Kaum and Get It

A pas­sion­ate team of cul­tural en­trepreneurs is re­defin­ing what it means to eat, drink and live like an Indonesian—in Sai Ying Pun. Ron­ald Ak­ili in­tro­duces Char­maine Mok to Potato Head and its cel­e­bra­tion of his is­land na­tion THERE IS A CER­TAIN CHARM TO TH

Hong Kong Tatler - - Life Food -

n a time when din­ing trends are dic­tated by how in­tri­cately a chef can plate his mi­cro­greens and ed­i­ble flow­ers, there is a cer­tain charm to the rus­tic­ity of a sim­ple plate of ren­dang—a rich elixir of co­conut milk and spices en­velop­ing meat and veg­eta­bles—un­fuss­ily gar­nished yet proudly pre­sented. The ver­sion we try comes with a flut­ter of pur­ple sweet potato crisps, a driz­zle of ivory co­conut cream and a tan­gle of red chilli and fried shal­lots. We knock el­bows with our fel­low din­ers, each des­per­ate for an­other help­ing of the ten­der beef and red beans, which have soaked up the flavours of ginger, galan­gal, kaf­fir lime leaves, turmeric leaves and ground red chill­ies—the thick sauce a prod­uct of at least eight hours of slow cook­ing to achieve its sul­try com­plex­ity.

Ren­dang dag­ing sapi is one of the stand­out dishes of the newly opened Kaum restau­rant at Potato Head Hong Kong, and the ri­tual of eat­ing it is an ideal way to start ex­plor­ing the phi­los­o­phy be­hind this am­bi­tiously mul­ti­fac­eted life­style project by PTT Fam­ily, headed by Indonesian en­trepreneurs Ron­ald Ak­ili and Ja­son Gu­nawan. The duo started their busi­ness seven years ago in Jakarta with the orig­i­nal Potato Head, a ca­sual restau­rant serv­ing com­fort food and killer cock­tails, and have since cre­ated sev­eral of the re­gion’s hottest des­ti­na­tions—most fa­mously the Potato Head Beach Club at Seminyak, Bali, and Potato Head Folk in Sin­ga­pore’s Keong Saik district, where in­ter­na­tional hip­sters min­gle with Chi­na­town denizens. At the heart of this bud­ding empire, though, is a yearning to cap­ture and dis­sem­i­nate the rich­ness and di­ver­sity of Indonesian cul­ture and cui­sine while pre­sent­ing it through the eyes of the global cit­i­zen.

Ron­ald, who is of Chi­nese and Indonesian her­itage (his fa­ther’s side hails from north­ern Su­lawesi), ex­plains that the Hong Kong project has been an op­por­tu­nity for him to con­tinue learn­ing about his own cul­ture through cre­at­ing a mi­cro­cosm of In­done­sia via its food, drink, de­sign and ar­chi­tec­ture. Ron­ald spent 13 years at school and uni­ver­sity in Hawaii, grad­u­at­ing with a mas­ter’s de­gree in en­tre­pre­neur­ial stud­ies, be­fore re­turn­ing to his home­town of Jakarta in his early-twen­ties to do an in­tern­ship with a prop­erty devel­oper. After a year, Ron­ald started his own res­i­den­tial project, Tanah Te­duh, with ac­claimed ar­chi­tect An­dra Matin and nine other lead­ing Indonesian de­sign­ers, who in­stilled in him an ap­pre­ci­a­tion for lo­cal ma­te­ri­als and sus­tain­able de­sign. “When I went back to In­done­sia, I re­alised how rich and unique our cul­ture was,” he re­calls. In­deed, just two years after em­bark­ing on the project, Ron­ald de­cided to launch the first Potato Head in Jakarta’s Pa­cific Place; Tanah Te­duh was com­pleted in 2012.

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