Bo Innovation is one of Hong Kong’s most sensational restaurants

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Green Eggs and Ham at Bo Innovation in Hong Kkong

If you want to learn about Hong Kong and its cuisine, three-Michelin star restaurant Bo Innovation will do the trick.

Alvin Leung has created something very special at his three-Michelin star restaurant Bo Innovation in Hong Kong.

'Chef Blue Menu' degustation at Bo Innovation in Hong Kong.
Caviar growing on trees and other such delights at Bo Innovation.

It’s not just out-of-this-world food Leung calls ‘X-treme Chinese cuisine’ – a reimagining of centuries-old ingredients and recipes through a modern palate and techniques  – it’s also an adventure into the life and times of the skyscraper-sprinkled financial hub.

Panorama of the Hong Kong night skyline. Taken from Lugard Road at Victoria Peak. Photo: John Trodel/Flickr Creative Commons
View of Hong Kong’s night skyline from Victoria Peak. Photo: John Trodel/Flickr.

Leung says inspiration for his creations comes from the geography, history, culture and people of the special administrative region in southeastern China. “Every meal will be a journey. Each dish will be unique,” Leung says.

Bo Innovation appetisers in Hong Kong.
Appetisers on fire.

He wants Bo Innovation to capture Hong Kong’s resilience.

In the time that it was leased to England for 99 years after the Opium War, colonised and then returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1997, it has grown from a fishing village on a rock to a major international city that has survived much turmoil. 

It has experienced an outbreak of plague in the early 20th century, Japanese occupation during WWII, the riots in the late 1960s, multiple financial crises and economic recessions, and most recently, unrest sparked over concerns its freedoms are being eroded.

Aside from the seasonal availability of ingredients, Bo’s menu will change according to new ideas and inspirations. 

Alvin Leung, Bo Innovation

Like the region, the food is also diverse and constantly changing.

“Aside from the seasonal availability of ingredients, Bo’s menu will change according to new ideas and inspirations,” the chef, who was born in London and grew up in Toronto, Canada, explains. 

Leung realises his vision through the scientific and methodical food discipline of molecular gastronomy – not a surprising technique given his background as a former engineer.

Alvin Leung, head chef of Bo Innovation.
Alvin Leung. Photo supplied by Bo Innovation.

But while the menu brims with “molecular magic”, as our waiter Ric Choi describes it, we’re only going to dish you out a spoonful to keep the surprise.

FOOD

Andrea: Our ‘Chef Blue Menu’ degustation at Bo Innovation, begins with a game. Our first dish is called Child’s Play, which is based around various popular Hong Kong board games from Leung’s childhood days. We’re treated with a cross-and-circle board game known as Aeroplane Chess on which sits three culinary art pieces.

Child's Play at Bo Innovation, Hong Kong.
Aeroplane Chess is similar to Ludo and Pachisi.

Another game Leung wants us to play is to guess which of his molecular gastronomy represents Hong Kong classics like sticky rice dumpling, wonton noodles, bubble-wrap waffle (also called egg waffle), spam and egg sandwich, BBQ duck and curry fish balls.

Child's Play at Bo Innovation, Hong Kong.
Which one is which??!!

I didn’t think we’d stand a chance against our Hong Kong friends who are dining with us tonight. But even though they hit the nail on the head with some, we get others right, too.

Xiao long bao at Bo Innovation, Hong Kong.
Could this be poached chicken or wonton noodles, perhaps?

Rex: One of those is the signature xiao long bao. This is my favourite – the flavour of the soup dumpling from the Jiangnan region of China is strongly recognisable even though it looks nothing like one.

Xiao long bao in Shanghai, China. Photo by randomised.org/Flickr.
Piping hot xiao long bao in Shanghai, China. Photo courtesy of randomised.org/Flickr.

Andrea: The play continues with the next dish, Green Eggs and Ham, based on the famous children’s book by American author Dr Seuss – one of my favourite books growing up. To open up the book and see the dish served in it stirs up memories of the fun and laughter my siblings, friends and I used to have as children.

Green eggs and ham at Bo Innovation in Hong Kong.
Transport back to your childhood.

Tasting this molecular delight is something else. A velvety Century egg (usually a duck egg preserved in a mixture of clay, ash, salt and rice hulls) cream sits on an egg ‘white’ of ham-stock jelly. It accompanies almost translucent wisps of salted bacon lined with crispy edges.

Legend has it the book was actually inspired by a Chinese congee dish. Dr Seuss had supposedly noticed a diner eating Century egg and pork congee in a Chinese restaurant and had asked them, “what are you eating”? They replied with a Western sensibility: “green eggs and ham”.

Legend has it Dr Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham was actually inspired by a Chinese congee dish.

Rex: Out come the Aberdeen Floaters – inspired by floating restaurants Jumbo and the old Tai Pak in the port town of Aberdeen on the south side of Hong Kong Island.

We’re each given a vibrant red deep-sea cardinal prawn known as Carabinero with a reimagined prawn head: a smooth prawn paste with sea urchin and roe that’s wrapped in a crunchy sesame pastry. 

Molecular Carabinero prawn and prawn head at Bo Innovation in Hong Kong.
As fresh as if it were still in the sea.

If you have ever sucked a big grilled prawn’s head, you will know the taste of roe. Our Hong Kong friends also think the sea urchin replicates the texture and flavour.

Andrea: It’s accompanied by a bowl of vermicelli sprinkled with the restaurant’s signature shrimp oil extracted from dried shrimp known as xia mi. The dried shrimp in this creation is an important ‘umami’ (the five basic tastes: savoury, sweet, sour, bitter, salty).

Har mi or dried shrimp oil at Bo Innovation in Hong Kong
The dried shrimp has been cooked for 48 hours to create the xia mi oil.

Rex: Our next dish, centred around oyster sauce and tofu, has a special place in the heart of the self-proclaimed ‘demon chef’ Leung. 

Ode to the Dragon is based on his childhood hero and Hong Kong’s favourite ‘son’, actor-director-kung fu master Bruce Lee whose name translates to little dragon. It’s tasty, but I don’t like it half as much as the following Imperial Beggars Banquet, which our Hong Kong friends explain is quite philosophical.

Imperial Beggars Banquet at Bo Innovation in Hong Kong.
Think hard about this dish.

The beautiful lobster-based creation comes out in a typical beggar’s bowl inside a holder shaped like a dragon. The dragon is a symbol of the emperor with all their riches. But regardless of this opulence, it is holding a beggar’s bowl. The supposed crude and inconspicuous beggar’s bowl is holding lobster and caviar, the epitome of la dolce vita.

In other words, it’s not what’s on the outside that matters, it’s on the inside.

Andrea: Another dish that gets you thinking is 60,000 a Year, which draws attention to the approximate 60,000 babies born each year in the city. The baby food market has been on the decline since its peak in 2014 and it’s expected to shrink further with a projected fall in the birth rate, the result of astronomical property and living costs.

'60,000 a year' or typhoon shelter chilli crab adult version of baby food at Bo Innovation in Hong Kong.
It costs over HKD $5 million (more than AUD $1 million) to raise a child in Hong Kong.

This adult version of baby food is inspired by a crab dish believed to have originated in Hong Kong’s typhoon shelters. 

During typhoons, boat dwellers at Causeway Bay, a former fishing village in Wan Chai district on Hong Kong Island, used to bring in fresh crabs from the harbour and fry them with chilli and garlic in shelters as they waited for the rough weather to pass.

Our local friends tell us it’s the sort of comfort food they long for on a cold winter’s night.

Rex: ‘Back On The Street’ evokes a particular nostalgia for Leung and our Hong Kong friends. As a lover of street food, Leung recalls childhood visits to hawkers selling offal that’d been dyed red to look tastier. The dish aims to simulate the snack’s flavour using the largely underrated offal sweetbread. But he adds his own twist with sea-urchin mustard, calamansi (a citrus cultivated in the Philippines) hoisin sauce and pickled daikon. 

Back on the Street at Bo Innovation in Hong Kong.
Classic Hong Kong street food.

Andrea: Our waiter Ric Choi recreates the experience of visiting street vendors by serving them in tin dishes lined with paper. The paper covers mean the dishes can be reused without washing them up. Our local friends tell us it’s the sort of comfort food they long for on a cold winter’s night as they make their way home after a big day at work. We want in!  

Rex: The night is sadly coming to an end but our Everything Lotus dessert keeps our spirits high.

The lotus plant is very important in Buddhism, a predominant religion in Hong Kong.

Everything Lotus dessert at Bo Innovation in Hong Kong.
A transcendent dessert.

Buddha is often depicted as sitting on a lotus leaf or flower and Bo Innovation glorifies this by using every part of the lotus, from stem to petal, seed to bean, and root to leaf. 

Andrea: But as much as the food is a homage, Bo’s dining area to the bar and even the bathrooms convey an aspect of Hong Kong’s identity.

Bo’s design mirrors the city’s local landmarks. Its centrepiece is an artistic silhouette of the Lion Rock mountain, a symbol of the spirit of the people. An abstract artwork signifying the sam-pans (small wooden fishing boats) on the Fragrant Harbour hangs from the ceiling above our table.

Bo Innovation restaurant in Hong Kong.
You could even call Bo Innovation a Hong Kong history museum.

A neon lit map of Hong Kong’s MRT system glows against a wall and an Old Master Q sculpture, a popular Hong Kong comic character known to be caught between Chinese and Western influences, appears to wave at diners as they pass him by.

one of Hong Kong's most famous comic characters, Old Master Q.
Hai!

Rex: I’ve been to Bo Innovation three times since 2014, and each time it’s been interesting to see it evolve. While it has always been an innovative treat, it has achieved an even higher level in 2019. 

Andrea: Agreed. It’s more than about the food now. It’s a story for the people of Hong Kong just as much as it is for those from out of town who want to learn more about this abundant and robust city.

Experience more culinary adventures at Two Chat Food and follow us on Instagram @twochatfood.

Hong Kong night skyline photo by Jim Trodel. Republished from Flickr under Creative Commons.

Shanghai xiao long bao photo by randomised.org. Republished by Flickr under Creative Commons.


Bo Innovation | $$$
Address:  Shop 8, Podium 1/F., J Senses, 60 Johnston Road, Wan Chai, Hong Kong.                            
Phone number: 852 – 2850 8371
Whatsapp: 852- 9805 3047 (available on WeChat as well)
Email: dine@boinnovation.com                       

Opening Hours   
Mon-Thur: 12:00-3:00pm, 6:30pm-12:00am
Fri: 12:00pm-3:00pm (last order 14:00), 6:00pm-12:00am
Sat & Public Holiday: 6:00pm-12:00am
Sun: Closed
Lunar New Year: Closed 3 days 

More information
Dress Code: Gentlemen: No sleeveless, shorts and sandals
Average per head: HKD $750-900 (lunch), HKD $1,380-2,380 (dinner)
Wan Chai MTR Station Exit A3
Reservation: Essential
Valet Parking: No
Corkage: $700/ Bottle (750ml) Private Room: One (Maximum Capacity 10 persons)  


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