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Restaurant review: Kaum in Sai Ying Pun – Bali import brings authentic tastes of the island of the gods

Oh, how Sai Ying Pun has changed. It used to be a quiet neighbourhood just below Bonham Road, with streets lined with auto repair shops, laundries and inexpensive restaurants. Those places have given way to craft beer pubs, ramen shops and stylish “concepts” such as Potato Head, an import from Bali that combines design, music, art and food.

To get to Kaum, the restaurant in Potato Head, you first walk past a small boutique selling stylish Indonesian goods, then a very cool bar, into a space with communal tables with bench seating. Fortunately, we had reservations so the hostess showed us into a dining area with standard chairs (with backs!) and tables.

The menu is tempting, but because we visited on the day of typhoon Nida, some of the dishes were unavailable.

Gado gado (HK$80) came as a mix of cabbage, bean sprouts, long beans, cucumber, a single piece of tempeh and half a cherry tomato, along with arugula (unexpected, but which added a nice peppery bite), half a boiled egg, and a cashew-peanut dressing that had a mild chilli kick (also unexpected). We were disappointed later in the meal to find the same mix of vegetables – minus the arugula, and with a different dressing – was served as an accompaniment to our meat dishes.

My favourite dish was the seared eel fillet (HK$148). We didn’t see any evidence of the grilled cherry tomatoes listed as an ingredient, but the green chilli and green tomato relish added a nice balance to the fatty succulence of the eel.

They were out of the roasted black nut chilli relish – the sambal we were most interested in trying, so we ordered the version with salted fish and red chilli (HK$22). A good sambal cries out for rice, but this was rather diluted – it didn’t have much pungency or chilli spice.

When reading the menu, we immediately focused on the fried crispy duck (HK$258), tempted by the fermented durian chilli sauce. Both the duck and sauce (which was served on the side) were delicious – the duck meat was tender and moist, even the breast, which was completely cooked. We would have liked even more durian in the sauce although we can understand why they stopped when they did, because many people would be put off by the fruit’s pungency.

Roasted baby pig with Balinese spices (HK$258) was another good meaty dish. Fans of crispy skin will be disappointed – the skin here is soft, but it was tender, with a very fine layer of fat underneath, and moist meat.

We loved the dessert of bubur kampiun (HK$68). It looks like a mess, with caramelised banana, sticky rice, tender sweet potato dumplings, palm sugar and sweet-salty coconut sauce, but it was a delicious, comforting mess.

Kaum, Potato Head, 100 Third Street, Sai Ying Pun, tel: 2858 3036. About HK$300 without drinks or the service charge

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