Marrying together the philosophy of French cuisine and Indian home-cooking, Pondi brings a fresh perspective to Hong Kong’s dining scene.
District: Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong
Cuisine: Indian home cooking with classic French cooking philosophies
How much: Nibbles are priced between $70 and $115; signature dishes between $135 and $225; meat between $165 and $235; seafood between $190 and $195; vegetables between $145 and $175
Must order: Gougères; Baby Calamari; Shrimp Étouffée
The best for: Intimate date night or group dinner party (in the upstairs private dining room)
Found in a tucked away cul-de-sac, Pondi is billed as a love letter to the former French colony of Pondicherry, India. Opened as a collaboration between the team behind Sai Ying Pun’s BRUT!, and Chef Taran Chadha (formerly of Blacksalt), the new opening marries together the two vastly different cultures and cuisines of France and India in an entirely new way.
Taking over the location that previously homed Blacksalt, the space is intimate and cosy, featuring a candlelit alfresco seating area, along with just a few indoor seats available. Now as Pondi, the restaurant retains its warm and laid-back aesthetic, though the addition of the upstairs dining room works as additional seating or as a private dining area that can be booked out for events. Decked out fully in pieces sourced from the region of Pondicherry, Pondi seamlessly combines striking yellow paint with bespoke wooden furniture, unique light fittings and eclectic accents to make it feel as though you’ve stepped into a friend’s thoroughly chic dining room.
When it comes to food, Pondi offers an unusual mix of Indian home cooking and classic French cooking philosophies. Though this isn’t fusion food; the dishes pay homage more to the techniques and cooking styles of the cultures, rather than the flavours – drawing on childhood memories, and the favourites dishes and ingredients of its co-founders. The result? Something entirely unique that cannot be found elsewhere on Hong Kong’s dining scene. Coupled with the restaurant’s sherry-led drinks menu (curated by co-founder Camille Lisette Glass), the new opening is sure to pique the attention of savvy diners in no time.
We kick started our feast with a selection of plates from the “Nibbles” section of the concise menu. Standouts for us were the gougères with goats cheese and anchovy sambal ($85), and the whipped split pea lentils with carom seed crisps ($70). The gougères, though rich and full of a strong cheese flavour, were surprisingly light. Served alongside a creative pairing of pungent anchovy sambal and creamy goats cheese, we personally preferred them without the accompaniments for a more-ish start to the meal. The deceptively simple whipped split pea lentil dip was also the perfect drinking snack, creamy and smooth with light notes of cumin and caraway.
Another highlight was the signature baby calamari with fino sherry, pancetta stuffing and pistachio ($150). A favourite of the whole table, we loved the combination of the meaty pancetta stuffing with the subtle squid meat that was piled on top of a bed of sherry and clam broth. With a side of homemade layered flatbread ($35 per piece), it definitely made for an unmissable dish.
We also loved the depth of flavours achieved in the shrimp étouffée ($195). The richness of the bouillabaisse reduction coupled with the sweet prawns was undoubtedly delicious, and only further complimented by the addition of crisp roti smothered in a basil aioli. Though the air-dried lamb loin ($235) was slightly too rare for our tastes, the accompanying braised ribs and black cumin reduction with garden peas was another example of chef Taran’s command of punchy flavours. Coupled with a mint chimichurri, it played on classic flavours with a modern and unique interpretation, which lies at the very heart of what Pondi sets out to do.
When it comes to drinks, Pondi’s offering predominantly focuses on sherry, setting out to encourage guests to enjoy the drink’s untapped potential. Even if the fortified wine isn’t your usual tipple of choice, the interesting choices pair with the cuisine surprisingly well. And if sherry really isn’t to your liking, the curated selection of natural wines is sure to please – especially the light and zesty Champagne Gaston Declos Brut ($140 a glass, $630 a bottle).
Our verdict: A must-try for intimate date nights or private dinner parties alike, a dinner at Pondi feels like you’re being cooked for at the chef’s own house. The intimate space, coupled with the creative sharing dishes, bring something fresh to the Hong Kong dining scene.
Pondi is now open Monday to Saturday, 6pm to 11pm. Reservations advised.
Pondi, 14 Fuk Sau Lane, Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong, 2761 4900, www.facebook.com/pondihk
All images courtesy of Pondi.