Masterchef is like food Santa. Every year we get a flurry of new talent, new cookbooks and new restaurants. But the Poernomo brothers’ Chippendale dessert bar has been particularly anticipated. A few dessert bars and cake shops have passed through the city, but none have burst onto the scene with the same confidence and pomp as the Poernomo’s Koi Dessert Bar.
The space is split over two floors, with two distinct identities. “It’s a casual space at the bottom, people come and go. Upstairs is more refined, a bit more fine dining, but it still has a casual atmosphere,” says Masterchef contestant and dessert maestro, Reynold Poernomo.
The upstairs bar is modern and boxy, with glass walls, sparse tables and a glossy black bar. It’s both a showroom in feel and function. Here you can order the brothers’ creations in the form of a six-course degustation split between three savoury courses from Indonesian Masterchef judge Arnold Poernomo and three desserts by Reynold. The selection of sweet creations will change seasonally, but one thing likely to stay is a rehash of Reynold’s perfect-score dessert with coconut pannacotta, black-sesame sponge, yuzu curd and crumbled meringue.
The Indonesian-inspired savoury dishes are small and delicate, more like dessert primers than mains. Dishes include a card-sized piece of mackerel over a salsa-sambal blend and a petite, riceless curry with a fillet of poached chicken and a granola garnish. “For the Indonesian customer, it will not be recognisable, but when they eat it, they’ll know what it is,” says Arnold. When Koi’s liquor licence is approved (most likely in February), the third Poernomo, Ronald, will curate a list of matching cocktails. “We want to have something smoky with scotch and also a cocktail with umami. That's a challenge,” Ronald says.
The intricacy and pomp of the upstairs bar is replaced downstairs by an open-air courtyard serving coffee and neater, more basic iterations of Reynold’s desserts. His famous Nomtella has been condensed with espresso mousse, salted caramel and a base of brownie all packed into a dome. If you want to try it, arrive early, Reynold’s celebrity ensures daily chaos from when it opens until every cake is sold.
In the near future the brothers will introduce their version of high tea with a range of cakes each matched to a different tea.