Musings of a bon vivant in Hong Kong


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Keeping Kool and Kaum at Potato Head

When I was fighting off other tourists and rushing to snag a sun lounger to gaze at palm trees and a beautiful beach at Potato Head Bali last year, I didn’t think that a city version of the very same place would appear in Hong Kong soon after. Potato Head, a name which amused me immensely when it was brought up continuously prior to my holiday, (because I have a friend nicknamed Potato- I’m sorry mate), came highly recommended and seemed to be the place to go and sip cocktails in a sophisticated manner. But, what’s this about a city setting? No palm trees, and definitely no sand to be seen, however, the sprawling 8,000 sq ft establishment has definitely made its mark in Sai Yin Pun.

Potato Head HK

Potato Head HK

Located next to David Lai’s Fish School on one of SYP’s many charming, steep roads (a nice workout for the calf muscles if you’re in high-heels), Potato Head stretches unassumingly down the slope, but once inside, it’s a different matter.

Increasingly, restaurants are ensuring their interiors have the wow-factor and Potato Head has gone all out with their design. Award-winning Tokyo-based architect Sou Fujimoto has created an eclectic mix of traditional Indonesian features, hard modern metallic structures and hanging fronds in the bar area, which may or may not help to recreate some of the vibes you’d get if you were by the beach. It’s certainly a lovely space and the site is expansive, with three areas: Kaum- the dining concept, the Music Room- a listening space and the All-day café and bar.

Kaum interiors

Kaum interiors

potato-head-hong-kong_kaum_4

All-day Cafe

All-day Cafe

In its opening weeks, my friends and I were given a wonderful talk by Indonesian gastronomy activist Ms Lisa Virgiano, who walked us through the rich food history of West Sumatra with special focus on the famous Rendang, which is central to the Padang eateries throughout Indonesia. Key learning points included finding out that rendang is in fact a process of cooking rather than a food category, the cultural significance of this dish to its people, and how it can take up to nine hours, with three key stages to create the perfect rendang. As a Malaysian-Chinese, and cross-overs seen in our cuisine (think rendang as well as satay, sambal, gulai), I was of course, quite excited to see what traditional Indonesian cuisine the spectacular kitchen would whip up.

If you’re a fan of spice, the sambals are a must try and my favourites were the Sambal Ikan Asin Bakar: Salted fish & red chili relish and the Sambal Kluwek: roasted black nut chili relish. The Sambal Ikan is a lovely combination of spicy and salty with the chewiness of the salted fish and is a great accompaniment to any rice dish. The Sambal Kluwek has a more pungent, saltier flavour profile with a hint of sweetness, which also goes well with most dishes.

Spices regularly used in Indonesian cuisine

Spices regularly used in Indonesian cuisine

Sambal selection

Sambal selection

After several visits to Potato Head, there were a few standout and regularly re-ordered dishes. The Rendang Daging Sapi, their signature dish of braised beef with red beans in mixed Sumatran rendang spices & coconut milk sauce served with sweet potato crisps, is rich in flavour, the meat beautifully tender after hours of cooking.

 Rendang Daging Sapi

Rendang Daging Sapi

I’m a huge noodle fan and the Mie Gomak, wok-fried noodles with shredded chicken, Andaliman spices, curry leaves & coconut milk, has a complex combination of spices and a wonderful, slightly sour chilli kick, reminiscent of Assam Laksa. I particularly enjoyed the pretty Burung Dara Goreng Rica Rica: Slow cooked & fried pigeon tossed in a northern Sulawesi sambal of red chili, herbs, spring onions & fresh lime juice, which was deliciously piquant.

Burung Dara Goreng Rica Ric

Burung Dara Goreng Rica Ric

I loved the spicy turmeric sauce that’s served with the Sate Lidah Sapi Padang- charcoal-grilled braised ox tongue and if you’re a huge fan of Babi Guling aka roasted baby pig, be sure to savour the gorgeous crispy skin.

Babi Guling

Babi Guling

Dessert-wise, I’m less enthusiastic. The Burbur Kampiun- sweet potato dumpling with mung beans, coconut custard, coconut milk, sago is probably the one I enjoyed the most with its similarity to the Malaysian Bubur cha-cha. But,  on another occasion we ordered Bubur Sumsum Pandan – a medley of pandan rice custard, coconut milk and palm sugar, which none of our party enjoyed. I wasn’t sure if the brownie-type chunks on top were palm sugar chunks, but it was far too sweet against a rather sour rice custard (I wasn’t sure if it was meant to be like that), which served only to confuse our taste-buds.

Burbur Kampiun

Burbur Kampiun

The main dining area of Kaum, with the wooden panels poor at absorbing sound, might be a tad too noisy for some, and my friends and I did find it quite difficult to hear each other. However, one can proceed to their music room for some laid back drinks and music.

Music room

Music room

Potato Head HK has done very well in styling itself as the hip place to hang out in Sai Yin Pun’s. With an all-day cafe, music room, bar, retail corner and restaurant, pretty much every need is catered for. The noise levels may put a few off, or maybe my friends and I are just getting old; however, it is an impressive space and Kaum’s efforts to bring traditional Indonesian to our attention are definitely to be applauded. The dishes for the most part are well executed, the bill averages around $400- 600 per person depending on greed and drinks, and while the service can be a bit haphazard, I don’t see this being a detriment at all to Potato Head’s longevity in Hong Kong.

Chopstixfix rating: 3.5/5

Kaum by Potato Head, G/F, 100 Third Street, Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong / Tel: +852 2858 3036 / Opening times 10:00- 00:00 / http://www.ptthead.com/

 

 

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Estates & Wines “Flavours Asia” Free iPad App and Coffee Table Book Giveaway

Since the creation of the blog, nothing has got me more excited and chuffed than to be invited to events and schmooze with fellow foodie and drink enthusiasts. A few of these events have not only made me a happy, satiated bunny, but also a more knowledgeable one. I love learning new facts and learning more about F&B is so much fun, which explains why the Travel and Living channel is constantly on at home. I am such a nerd.

Anyway, there is a point to this spiel! I was lucky to be invited by Moët Hennessy Asia Pacific to experience the new Estates & Wines iPad app at a launch event, which was a wine pairing dinner with Cantonese fare at Island Tang. Moët Hennessy Estates & Wines Collection has created a free iPad app called “Flavours Asia”, based on their coffee table book, A Heavenly Wine Match with The Flavours of Asia.I’ll be the first to admit that up till earlier this year, I knew nuts about wine. Nuts = nada, nothing. Wine generally causes me to speak gibberish and adopt the colour of a fire engine truck,  so I had taken to avoiding learning anything about wine as I couldn’t drink enough of it to appreciate it! However, after a session earlier this year with a sommelier that got me stonking sloshed as well, I’m a bit more clued up.This event was perfect to add to my growing wine knowledge base. But what does this swanky new iPad app do exactly? It helps clueless lemmings like myself, to pair different wines (from the Moët Hennessy range), with a variety of dishes from existing Asian restaurants in different countries. So, that means, if you decide to visit a particular restaurant and you’ve ordered, let’s say, a Thai red curry, you can simply navigate through the app and find the recommended wine. Wine pairing headache solved!It is notoriously difficult, so I’m told/hear/experienced myself, to pair wine successfully with Asian cuisine, simply because there are just too many different dishes and too many flavours.

This app is brilliant. It’s comprehensive, looks cool and it’s easy to navigate. On the front page, you can browse through articles on restaurants, wine trends, vineyards and there’s a spread on sommeliers. The sophisticated looking man featured on the Sommelier Spotlight, nosing a glass a wine, is none other than Arnaud Mirey, the brand ambassador, who was also at the event and excellently guided us through the wine pairings. You’ll find three categories- Pairings with Wine, Pairings with Food and Brand stories, which gives you background information on the vineyards.

The Pairings with Wine page is pretty as you get pictures of the wine bottles to click on! You can browse through them by taste, grapes, wine colour, country brand and awards. The Pairings of Food category is quite exciting. You can search via Cuisine (there are 12 countries that contribute: China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, India, Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines), Flavours, (sour, salty, spicy, savoury, sweet), or Ingredients, (pork, noodles, shrimp etc).Pages on individual dishes tells you how the dish is prepared and gives you the recommended wine.If you’re looking at individual wines, the page gives you ratings and reviews, tasting notes and recommended dishes.

There’s a helpful map that shows you the location of the restaurants in a particular country and also where you can buy your wine from. A few things need to be tweaked and added to the app, such as linking the dishes to the restaurants, and adding more restaurants, but that is a work in progress!

Unfortunately, yours truly doesn’t have the iPad to even use this app, but if you have one, then click here, to download it for free! It’s only available for the iPad at the moment, but here’s hoping it will launched for Android and iPhone.

If you’re like me and are iPad-less, I am doing a fabulous giveaway of the BOOK VERSION- “The Flavours of Asia”. It’s a beautiful book with oodles of information and loads more detail on wine and food pairings recommendations. Obviously, if you can’t get your mitts on the wines recommended, you will still have the general gist of what would go well, so go forth and try out other wines.Many thanks to Moët Hennessy for inviting me to the event and for generously letting me have four copies of the book to give away!

I will be giving the books to HK residents ONLY.

All you need to do is:

1) Email me at chopstixfix AT gmail.com with the heading FLAVOURS ASIA, and tell me

a) Why you need the coffee table book (be imaginative please- for my amusement 😛 )

b) Which Asian dish you would most like to pair a wine with.

2) When you’ve done that, please go to my Facebook page and “Like” if you haven’t already, and write a post on my page saying “I LOVE WINE” 🙂

The first 15 people to successfully complete the above, will be entered into a random draw, and 4 names will be drawn out of a hat (literally!). I will notify the winners by email and sort out the collection.

If you would like to buy the book from Moët Hennessy, I think it’s around $250, and you can email me and I’ll get back to you with the relevant contact.

Details from the night of the event to come soon!