In a world where molecular gastronomy is (almost) taking over today's dining scene, Bo Innovation is Hong Kong's answer to this. Hong Kong is a food paradise with countless authentic, delicate, and refined true-to-its-roots Cantonese cuisine. And then, it was as though someone in the chef world of Hong Kong stood up and proceeded to transform the idea of Cantonese cuisine as reflected in the culture of Hong Kong. Chef Alvin Leung, the self-proclaimed Demon Chef, introduces molecular gastronomy to Cantonese cuisine, a concept once only popularized among European and American cuisine. Admittedly, in re-interpreting the cuisine there is some is risk-taking on the chef's part. Combining molecular gastronomy and Cantonese cuisine could appear daring and ingenius to loyal fans, or seen as an irrelevant addition to Cantonese cuisine for others. T and I could not agree more that Bo Innovation is the answer to introducing molecular gastronomy Cantonese-style.
Instead of a bread basket, we were served gai dan zai, a very popular egg waffle street snack in Hong Kong. Wonder through the streets of Hong Kong and you will notice many street vendors offering them. With gai dan zai being so prominent in the street snack culture, Bo Innovation has taken to this and made its own interpretation. Usually sold plain by street vendors, the gai dan zai at Bo Innovation were made with mustard and bits of Iberico ham. The resulting combined flavors of spicy and salty from the mustard and Iberico ham with the soft and spongy gai dan zai were a very good start for the night.
10-course Tasting Menu
pat chun, lam kok
Here, we were presented a 3-way tomato. The richly red cherry tomato was poached in pat chun, a Chinese black vinegar commonly used in pork knuckle dishes. The tomato was served already peeled, we popped it into our mouths, and the it exploded with its rich juice. The middle piece spots a crispy two-fold cracker with a tomato fritter filling that was cooked with lam kok, a marinated olive from Chiu Chow. The left most piece was the most unique here, getting its white color because tomato juice had been fully drained out of the vegetable. Inside this piece, that had a texture like marshmallow, was green tomato extract.
2. Iberico 36
morel, vermicelli, gazpacho
Aged for 36 months, the Iberico ham was then cooked in morel stock. Vermicelli was wrapped with the Iberico ham and finishing it off was some gazpacho foam.
3. Foie gras
Many times T and I have eaten mui choy, a type of preserved vegetable, very commonly used in braised pork belly dishes and therefore this was definitely a very interesting interpretation from the team at Bo Innovation. This dish, we were told, was meant to represent exactly this: braised pork belly with mui choy, or mui choy kow yook. Our server brought out a glass jar display containing the focus of the course, mui choy, and encouraged us to sniff it in order to acquaint ourselves with it. On our plate was a piece of seared foie gras, a delicate scoop of mui choy flavored ice-cream, and crispy ginger powder.
saffron miso, sauternes, seaweed
The duo delicate pieces of cod were coated with saffron miso glaze and accompanied with small chunks of crispy seaweed. Edible flower petals embellished the plate. The cod here was not the most moist we've ever had and turned out to be the least of a highlight for us.
xiao long bao
This was the epitome of molecular gastronomy. Ingredients used to make xiao long bao (otherwise known as Shanghai soup dumplings) such as pork, ginger, green onion, etc, were cooked and then the resulting liquid essence or jus from the cooked ingredients were collected, and then filled inside the molecular membrane paper. Xiao long bao is usually eaten with fresh ginger strips and black vinegar and to complete Bo Innovation's interpretation, a thin strip of preserved ginger was placed on the molecular membrane.
kaffir lime, kyoho grape, passion fruit, shichimi potato
Though the scallop was the star here, this course was meant to represent our four taste senses: salty, sweet, sour, and bitter. Representing salty (though I prefer to call them savory) were the seared Hokkaido scallop and shichimi potato. The latter was prepared and served in the form of cream wrapped in a crispy shell and the cream managed to taste exactly like pure potato which was impressive. Other accompaniments included kaffir lime dressing (representing bitter), Kyoho grape jello (representing sweet), and passion fruit seeds (representing sour). The flavors came together nicely and well balanced.
7. Century egg
This was another molecular gastronomy concept in one of its better moments. As century egg is traditional eaten with pickled ginger, both items were blended together until the resulting liquid form (the pink color came from the pickled ginger). The liquid was then poured into a martini glass with a piece of dry ice already sitting at the bottom. The bubbling effect created by the dry ice was all the attention here. The re-interpretation of eating century egg and pickled ginger was all about eating the bubbles. We scooped the bubbles into our mouths and the bubbling effect continued taking place in the martini glass because of the dry ice. It almost appeared like it was an unending course. Admittedly while this concept was very interesting, we were not huge fans of the taste and felt that the pickled ginger taste overshadowed the taste of century egg, if there was any at all.
wood fungus, shitake rice cake, choy sum
The pigeon was another very memorable for item for me because I truly loved every bit of it. The color is almost rare but we were told that it wasn't rare indeed and the rich red in the meat comes from the effect of slow cooking the bird. The pigeon was extremely tender and the taste was reminiscent of duck. On the side were wood fungus and a piece of pan fried shitake rice cake with a texture that very much resembled pate. Another very unique idea was the green puree of choy sum, a leafy Chinese vegetable commonly stir-fried.
butter cream, 3 peppers, ying yang
A very popular pastry native to Hong Kong is the polo bao, or pineapple bun. A favorite among many locals, there is absolutely not a single bit of pineapple in this pastry but instead it was named so because of the top layer of crust that looks like a pineapple after baking. Paying tribute to this popular pastry was a little piece of baked pastry crust sitting atop buttercream that was made to look very much a polo bao. Taking on a play with pineapple, there were three petite cubes of the fruit each seasoned differently with salt and black pepper, star anise, and white pepper. Not pictured was also an accompanying drink, yin yang, very unique to Hong Kong, which is a combination of milk tea and coffee as a drink.
10. Petit dimsum
Served steaming hot on a wooden dimsum basket was a piece of ma lai koh, a steamed sponged cake. At Bo Innovation, the sponge cake was enhanced by some banana essence. I really loved biting into the warm, light, and spongy cake as we came to an end of the meal. Also, Bo Innovation tapped into one's childhood (at least for those who grew up in Asia) and presented a basket of goodies we were familiar with while growing up which included the rabbit candy and biscuits with colored frosting. Another basket was also filled with chocolate-coated rice krispies, lime macaron, candied kumquat, and liqueur chocolate.
Molecular gastronomy has been around awhile now although mainly focused on Westernized cuisines and it is a brave step for Bo Innovation for being the first to bring this world of molecular gastronomy to Hong Kong and Chinese cuisine. It certainly has paid off and the team wonderfully envisions and executes the concept while tying very closely to local Hong Kong culture so that anyone could relate to its not necessarily traditional yet authentic interpretation.
60 Johnston Road
Wanchai, Hong Kong
2012 2-Michelin Stars
2011 1-Michelin Star
2010 1-Michelin Star