Time Out says
Kaum and taste some Balinese brilliance
It’s no lie. We’re experiencing a scorching start to the summer. In fact, this kind of weather has us yearning for an escape from the city – and Bali is one of those destinations we have on our computer desktop background. Apart from its crystal waters, though, the Indonesian island also conjures up images of resort-chic nightclubs and, of course, Michelin-worthy restaurants. Ask anyone who’s been to this paradise where they recommend eating and partying and they’ll surely say Potato Head. The expansive club, restaurant, lounge and everything else in between sits pretty beachside in Seminyak. This is where partygoers and diners alike hang out – especially the foodies, as the complex holds not one but four eateries.
So when we hear this famed establishment is opening on the slopes of Sai Ying Pun, it piques our curiosity, to say the least. Why would a beachside concept open in SYP? How could Potato Head, famous for being, well, big, squeeze into a tinier-than-thou Hong Kong space? And would our branch of the complex be able to hold a candle to the original? Our queries, however, are assuaged when we find that the new Potato Head’s address is formerly that of Ling Yan School. This is 8,000sq ft of space good enough for a mini HK version. We hope.
The space proves sufficient enough for a coffee shop, a retail space, a bar and Kaum, the Indonesian restaurant we’re desperate to try. As we enter, we take in the large glass windows, the potted plants hanging from the ceiling in mirrored boxes and the ornate tribal-pattern panelling, which all combine to give a strong ethereal vibe that manages to remove us from the construction-riddled streets of Sai Ying Pun.
Authentic Indonesian cuisine rules the menu and we don’t waste time, quickly tucking into a gado-gado Kaum ($68). This fresh salad of lightly blanched vegetables with boiled eggs and prawn chips is supremely tasty but, woah, the peanut sauce sure has a kick. Luckily, the chips balance the fire out, encouraging us to keep taking bites even though our tongues are aflame. It’s a worthy spice experience. Next up is the Ayam kebiri berantakan ($65). Although this is listed as a starter, the pan-fried chicken topped with crispy garlic comes in a hearty portion. And we’re glad. The bird is extremely tender and well-charred, and the flavour is further enhanced by the sambal ikan asin bakar ($18), a fish ‘n’ chilli relish which combines well with the chook, adding dimensions to our palates.
The lighting is low at the restaurant and when the DJ starts spinning tracks, the music just gets louder and louder. With Madonna blaring from the speakers, we can feel the Balinese beach vibe Kaum is trying to recreate. However, without much open space, the decibel level is just too high. It doesn’t wow us like the food. Despite the din, though, we loudly order the timbungan babi ($290) for our mains. And this fails to wow us too. The pork belly is marinated with spices, wrapped in banana leaves and cooked inside a piece of bamboo. The meat is well-seasoned but the whole ensemble actually comes off a little bland. We’re not sure if it’s because our tongues are still burning. No matter, though. We make it more interesting with some sambal sauce – the way it’s supposed to be.
An Indonesian meal isn’t complete without a nasi goreng ($148) and this simple comfort dish at Kaum reigns supreme. A good fried rice needs to contain great separated grains and this nasi has great grains in spades. The texture is perfectly dry and the accompanying chilli paste and fermented prawns pack quite the punch. The pungent aromas work in harmony with the spices. It’s one of the best versions we’ve ever had. We need something sweet to balance all those spice levels, though, so we finish with a klappertaart ($68), a Dutch-influenced dessert that’s akin to a bread pudding. It’s made with coconut milk and interspersed with coconut flesh. Kaum’s version includes rum and raisins, which turn the mouthwatering combination of coconut and bread pudding into something quite exquisite. The fleshy textures of the fruits break up the richness of the dish so, so well. This is now the bread pudding standard to beat in Hong Kong.
The Indonesian fare, save a couple of mains hiccups, is fantastic at Kaum. It’s secured an excellent lofty space in Sai Ying Pun and its exceptional interior designs definitely elevate it further as a Potato Head-inspired but playfully Hong Kong restaurant. Yes, the DJ needs to remember this is an urban eatery and not a beach party but, nevertheless, don’t let the volume put you off. The food here is well worth trying. Wait for the real party in your mouth and in your stomach.
Gado gado Kaum $45
Ayam kebiri berantakan $65
Sambal ikan asin bakar $18
Timbungan babi $290
Nasi goreng kemangi $148
Service charge $63