Lunch review: Bo Innovation by Alvin Leung, Hong Kong (3 Michelin stars)
Despite living in one of Asia's most cosmopolitan cities, it's not often that I splurge on a fancy Chinese meal. I think it's because I relate them to family meals or special occasions. And there are so many cheaper yet still delicious options around. That said, I thought it was a shame that I wasn't making more of an effort to try innovative Chinese cooking, so I made a trip to Bo Innovation for my birthday this year.
Bo is one of six restaurants in Hong Kong that have been awarded three Michelin stars. Yet it's hardly the most expensive option among all the Michelin starred restaurants. My friend and I went for the eight course lunch tasting menu which I thought was a very reasonable $800 for a three Michelin starred restaurant. It was founded by "Demon Chef" Alvin Leung, an eccentric figure known as much for his bold style and signature blue tinted glasses as he is for his food. Bo is his most high end offering (one opened in Shanghai last year), but his portfolio is quite diverse. For example, he’s also the co-founder of trendy Korean chain Bib n Hops which has locations in Wan Chai and Quarry Bay, as well as a restaurant called R&D in Toronto which he opened with MasterChef Canada Season One winner Eric Chong. I’m sure he has other restaurants, but it’s hard to tell exactly how many since he doesn’t seem to list them all in any one location.
Anyway, this blog post is about the original Bo Innovation in Wan Chai.
The first thing that struck me about the restaurant was how funky it was. I liked the many jewel toned elements, such as the cerulean-painted wood grained walls and a bronzy wall-length sculptural element. There was also crime noir-inspired wallpaper and a large neon sign of Hong Kong’s MTR map. At lunchtime, the space was lovely and bright with lots of natural light.
This is being written about three months late, so Bo have changed their lunch menu slightly (here is the current menu). But from my visit, these were my top three favourite dishes.
Molecular x-treme “xiao long bao”
For those that love these soupy dumplings, you can get the carb-free version here. The thin red strip is the vinegar, and when the little morsel popped in my mouth it really did taste like the real thing, vinegar and all. I wish we’d been given two each though: one to get over the novelty of it and one to enjoy properly.
Duck foie gras
I find the rich sinfulness of foie gras a wonderful, once in awhile treat. Though I’ve had it many times, Bo’s version stands out as one of my favourites. The seared liver was served with three unusual ingredients: preserved mustard greens ice cream, green apple foam, and a ginger cookie. I tried bites with each ingredient separately and it tasted good if a bit strange. But it was a marvelous combination of rich yet fresh, salty yet sweet, when eaten all together.
For my main course, I chose a langoustine that was served with an English mustard foam, salted egg yolk butter, black truffle sauce, cauliflower and a cauliflower chip. The sweet, delicate flavour of the langoustine was somehow not overpowered by everything in this dish. Each bite was exotic.
Also worth mentioning is the Yunnan ham and spring onion gai daan zai (egg waffle) which is Bo’s version of the starter bread. It was a fun way to start off our meal, though personally I would have like it better if the puffs were chewy rather than crisp.
Overall, each course is an interesting flavour bomb. It was a great way to sample new flavour combinations, and upscale twists on Chinese cooking. I enjoyed my meal, and think it would be a nice place for a celebration or to take a guest from out of town. The service was also a big part of the experience. Since Bo is so unique, I liked how the staff would introduce every dish and bring out key ingredients, such as the vinegar or alcohol used, for us to see.
My only hesitation about going back more regularly (apart from the price) was the portion sizes. Yes, we went for a smaller lunchtime tasting menu, but I wasn't that full even after eight courses. A larger main or carb-heavy course could have helped this. I suppose cheap carbs aren't why people go to Bo, but I hate when I pay good money for a meal and leave an unsatisfied level of full.
2F J Senses Entrance on Ship Street, 60 Johnston Rd, 2850 8371