NEW Restaurant Review: Balinese Flavours at Kaum by Potato Head
We are family: The Indonesian word for “Kaum” translates to “clan” or “tribe”, and that is exactly what the new restaurant of Indonesian-based hospitality and lifestyle company, Potato Head, is here to create. Within its sprawling venue nestled in quaint Sai Ying Pun, Kaum hopes to build a “tribe” of tastemakers around the group’s laid-back yet sophisticated lifestyle concept, with recipes drawn from the cooking traditions of the archipelago’s diverse ethnic groups.
Potato Head is a name familiar to many who’ve visited Bali, as the beachside restaurant and lounge has been the place to be for years thanks to its intoxicating blend of mouth-watering Indonesian cuisine, innovative cocktails, cool sounds and even cooler vibes. The new location hopes to bring that same cool factor to Hong Kong, with a cafe, music lounge, lifestyle store and restaurant all rolled into one.
Kaum’s open kitchen highlights the indigenous cooking traditions and native flavours from the islands of Sumatra, Java, Kalimantan, Sulawesi and Bali. There are three different sections just for grilling stations alone. There’s the bamboo grilling station, where meat is wrapped in herbs and spices, stuffed in bamboo segments and cooked over lava rocks to get that perfect infusion of flavours. There’s the pit roast, where Bali’s iconic Babi Guling crispy skinned pig is created. Then there’s the “sate” section to turn out juicy skewers of grilled meat.
We recently sat down with Kaum’s team of chefs and cocktail experts to feast on some of the restaurant’s highlights.
Innovative mixology is a hallmark of Potato Head and Kaum. We cooled down on a hot Hong Kong evening with refreshing flutes of Indo-75 ($145), a blend of lemongrass infused gin, lemon juice, mint syrup and sparkling wine. In the name of pure altruistic research, we sipped our way through a bevy of signature libations. There was the Megah Mule ($125), a mix of Ketal One vodka, Myer’s rum, poached nashi pear, vanilla, lime, aromatic bitters and ginger beer that was dangerously easy to drink. The Pedas Margarita ($140), although not for the light-weight, had layers of depth thanks to the contrast between pineapple and lime juice against Cimarron tequila and Los Danzantes mezcal. We especially enjoyed the sweet spicy kick brought in by the honey chilli syrup. Rosella Margarita ($120), a Potato Head classic, was a pretty rosella infused Cimarron tequila shaken with orange curacao, vanilla and lime. There’s even an apocalyptic-sounding Barong Zombie ($145), a deadly concoction of rum, pineapple arak, orange cucaçao, cherry liqueur, absinthe, with pineapple juice and passion fruit syrup, and it came with a disclaimer of “only two allowed per visit”. We took the easy route and decided to forgo it for another day.
(Clockwise from left: Pedas Margarita, Rosella Margarita, Megah Mule, Indo-75)
Our waltz through the culinary traditions of the Indonesian archipelago began with gohu ikan tuna ($70), a refreshing raw tuna tossed with virgin coconut oil, fresh kalamansi, pomelo and toasted kenari nuts. We loved the vibrant pops of flavour from the fresh herbs in this very clean tasting dish, although the tuna could have benefited from more seasoning.
The belut sambal hijau ($95), a seared eel fillet adorned with cherry tomatoes and green chilli relish had a golden crispy crust and a mild zing. We enjoyed the general flavour of the dish, but felt that the eel lacked its characteristic tender and collagenous texture.
Sambals are a vital part of Indonesian cuisine. Along with fried shallot rice, we were presented with four kinds of sambal, ranging from a salted fish and red chili variety (sambal ikan asin bakar) that reminded us of XO sauce, to a shallot and lemongrass variety (sambal rica rica), to a chunky lemongrass and red chilli variety (sambal matah). The fourth sambal kluwek came with a dash of danger, since it is made with the deadly kluwek black nut, popular in Malay and Indo cuisine. The black nut has to be buried in volcanic ash for a specific amount of days (we heard 30 days!) in order to draw out its toxicity. Definitely not for the faint-hearted! The flavour profile reminded us of Chinese black bean sauce.
(Clockwise from top left: Sambal rica rica, sambal kluwek, sambal matah, sambal ikan asin bakar)
What is Indonesian food without rendang? This main cornerstone of Indonesian cuisine was deliciously articulated in Kaum’s version of rendang daging sapi ($85), a slow-braised beef with red beans mixed with Sumatran spices and coconut milk, adorned with sweet potato crisps. The aromatic dish oozed with exotic spices infused within tender morsels of beef.
As contrast to the spicy rendang, we tucked into gado gado kaum ($45), an assortment of blanched vegetables tossed in a creamy white peanut sauce, topped with fried shallots, free range egg and garlic crackers.
The sate iga babi kecap ($150) comes from one of the three distinct grill stations, and is a charcoal-grilled braised pork belly satay brushed with sweet soy. We liked the infusion of spices within the meat, but wished that the pork belly was more tender.
The tumis cuciwis dengan tauco pekalongan ($65), although a simple stir-fried Brussels sprouts dish with garlic and fermented bean paste, was one of the highlights of the evening. We loved the contrast between the crunchy fried shallots against the sweet yet also slightly bitter Brussels sprouts leaves. The fermented pekalongan bean paste added depth.
Wrapped in a banana leaf, sealed in a bamboo segment, then grilled over lava stones, the pa’piong ayam ($250) arrived at the table with quite a flourish. Within was a mix of marinated free-range chicken perfumed with Sulawesi spices, tossed with grated coconut and sweet potato leaves. The chicken was tender and juicy, and the coconut and sweet potato leaves added an almost curry-like consistency when combined with the spices.
The star of the evening has to be the babi guling ($258), a spit-roasted baby pig stuffed with Balinese spices. We have somewhat of an unhealthy obsession with babi guling, as whenever we journey to Bali, we spent a good chunk of time searching out the best piggies in town. Kaum’s version is some of the best we’ve tasted, thanks to the perfect ratio of tender juicy meat to crisp skin, all held together by lusciously blubbery fat. One inhalation of the exotic spice bouquet, and we could almost feel the black sands of Bali between our toes.
The wok-fried mie gomak ($140) noodles with shredded chicken, coconut milk and Andaliman spices reminded us of a dry laksa. Delicious, although the noodles were a touch overcooked.
Our extravagant Indo feast concluded with not one, but two, desserts. The klappertaart ($68), a coconut sorbet paired with coconut bread pudding, black sugar meringue, caramel and very boozy rum soaked raisins was a delight thanks to the wide range of contrasting textures.
The burbur kampium ($68), a sticky rice, sweet potato dumpling, mung beans and coconut custard combo with poached bananas, added a sweet, more traditional, end to our meal. It was the first time we had poached bananas, and the flavour was milder and less sweet than the average banana, with an almost taro-like consistency. Slightly savoury sticky rice was the perfect pairing to the sweet coconut custard, and the potato dumplings reminded us of chewy mochi.
Verdict: A fantastic addition to the burgeoning Sai Ying Pun F&B scene. We love the cool lifestyle concept, especially since the stylish venue transforms easily from day to night and caters to a variety of crowds, ranging from coffee sippers to bar hoppers to gourmands. Plus, this is probably the ONLY place in Hong Kong that we’ve tasted a decent babi guling. We feel like we’re on vacation just stepping into the venue, thanks to its easy island vibes. We’re also excited about their upcoming Sunday brunches, which promises to be a great hangout for both parents and littles alike!
Kaum by Potato Head, 100 Third Street, Sai Ying Pun, 2858 6066