

As for prices, well, five-star all the way, although nowhere near as outrageous as some other similar venues around these parts. A glass of Bintang draft will set you back Rp 35,000, while a bottle of Corona, Miller or Heineken will hit you for Rp 50,000. One criticism, though -- not much of a selection on the beer front. For a venue of this sophistication, it wouldn't do any harm to get a few of the more out-of-the-way labels in to keep the punters quaffing it down, out of curiosity if nothing else.

Moving on to the harder stuff, a premium Scotch is to be had for Rp 70,000 a dram (or Rp 950,000 a bottle), while a John Jameson or Old Bushmills Irish goes for Rp 65,000 a shot (Rp 875,000 a bottle).

As for the crowd, on the Wednesday night of our visit the place wasn't exactly heaving, although neither was it morguesville by any means. In addition, discreet inquiries led me to believe that the joint is pretty much rocking and rolling on weekends.

According to Inter-Continental MidPlaza's general manager Didier Beltoise, "Scusa adopts a unique concept that offers a perfect combination between flavor, style and excitement." While Mr. Didier has obviously a vested, pecuniary interest here, I nevertheless have to agree with him 100 percent. Great concept, service and, basically, great fun, which, in my book, is what any good venue should be all about. So, if you're at a loose end, maybe Scusa's just the ticket!

-- Bill Blade

Scusa, Hotel Inter-Continental MidPlaza Jakarta, Jl. Jend. Sudirman Kav. 10-11, Jakarta. You can call them on 021-2510888. Opening hours: 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. seven days a week. All prices quoted above exclude service and tax.