I had seriously been looking forward to our meal at Bo Innovation in Hong Kong. Apart from its numerous accolades like 2 Michelin stars and being ranked as the 52nd best restaurant in the world, I was particularly intrigued by chef Alvin Leung’s “X-treme Chinese” cuisine. The “X-treme” cuisine label is enough to make me sceptical, but I was surprised by how traditional Chinese dishes were given a modern twist with molecular gastronomy techniques to create a unique and innovative dish.
The elevator that takes us up to the dining area opens up to a small balcony garden where diners can sit and enjoy the sunshine. We’re taken to a table in the inside dining room, which features white tablecloths, sheer satin drapes and an open kitchen where you can see the chefs at work. For lunch, there are two menus on offer: the Lunch Chef Menu which is a degustation affair ($HKD780; around $AUD97 at the time) or the Bo Set Lunch which allows the diner to choose an entree and main, and includes a set starch and dessert ($HKD228; around $AUD28 at the time). We opt for the latter, and choose different dishes so we can sample as much of the menu as possible.
We are allowed to select 2 items per person from their list of Dim Sum or Classic “Bo” Dishes as an entree. We indicate that we are sharing the entrees and the waitstaff kindly bring out some small plates, chopsticks and a knife and fork for us to split the dishes. The cauliflower risotto is quite unexpected as the waitress explains that the risotto is actually little nubbins of cauliflower. Bits of black truffle are mixed throughout and the risotto sits in a pool of rich duck jus which provides most of the flavour of the dish.
I love the neat scrolls of cheung fun (steamed rice noodle) which remind me of the rare occasions when my Dad would cook this up for breakfast for us. Rolled inside the rice noodle scrolls are slices of black truffle. The truffle flavour is only very slightly discernable with the predominant flavour being soy sauce, but I do love the slight chewiness of the cheung fun.
This is not your regular har gau (prawn dumpling) that you get at yum cha. Yes, they’re still presented in a bamboo steamer basket and yes, they still contain bouncy prawns inside. But these har gau are topped with a decadent XO sauce that contains black truffle and a delicate shrimp floss which adds an extra boost of shrimp flavour.
All the elements of your typical potsticker are here – the pork filling, the pan fried, golden brown dumpling skin, and the vinegar sauce for dipping. It’s the addition of foie gras into the potsticker that brings subtle differences like a richer taste and a creamier mouthfeel and take the humble potsticker to the next level.
It’s not all about truffles and foie gras though – the spring roll is given a new twist with the use of chicken and pesto. I love the bright green innards of the spring roll which is a definite surprise, and the crunchy bamboo shots and herbs from the pesto bring a freshness to the dish.
The deep fried cuttlefish is the last of the entrees, and they have a definite resemblance to the cuttlefish balls that are commonly added to hotpots and noodle soups. The outside batter is light and doesn’t detract from the bouncy texture of the cuttlefish balls, with little chunks of cuttlefish inside. The bright green kaffir lime sauce is an interesting accompaniment, but I leave most of this as I’m not a fan of kaffir lime.
We each order our own main and Mum orders the slow cooked suckling pig. The shredded meat from the suckling pig is formed into a neat ball and is quite deceiving as it seems like there is an endless amount of meat contained within the sphere. The egg component consists of a slow-cooked egg yolk, much like a 65 degree egg without the white. It’s a very elegant representation of a traditional Chinese dish, but the Chinese vinegar is quite strong in this dish and becomes overpowering after a while.
Charm chooses the scallop dish which has four pan roasted scallops that have a hard sear on the outside but are still rare in the centre. Underneath these are peas and the crispy “woba” which is like an extra crispy rice cracker. We were having trouble figuring out what “woba” was on the menu but I recognise it as soon as I see it, and it makes me think back to when I had eaten it as a child. Surrounding it is the sichuan “jo lo” sauce which is similar to a sweet and sour sauce with a spicy kick and is traditionally served with the “woba”.
My choice is the langoustine (scampi) which is coated in a sauce made from salted duck egg and takes me back to when I have eaten prawns coated with salted duck egg. The English mustard foam on top gives a slight tingle on the tongue, and there is more of the cauliflower risotto hiding underneath the langoustine. I’m normally used to eating raw scampi at Japanese restaurants, but I’m pleased to find that the sweetness of the langoustine is retained even when cooked, and it pairs well with the salty duck egg yolk sauce.
Our starch today is a fried rice and we’re amazed at how each grain of rice is distinctly separate. It is simply flavoured with vegetables but the star is really the rice itself, and I savour every mouthful of this simple dish that is executed flawlessly.
The waitress isn’t sure how to translate this dish into English but what the spectacular dessert represents is a galaxy. I watch as the chefs pour liquid nitrogen over the plate before making rings of white chocolate on it, and scattering it with cubes of apple, blueberries, blackberry coulis and coloured powders before placing a macaron on the side and a quenelle of ice cream in the centre.
The dish has fresh fruity flavours of berries, green apple and kaffir lime (which is the macaron flavour) as well as sweetness from the white chocolate and vanilla ice cream. It’s a dessert with relatively simple components but is lifted by the artful presentation, which makes it such fun to eat as well.
I really enjoyed my meal at Bo Innovation, mainly because the dishes evoked memories of food that I had eaten as a child or reminded me of foods that I was familiar with but was presented in a new, creative way. I probably wouldn’t describe the food as that “extreme” but I loved how there was such a seamless integration of modern techniques to what are traditional Chinese dishes. It was an unforgettable experience and I highly recommend it to anyone who visits Hong Kong! (The awesome exchange rate at the time meant that it was fantastic value as well – less than $AUD30pp!)
Shop 13, 2/f, J Residence
60 Johnston Road, Wan Chai
(Private lift entrance on 18 Ship Street)
Ph:+852 2850 8371