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Friday Night IN: SUSU Dessert Bar and Aruna’s Quest for Nasi Goreng

May 1, 2020

Last week Sam Eat shared the good news about Phnom Penh Noodle House’s soft reopening for take-out and delivery orders.  This week brings more good news: a number of restaurants in the International District that had closed due to the crisis have now reopened.  You again can get your Korean corndog fix at Chung Chun’s; Young Tea is open from 11 am – 6 pm every day except Tuesday; Ho Ho Seafood offers take-out 7 days/week from 3:30 pm – 1:30 am; and Honey Court Seafood is open from 10:00 am – 10:30 pm each day.  See the complete list on our Community Resources page .

Despite the notable decline in pedestrian traffic, the dynamism of the ID is palpable. Posters have appeared in every other shop window and on utility poles celebrating community resilience, which is manifest in the ingenuity and perseverance business owners have shown in adapting business models and the unwavering support from their customers.

One of the latest examples is SUSU Dessert Bar which held a soft-launch on April 3rd.  The owners, Katie Pohl and Fairoz Rashed, began construction of their space in the historic Louisa Hotel building last September with plans for a grand opening in early March.  Derailed by COVID-19 mitigation restrictions, but encouraged by other business owners and community members, the pair decided to open a curbside pop-up offering coffee, tea, and pastries on weekdays with a lunch menu on weekends.  Take-away wines by the bottle are also available.

Fairoz is the chef and his Singaporean background comes forward in popular savory dishes like roti daging, rojak, and a tofu and rice dish with Malaysian spices, while his training at Paris’s Ferrandi Culinary School is evident from the assortment of pastries displayed in the front window.  The selection changes daily, but all are impeccably executed and when I visited fell in the comfort food category.  Blondies, thick slices of hazelnut chocolate chunk cake, and whiskey truffles conveyed a sense of home—if Mom had been a classically-trained pȃtissière.

SUSU Dessert Bar is currently open for take-away Wednesdays – Sundays from 11 am – 3 pm.  Order at the storefront, text 833.953.5665, or visit their website for more options.  They’re located at 665 S. King St., across from Kau Kau BBQ and under the Liem’s Pet Shop sign.

The joy of finding rojak (more commonly rujak in Indonesia) in Seattle prompted this week’s film recommendation: Aruna dan Lidahnya (Aruna and Her Palate) by Indonesian filmmaker Edwin.  A cross-regional exploration of Indonesian cuisine, you’ll be wanting noodles, soto ayam, and fried rice before our protagonists strike out from Jakarta for a culinary tour that takes them to places including Madura and Pontianak.

Although one message from the film—enjoy the pleasures of food and good company—resonates well for purposes of this review, the real draw at this particular moment is the parallel plot line.  While Aruna is trying to get her groove back by finding the perfect nasi goreng, she’s also got a job to do.  She’s an epidemiologist who has been sent to the field to investigate possible outbreaks of Avian flu.  She has disagreements regarding protocols for masking, dons first-rate PPE (how did the film crew get such good stuff when our hospitals can’t), and interacts with local officials more concerned about PR than public health.  Ultimately the question of whether it’s all a hoax comes up.

The surreality of watching a fictional film about the beginnings of an epidemic while sheltering-in-place in the early days of a pandemic is a novel experience.  If you aren’t one of those who think streaming Contagion is the thing to do at the present moment, Aruna and Her Palate offers a safe foray into the thrill of cognitive dissonance as life imitates fiction.  That coupled with the vicarious pleasure of watching delicious food cooked in multiple locales make this the perfect film to watch while enjoying rujak, roti daging, and a wide array of baked goods from SUSU Dessert Bar. Aruna dan Lidahnya is available on Netflix.