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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Man Oh Mano

As much as I like seeing new things, the ground floor of the L Place doesn’t seem to be overly blessed by long-standing tenants, so I hope that newest occupant Mano can, over time, prove itself to be a popular establishment that deserves that space. European café and restaurant Mano offers all day dining from brioche, bread and pastries with your morning coffee and brunch spreads for your midday hunger pangs to swanky dishes at dinner, so really, you can pretty much spend your whole day there if you’re lazy!MANO IMG_7376 IMG_7372 IMG_7373

I like simple décor, and Mano’s black and white interiors with a lovely marble workspace open kitchen and plush Italian leather seats does give it an air of urban elegance. When my friend V and I went one evening, we found the service quietly efficient and friendly, though our waiter faffed with our seating a bit, deciding between five sets of identical tables. The menu is attractive- dishes such as Parmesan custard with basil and zucchini emulsion and Mezze maniche Mancini sound rather grand and there is a good variety of meats and seafood to satisfy anyone’s palate.

Prices are less friendly with mains coming in at $200-350 each, so if you think ouch, then I would stick with their morning and brunch. We started by sharing the Pan-seared Hokkaido scallops with home smoked Iberico pork belly. Presentation-wise, our three plump and perfectly cooked scallops looked a little lonely separated out from each other on this huge plate, but aside from that the whole dish more or less came together and the accompanying pork belly was a crispy, salty delight. The porcini ratatouille had a slightly bitter aftertaste unfortunately, which affected the overall taste.

Pan-seared Hokkaido scallops

Pan-seared Hokkaido scallops

For mains, the 120 days grass fed Sirloin of New Zealand Ocean beef ($318) was excellent. The beef was well-seasoned and succulent, but I thought that it didn’t need all of the shaved, aged Parmesan that it came with as it made it a little too rich. V had the Seared tuna loin with parsley mash, roasted beetroot, squid cappuccino and truffle caviar ($308). The tuna loin was perfect in the middle but the outside was over-seared but we loved the parsley mash and the caviar gave it a good umami kick. But there was a downside to our experience. Both dishes were served a tad under lukewarm. Now, I have no idea whether it was because the staff were waiting for both dishes to be cooked before serving, or whether they simply were slow to bring them out after they were prepared, but having my hot mains served hot is quite important. Luckily it didn’t affect the taste of my beef and good conversation between friends was enough for us to overlook this.

120 days grass fed Sirloin of New Zealand Ocean beef

120 days grass fed Sirloin of New Zealand Ocean beef

Seared tuna loin

Seared tuna loin

To end, there was Orange lemon crème brulee with lemon ice-cream. I have high hopes for Mano, I do. The citrusy taste of the brulee was fantastic and this dessert would have been wonderful if it had set properly. But our brulee was runny like a fresh yolk. The manager was great and offered to get us another, but at this point we had slurped it up, literally.

Orange lemon crème brulee

Orange lemon crème brulee

Next time I will try their breakfast and lunch. For now, I think I will see if a few months can sort out a few of their existing crinkles.

Chopstixfix rating: 3/5

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Mano Hong Kong, G/F, L Place, 139 Queen’s Road, Central, +852 2384 7339, www.manohk.com