Among the many lanes of Chinese cuisine, perhaps the Sichuan style is one of the most reputable. Generously spiced with chilli peppers and native Sichuan peppercorns, the area’s Mala dishes are a staple, warming up bellies with numbing spiciness to combat the humidity of the province. And in the similarly humid air of Jakarta, the integration of Sichuan cuisine to its plethora of international influences in the F&B scene seems only natural.
At Shu Cuisine & Bar, Mala-based delicacies are in abundance, concocted out of lightly tweaked traditional street food recipes and spices directly imported from the southwestern province. Sichuan-native Shifu Li Zheng helms the kitchen operation; from poultry, seafood to pork, he is the only chef trusted to cook the dishes and come up with new ones to fill up Shu’s roster of specialities.
One deserving of a spotlight is the Steamed Grouper with Season Hot Chili Sauce. Drenched in red oil, the aromatic fish goes down with ease, especially with a bowl of hot rice. Another option is the Sichuan Mala Fried Chicken Chili Sauce. Despite having a crunchy exterior, the meat inside remains tender and juicy, complemented well with a heapful of chilli. But be wary for those with a sensitive palate—the spiciness of these dishes builds up slowly, and it can leave one breaking a sweat, even within the air-conditioned room of the restaurant.
Fortunately, Shu’s lineup of signature cocktails is designed precisely to alleviate such qualms: crafted collectively by the restaurant’s bar team, they are refreshingly sweet and sour. Their names add to the experience too. Rich with cultural references, picking a cocktail to indulge in feels like choosing a hero’s journey to embark on, such as the Romance of the Three Kingdoms and The Lost Horizon of Shangri-La, which are citrus-based cocktails that provide zest to the palate.
Shu Cuisine and Bar’s location might have given it a tinge of exclusivity, but the laid back nature of the staff, the option of free-flowing gin and wine, the serene view overlooking Thamrin and—most importantly—the unabashed pairing of Sichuan dishes with cocktails will throw away any rigidity and put you in the right mood.