The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G.K. Chesterton

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Molecular gastronomy @ Bo Innovation, Hong Kong

I celebrated my birthday this week. To be honest, I don't like much fuss over my birthday - it's just another day, and after reaching a certain milestone last year, I don't think there's much to celebrate about adding another year to my age. Hubby insisted on doing something nice for my birthday, so we had a movie & dinner date on Saturday, which was special because this is something we don't often get to do since our son was born five years ago. And with another bub due to arrive any day now, we cherished this date even more so since it may be the last one for the months to come. After some thought about where to go for dinner, we decided to pop our molecular gastronomy cherry with Chef Alvin Leung's Bo Innovation. Some is of the opinion that Leung is riding on the success and hype of the science-and-cooking cuisine associated with famous chefs like Ferran AdriĆ  and Heston Blumenthal (although said chefs have repudiated the term "molecular gastronomy"), but I wanted to experience Bo Innovation's food first-hand and form my own opinions. Leung ditched engineering to become the second self-taught chef in the world to be awarded Michelin stars (after Blumenthal). While Leung's food is modern and experimental, it is fundamentally Chinese and inspired by classic dishes, using select traditional ingredients. We are always keen to try out food that are interesting and different, and we eagerly looked forward to this dinner.

Outdoor patio dining at Bo Innovation - check out the huge tiled portrait of Alvin Leung!

Six seats at the Chef's Table by the kitchen:

The medium-sized restaurant had a sleek and modern interior, and the atmosphere was relaxed and cosy. The service was impeccable, and every effort was made to ensure that this girl and her bump was comfortable (the cushion in my chair was highly appreciated). Diners could choose to eat at the Chef's table (only six seats available, so this must be booked early), inside the main dining room, or outdoors. When hubby called up Bo Innovation one week before, the indoor tables were fully booked, which left us the choice of seats at the Chef's table or outdoors. Eating at the Chef's table gives the diners the privilege of being seated by the kitchen and interacting with the chefs, however the menu is limited to only one choice - the Chef's Table Menu (HK$2380). Eating at other tables gave us more flexibility of menu options, so we chose outdoors. The restaurant knew our preference for indoor dining (the weather last weekend was slightly affected by a nearby tropical cyclone), and a last minute cancellation for an indoor table meant that we could eat our meal without worrying about the weather. Aside from the Chef's Table Menu, there was also the option of the Chef's Menu (HK$1680) and the Tasting Menu (HK$1080). All three menus had a few common elements, and there was the option of wine pairing for an additional HK$700. After much consideration, I decided that I liked the Tasting Menu the best of the three, with a couple of optional extras added on. Unlike the other two menu options, the Tasting Menu is only available for the entire table, so hubby also had to have it (which he was fine with). I liked that every dish was explained in good detail and that special ingredients used in each dish were brought to the table for us to see, which helped us appreciate the food as we were eating them.

Hong Kong-style Egg Waffle (aka eggette), spring onion-flavoured. This was served in place of the breadbasket. It was interesting trying a savoury flavoured waffle, and it was very moreish!

Mao Tai Sour. The waiter assured me that there was not much alcohol in it, just enough mao tai to give a hint of flavour. I've never had the Chinese liquor before, so I cannot comment on that aspect of the drink, but it was tartly sour from lime juice:

The interesting goblet that held the Mao Tai Sour. We were instructed to grab the metal holder and tip the drink into the mouth, which felt a little awkward as I had to tilt my head right back to get the drink out of the deep vessel:

Dan Dan Noodles with chili pepper, pine nut, crispy egg noodles, preserved chinese mustard, iberico ham 36, ikura, green apple. This was quite a different take on the traditional noodle dish with a few unusual ingredients. I liked the crispy noodles, the foam scented with preserved vegetable, and the sweetness of the green apple. Great textures and flavours in one dish:

Foie Gras with "mui choy", an interpretation of the traditional Chinese dish of pork belly braised with sweet preserved mustard greens (mui choy kau yoke). The seared foie gras was imported from France, and it didn't have an overpowering gamey flavour, nor did I find it too rich as I usually do. The dehydrated mui choy sheet was crispy, and the mui choy-flavoured ice cream was quite a pleasant accompaniment to the foie gras. I particularly enjoyed the ginger granules that gave a nice crunchy texture:

Scallop with Shanghainese “jolo” sauce, crispy woba, sugar snap peas. Juicy scallops, sweet crunchy peas, crispy rice, and a drizzle of 'jolo' sauce (fermented red rice vinegar). Delicate presentation and a textural delight for the tongue:

Molecular "xiao long bao" - one of the signature dishes at Bo Innovation. The liquid essence of the Shanghainese soup dumplings were encased inside a spherical membrane and topped with a strip of preserved ginger. The warm liquid filling had a gorgeous smooth body with all the flavours of a soup dumpling but minus the meat and flour wrapping, and the membrane was slightly crunchy (though hubby said his wasn't crunchy at all):

Tomato with “pat chun” chinese vinegar, fermented Chinese olives “lam kok”, marshmallow with green onion oil. This was the dish that stood out the most for me. The red tomato had been stewed in "pat chun" (a sweet black rice vinegar) for 45 minutes, to be eaten whole. One bite released all the richly flavoured juice within the tomato. The middle piece was garnished with dehydrated fermented Chinese olives, and honestly I don't remember much of this one because my tastebuds were still in overdrive from the red tomato. The white marshmallow had the texture of a soft meringue but the savoury flavour of a tomato with a shot of green onion oil within it:

Red Fish with Yunnan ham, mandarin peel, potato, shiitake mushroom, onion puree. I thought this was the most ordinary dish of the meal. The fish was superb quality, the shiitake mushroom chip was fun to eat, and the dehydrated Yunnan ham was novel, but this dish was not as remarkable compared to the other dishes on the menu:

White Truffle with duck egg yolk, “cheung fun”, yak milk cheese (HK$480 supplement). This was the optional dish offered on the Tasting Menu featuring imported white truffles which are in season at the moment. Our waiter had suggested that we order one to share between the two of us. We were instructed to mix everything up before eating. It was quite an indulgent savoury course, with the richness of the runny duck yolk and the creaminess of the yak cheese (which did not have an obnoxious flavour like goat's cheese). The white truffles shavings were of course gorgeous:

For our main course, we could choose from a list of five dishes. Hubby very nicely asked me to pick two dishes that appealed most to me, and he would choose one of them so that I could get both of my preferences.

Langoustine with english mustard, salty egg, cauliflower, black truffle, duck jus. This is reminiscent of the indulgent Chinese dish of fried prawns with salted egg yolk. Hubby, though not a big fan of salted eggs, said he enjoyed this dish. I'm still undecided on the use of foam in food, as it doesn't add any texture, substance nor flavour to the dish, only the scent of the ingredient's essence the foam is made from. I enjoyed the truffled cauliflower bits, and I adored the salted yolk scampi:

Organic "Long Jiang" Chicken with 7 years aged Acquerello rice, yellow chicken stock, wooden fungus, sand ginger (HK$200 supplement). This was perhaps the most rustic-looking of all the dishes in the Tasting Menu, and it packed such a flavour punch. The aged Acquerello rice from Italy was prepared risotto-style with yellow chicken stock, and it had a gorgeously smooth but al dente texture, if that makes any sense. The roulade-style chicken was succulent and flavoursome:

The "Long Jiang" chicken served with a drizzle of sand ginger sauce:

Coconut with palm sugar, young coconut, chocolate, pineapple. My dessert plate came with a personalised birthday greeting. I loved the palm sugar ice cream as it reminded me of everything delicious made with palm sugar in my childhood growing up in Malaysia. The cocoa granules added a crunchy texture, and the coconut were presented two-ways: as liquid spheres similar to the Molecular "xiao long bao" dish, and crispy meringue. We enjoyed this tropical-style dish:

We thought we were finished with the meal after the dessert, but we were pleasantly surprised to be served the Eight Treasures Petit Fours presented inside a lovely birdcage and a bamboo steamer, along with a refreshing cup of ba bao cha (aka Eight Treasures Tea). The eight petit dim sum was based on the Chinese ba bao cha, which are made with a blend of eight ingredients that varies depending on where you get the tea from. At Bo Innovation, the Eight Treasures Tea was made with chrysanthemum, Chinese red dates, Chinese wolfberries, dragoneye fruit, rose buds, lotus seed and mandarin peel.

Eight Treasures Petit Fours with the Eight Treasures Tea. Inside the bamboo steamer sat the Wolfberry and Tianjin Pear Crystal Bun and the Osmanthus Steamed Sponge Cake. On the top level of the birdcage were (starting from top left in a clockwise direction) the Chrysanthemum Meringue, Red Date Marshmallow, Dragon Eye Coconut Jelly, and Mandarin Peel Chocolate Truffle; and on the bottom level were the Rose Macaron with Lychee Butter Cream and the Lotus Seed and Pistachio Sticky Rice Dumpling. I liked them all!

We really enjoyed our meal at Bo Innovation. It certainly was an interesting and different experience, and we've never had Chinese food like this before!

[Prices quoted above excludes the 10% service charge.]

Bo Innovation
Shop 13, 2nd Floor
J Residence
(Private lift entrance on Ship Street)
60 Johnston Rd
Wan Chai, Hong Kong
Tel. +852 2850 8371

1 comment:

  1. that's his trusty assistant :) chef leung has no red ponytail.