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SpikeHK

Bo Innovation

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This is my first restaurant post - your constructive feedback would be greatly appreciated!

Last night I had dinner at Bo Innovation, the Michelin 2 star restaurant featuring Alvin Leung's molecular gastronomy take on Chinese food. I was invited along with someone who would be reviewing the restaurant for a magazine. As such, the restaurant was aware in advance that we were reviewers and our meal was free. For what it's worth, from what I could observe, other diners in the restaurant were receiving the same food and same attentive service we received.

Bo Innovation recently moved from Ice House Street in Central to 60 Ship Street (just off Johnston Road) in Wanchai. Take a glass elevator from the street to the second floor and here is your view of the restaurant:

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There are only three options for dinner here. A tasting menu at HK$680, a chef's menu at HK$1,080 and a chef's menu with wine for HK$1,680. We were offered the chef's menu with wine. The menu changes monthly.

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I'm still getting the hang of food photography so apologies that some of these photos aren't perfect but good enough to give you an idea, right?

Century egg with super sour foam (I normally shy away from eggs but this was quite nice and the taste of the century egg was not as strong as I expected):

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Cherrystone clam:

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Quail egg in taro topped with beluga caviar (one of my favorites of the night):

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Vegetable cappuccino with anchovy crouton:

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Toro "paper" with dried foie gras:

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Sweet peas with sticky rice and a sauce made from Chinese pickles:

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Xiao long bao with dried vinegar (the taste was perfect!):

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An extra course not on the menu - Chinese sausage ice cream:

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Hairy crab souffle (marvelous):

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Sweet & sour pork (using Iberian pork):

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Wagyu beef cheung fun with black truffle soy:

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Red bean creme brulee, gingko nut soda, sesame banana ball:

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Apple crumple with egg foam:

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The dinner lasted four hours. An event - theater as much as a meal. And for my first exposure to this type of cooking, I enjoyed all of it. While I wouldn't say this is anywhere near my favorite meal, it is definitely one of the most memorable meals of my life. And on that basis, I'd say the two Michelin stars are well deserved.

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hey SpikeHK, excellent report!

When I ate there a year ago (old location), the century egg was paired with a "crisp" of Chinese preserved red ginger, did you enjoy the egg or did you "not mind it"?

The toro preparation looks much like that of El Bull's haha

The Xiao Long Bao, is it a sodium-alginate "raviolli" or a candy/jelly?

The pork doesn't look sous-vided which is unexpected...

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hey SpikeHK, excellent report!

When I ate there a year ago (old location), the century egg was paired with a "crisp" of Chinese preserved red ginger, did you enjoy the egg or did you "not mind it"?

The toro preparation looks much like that of El Bull's haha

The Xiao Long Bao, is it a sodium-alginate "raviolli" or a candy/jelly?

The pork doesn't look sous-vided which is unexpected...

Sher, you're much more expert in this sort of thing than I am! I'm relatively new to all this, trying to learn as fast as I can, and definitely enjoying the ride!

In terms of the century egg, I think "don't mind" would be more appropriate than "enjoy." Given that I have this bizarre psychological aversion to eggs, I surprised myself by eating the entire thing after taking the initial bite. I don't think it's the sort of thing I'd eagerly seek out. The taste of the egg was nowhere near as strong as I'd been led to expect and the foam definitely provided a nice balance. On the other hand, I seriously enjoyed the quail egg!

Xiao Long Bao - definitely liquid, maintained the bubble shape until in the mouth, at which point the flavor just exploded! We were instructed to put the sheet of vinegar on our tongues and let it melt first and then add the "bao." And all the tastes I associate with a crab xiao long bao were there, exactly right.

I had the impression that the pork was broiled or grilled. I know what sous vide is but I don't think I've ever had anything prepared that way.

Spike

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I first ate at Alvin's restaurant in 2004 (two locations ago, back then it was called Bo Innoseki) and I've watched his food evolve over the years. I liked his food then - at the time I said it was the most innovative meal I'd had in Hong Kong. It's even better now. The occasional dish is a "miss" (although interesting for the technique) but many more are really delicious and exciting. The last few meals I had (at the Ice House Street location; haven't eaten at the new place) were astonishingly good, although not everyone at my table appreciated it. I think it might be that some of my friends were unfamiliar with some of the flavours he was using, like wah mui (in a sorbet) and the century egg (same version Spike had).

I think over the years, Alvin's improved the flow of the meal and also the portion size - it's not as rich and heavy, I can actually finish the whole tasting menu without feeling like I've overeaten (I have a pretty large capacity for food if it's really good, although I'm quite small). Some of the dishes Spike ate were on the menu back in 2004 and have evolved: the laap mei fan ice cream was very different from the one in his post (it looks freeze dried, is it?) - I've tasted at least three versions but not this latest one. The hairy crab souffle still looks the same, though.

I've eaten twice at El Bulli and have tasted the food of many Ferran Adria wannabes. While I think Alvin is influenced by Adria (as well as other chefs) he's not just blindly following him - he's using the modern techniques but making the food in his own way.

I was looking back at what I first wrote about the restaurant - in 2004, the 12 course tasting menu was HK$468!

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Century egg with super sour foam (I normally shy away from eggs but this was quite nice and the taste of the century egg was not as strong as I expected):

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What was the super sour foam made of?

And... what are that pair of tweezers for? They are in about every other picture.

Was Alvin Leung (my long lost brother! :laugh: ) working in the kitchen that night or his surrogates?

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What was the super sour foam made of?

And...  what are that pair of tweezers for?  They are in about every other picture.

Was Alvin Leung (my long lost brother!  :laugh: ) working in the kitchen that night or his surrogates?

Reverse order ....

Sadly, Alvin was not there that night. I had been hoping to meet him.

The tweezers were for the toro "paper," to be used to roll it up. It was pretty thin and I guess they figured that with chopsticks, a lot of people would end up tearing it.

Sour foam - ya know, I honestly don't remember. There were a lot more ingredients in each dish than listed on the menu and our server dutifully listed each one. The friend who invited me and who is doing the print review kept detailed notes - I didn't, and after 14 courses and 6 wines, I'm amazed that I remembered as much as I did!

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Great report... and photographs - as I was looking it all looked strangely familiar, then it hit me! Anthony Bourdain featured this restaurant in one his shows he did from HK.

I can't say that Bourdain's report filled me with any great desire to eat there, but it certainly looks like an experience and pretty good value for 4 hours of gastronomic entertainment!

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Great report... and photographs - as I was looking it all looked strangely familiar, then it hit me! Anthony Bourdain featured this restaurant in one his shows he did from HK.

I can't say that Bourdain's report filled me with any great desire to eat there, but it certainly looks like an experience and pretty good value for 4 hours of gastronomic entertainment!

Yes that's right, Bourdain did visit them at their old location.

"Gastronomic entertainment" is a great phrase! It was food and theater all rolled up into one. I'd only rush back there if I had a guest in town who was eager to try something very different. Too many other places I still haven't tried and my budget is limited.

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Wow, everything looks wonderful - definitely one to put on the list next time we're back in HK. I can just imagine how good that Hairy Crab Souffle is.

I saw that section of Bourdain's show too. But am i alone in thinking that the chef smoking his fat stogie all over the food just a little disgusting?

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Wow, everything looks wonderful - definitely one to put on the list next time we're back in HK.  I can just imagine how good that Hairy Crab Souffle is.

I saw that section of Bourdain's show too.  But am i alone in thinking that the chef smoking his fat stogie all over the food just a little disgusting?

Funny you should mention the cigar smoke.

We sat outside for our dinner, smoking is allowed outside and I smoke cigarettes.

There were four men sitting at the table across from us and all were smoking cigars. Even though I'm a smoker myself, I find the smell of cigar smoke to be oppressive in restaurants. I didn't complain to the server about it, in no small part because I'm aware of Alvin's image with the cigar, and figured I wouldn't get anywhere.

Next time I'm there I'll be requesting an inside table and then just walk outside when I want to smoke.

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Got back recently from our months of Asia travel. I read so much about this restaurant which led us to a high expectation, but...

This is his famous "lap mei fan" ice cream. Yes, it resembled preserved meat pot rice that I had often when I was young, but it’s just another flavour of ice cream. We had lots of unusual ice cream before including bacon & egg, sea urchin, wood sorrel, and even smoked ice cream. I guess it wasn’t that special for us.

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According to our server, they dehydrated the foie gras and made it into a powder, then sprinkled onto thinly sliced toro along with freeze dried raspberry. His objective here is to let the dried foie melt together with the toro fat in order to reconstruct foie gras in your mouth.

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What a lousy plating! We paid full Michelin 2-star (now 1-star) price for it. Come on!!! This must be the messiest plating from all of our fine dining experience!

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The best creation is probably this Sesame Soda. I love the black sesame paste, and combining it with soda adds another sensation to this traditional Chinese dessert. A simple but brilliant idea!

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Full Report Here:

www.finediningexplorer.com/Asia

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One of the foodie paradise cities, Hong Kong currently has 6 restaurants with 3-michelin star. Among them, Bo Innovation is one of the most ‘popular’ places but not necessarily because of the undisputed quality of its food. Instead for different reasons such as: the chef-owner Alvin Leung (a British born, former engineer and a self-taught chef) is the master of marketing - be it from his eccentric appearance, the bombastic mantra of X-treme Chinese cuisine with molecular stuffs and other unusual things you don’t usually find at the ‘more normal’ Michelin elite places. The main reason that brought me here was because I want to treat my aunt and cousin that I’ve known since I was really young (I used to stay at their places when visiting HK during the 90’s). The tricky part was that my aunt could only eat Chinese food without any dairy products while my cousin preferred dining something more contemporary and innovative. Thus, I thought the restaurant that might satisfy both requirements was Bo Innovation – well, I want to bring them to somewhere fancy too

 

As you entered the restaurant, Bo Innovation was indeed very different – a bit dark, with hardwood floor and no fancy / luxurious décor. Some wall papers were a bit unique depicting Hong Kong. However, the basic things in the fine dining restaurants were still there: friendly staffs, a few of them such as the manager speaking good English, spacious table covered with good linen; overall, we felt comfortable. It was a busy evening, only about 20 guests were there. Chef Leung himself was not available since he had an engagement in Macau that day  

 

There were 2 tasting menu and all of us ordered the shorter one (the red menu HK story). Some comments about the dishes:

-Xtreme “xiao long bao” was arguably Bo’s most famous dish. It looked like an ‘egg yolk’ with some liquid that managed to integrate (all of)  the original xiao long bao flavors including the vinegar and ginger except it did not have the texture of its traditional version

-Smoked quail egg with caviar and crispy taro was also well-known here and it’s quite good. The briny caviar and egg went fine; could’ve been better had the quail egg yolk been runny IMO

 

There were plenty of dishes in which the kitchen combined HK’s ‘ancient sauces’ to the dishes and applied modern technique with contemporary presentation. For instance:

-Sweet raw spot prawn covered by chili soy sauce powder accompanied by umami noodles cooked in “har mi” oil

-Smooth and tasty pan fried duck liver with “chu yeh ching” miso accompanied by charcoal mantou filled with crunchy bamboo shoots     

-Shredded hairy crab in generous portion put inside ‘baby food container’ served with aged “Chin kiang” vinegar

-“Pat chun” tomatoes in candied form with Chinese olives “lam kok” mayo etc.

I did appreciate this original effort to utilize and respect the old days ‘ingredients’. While I was not particularly impressed with their flavors, but overall they worked relatively well. Even, my aunt and cousin (who are HK-ers) were surprised that such produced would still be applied in the present-day fine dining

 

The dishes that I liked the most here happened to be the main courses. We all ordered the organic Long Jiang chicken with its super crispy skin served in spherical form. Inside, the meat was moist, in contrast to more chewy and earthy mushrooms. As the side dishes, we’re given tasty chicken rice (using high quality Acquerello rice) mixed with chicken stock. I was also curious with Bo’s suckling pig and decided to order an additional main course. The skin was crackling / crispy with tasty meat (and decent porky smells/tastes). The dark sauce was rather intense with some peppercorn in it and there was roasted Sichuan pineapples generating some sweet & sour flavor – it did not disappoint at all. Following my habit when dining at Chinese restaurant, instead of having any alcohol/wine, I chose to drink a tea. I had a fragrant & calming Jasmine blossoms tea supplied by Yu teahouse.  

 

Given plenty of negative reviews about this place … I thought my meal was quite good (I certainly had a great time catching up with my relatives). For me, the meal was not worth 3-star but I had no problem rewarding this place a score equivalent to 2-star by Michelin standard in my personal notes. Initially, I was afraid that my meal at Bo Innovation might have taken the place of my lunch at Le Bernardin (lunch) or dinner at De Karmeliet as the least impressive dining experiences I’ve ever had at the 3-star level. Apparently, the kitchen at Bo performed better than those 2 places even when Alvin was not around. Will I return here? Unlikely … it’s just one of those tick-the-box restaurants at the 3 star-level     

 

Meal photos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/7124357@N03/albums/72157675451645983/with/31458866313/

 

 

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