Saturday, 19 January 2013

Bo Innovation

Chinese gastronomy with an innovative western twist

Located in Wan Chai, Hong Kong, a two Michelin star restaurant created by the self styled "Demon Chef" Alvin Leung cooking "Xtreme Chinese". To his credit, a sound engineer who entered cooking at a rather late age and is entirely self taught who managed to gain two Michelin stars and no.52 in The World's 50 Best Restaurants, you got to give credit to this guy, this is an incredible achievement. I booked this restaurant as I am curious to know what is "Xtreme Chinese" all about and since he just opened a restaurant called "Bo London" in London, I wanted to compare the two in the near future. 

The restaurant is tucked away on a narrow street in the busy Wan Chai district, on arrival we were warmly welcomed by the front of house, I was surprised how small the dining room was, excluding the balcony space, you probably can only fit in about 10 tables there. It is about a third of the size of Hibiscus and Hibiscus itself is one of the smallest fine dining restaurants in London!

We went for tea as our beverage, which is a common thing to do in a Chinese restaurant. Unfortunately the tea was very bland. Tea is such an important element for a Chinese restaurant and I am afraid the tea we had was not up to expectation, considering Bo Innovation is such a highly regarded Chinese restaurant.

For starters we ordered six dim sum, first came the "har gau" black truffle XO. A prawn dumpling cooked with black truffle and XO sauce, XO sauce is a Chinese sauce made with dried scallop, shrimp, ham, chili oil and other Chinese spices. The har gau was excellent, nicely steamed at the right level, the prawns were sweet and tender, then the strong and powerful truffle flavour flooded in with a hint of spiciness coming through from the XO sauce, delicious.
Selections of dim sum

Next up the Cod ball, morel, extra virgin olive oil. The cod ball is nicely cooked: soft, moist and nicely seasoned with the morel. With the olive oil, it added a little richness, which was a nice touch. Just like the har gau dish, we can see how Alvin Leung adding western elements into Chinese food with quality results.

Third dish to come was the cauliflower risotto, black truffle, duck jus. This is a real winner. I really loved how cauliflower can create such an outstanding plate of food, the elegant and richness of the truffle and duck jus are well blended with the cauliflower risotto to gain such a light but yet complex taste, every mouthfull gives you a different taste dimension, a very clever and well executed dish.

Then here comes the roller coaster, which is the black truffle "cheung fun". Cheung fun is a very traditional Chinese dish, using a rice noodle sheet to create a roll looking shape then usually steamed or fried. The truffle didn't add anything to the cheung fun and the cheung fun itself wasn't smooth as it should be, this was the weakest dish of the day.

Up next: chicken, pesto bamboo shoot spring roll. This is a very smart dish, usually spring roll is serve with Chinese vinegar after deep frying, but replacing the vinegar with pesto mean the pesto can be included inside the spring roll while it is being cooked as pesto has much less water content. The result is a nutty and herbal taste which goes really well with the chicken with a very thin and crispy outer layer.
chicken, pesto bamboo shoot spring roll

The last dim sum is foie gras potsticker. Potsticker is a Chinese dumpling usually containing  pork and Chinese vegetable, here we have foie gras on top of the base ingredient. The Potsticker was well pan fried. The Chinese vinegar reduction balanced out the dryness and added a sweet and sour depth to the rich and distinctive taste of the foie gras, another fine dish.

Now on to the main! Langoustine, preserved duck egg, English mustard, cauliflower. I consider this dish 100% modern European, I don't see any Chinese influence at all. Anyway the concept of this dish is all about light flavours building around the langoustine, the cauliflower and cauliflower purée were well seasoned yet light in taste, the duck egg form lacked the distinctive taste of duck eggs that I anticipated. The mustard was lovely with the langoustine but I wished the langoustine was more fresh. I checked with the waiter and he said their langoustines are imported from New Zealand.  This is the problem with Hong Kong as it really lacks quality local ingredients, which is a shame.
Langoustine, preserved duck egg, English mustard, cauliflower

The other main: French quail "beggar style", lentil, wolfberry chutney. Somehow this dish reminded me of the beef ballotine I had at Macus Wareing at the Berkeley due to some similar techniques. The chutney particularly stood out with that sweet and fruity taste, the problem was both the quail leg and the quail was a touch overcooked, which lead it to be a bit dry and a little rough. It could have been a much better dish if the quail was cooked at the right level.
 French quail, lentil, wolfberry chutney
Crab egg fried rice

Dessert is a trio of puddings blended with green tea, whisky and rum. It was decent but I failed to taste the woody and vanilla notes that I would expect from whisky and rum.

The service was wonderful; our waiter was on top of his game, very knowledgeable, friendly with great attitude, a true professional. One of the best services in Hong Kong I've encountered. Overall the menu has its highs and lows, some really great elements with some creative dishes that is for sure but I expected it would be a little more consistent as at the end of the day it is suppose to be one of the top restaurants in Hong Kong. 

Food 3/5

Executive chef: 
Alvin Leung

What I paid: 
£33 per head

Average cost without drinks and services:
Lunch menu: £33
Tasting menu: £167

Bo Innovation
J Residence, 60 Johnston Road, 
Hong Kong

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