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Walking into Poem felt like we’d been whisked away to Bali, one of our favourite holiday destinations in the time before COVID. The lush greenery and natural stones in the restaurant’s decor give the restaurant an organic, almost rainforest-like feel, and the menu speaks of all the flavours we’ve come to love in Balinese cuisine.
We must admit we hadn’t heard much about Le Comptoir Restaurants’ Poem before our tasting and, frankly, had no expectations going into the meal. With a clean slate, we were thoroughly impressed by the delicious dishes we sampled. Chef Mustika Wayan, a Bali native, brings the intoxicating flavours of the Island of the Gods to Hong Kong with his modern interpretations of classic dishes.
Always supporters of day drinking, we knocked back a couple of tantalising cocktails before the start of the meal. The old-fashioned ($138) is rich and intense, while the Clover Club ($128), a concoction of gin, fresh raspberries, lemon and egg white, is light, refreshing and, to our pleasant surprise, not overly sweet.
As our tasting was held at lunchtime, we ordered one of the lunch sets ($128–168) as well as a number of à- la-carte dishes.
Gado gado, a traditional Indonesian salad, is a crunchy assortment of vegetables, ranging from carrot, to snake beans, to cucumber, dressed in a creamy cashew sauce. Usually not huge fans of this dish, we were pleasantly surprised by how light Poem’s version is compared to the ones we are accustomed to.
An add-on to the lunch menu, the soft-shell crab with smoked eggplant and coconut and balado sambal ($128) satiated our craving for fried indulgence, while the greens and aubergine helped to cleanse the palate.
The seared Hokkaido scallops with sambal matah and coconut sauce ($248 for 4) had beautiful caramelisation and bouncy texture, although this dish is on the pricey side considering the portion size.
One of the highlights of the à-la-carte menu, the marinated wild mushrooms with grilled coconut and spicy yellow coconut sauce ($98) was an unexpectedly pleasant surprise. Each satisfying, chewy morsel of fungi was well infused with the spice-rich sauce, and we particularly enjoyed the pickled carrots on top.
Our favourite dish from the à-la-carte menu was the fork-tender Wagyu short ribs ($298), slow-cooked for 72 hours and served with pickled baby carrots and a cashew and beef-bone sauce. Each bite was melt-in-the-mouth tender and incredibly flavourful.
The yellow vegetable curry on the set lunch menu is another outlier we didn’t expect to be so delicious. Comprised of an assortment of tender root vegetables, okra, green beans and tofu, the curry was so packed full of flavour that we would happily convert to being vegetarian just to eat this dish. The pickled carrot, yet again, was a standout here. When heaped over the accompanying aromatic coconut rice, this curry was simply perfection.
We wrapped up our meal with a smorgasbord of sweets, including coconut turmeric crêpes with mango ($78), pandan pancake with cashews and lemongrass ice cream ($88) and the Island of the Gods dessert sampler (+$48 to the lunch menu). The star here was the fluffy pandan pancake with its winning contrast of soft-yielding and sugared-crunchy textures. The crunchy sugared cashews were an addictive addition on top of the lemongrass ice cream.
Poem offers heavenly Balinese flavours in the heart of Central. Eating here took us back to balmy days of cycling amidst rice paddies and surfing on black-sand beaches – a little getaway in a time of much-needed escapism.
5/F, LKF Tower, 33 Wyndham Street, Central, 2810 6166, book online
This write-up is based on a complimentary media tasting provided in exchange for an honest review and no monetary compensation. The opinions expressed here represent the author’s.
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