Bo Innovation: An artsy experience paying tribute to Old Hong Kong (8.5)

Our dinner at Bo Innovation was an aesthetic feast. And one with a theme that pays tribute to old Hong Kong. Each course was beautifully presented, carefully constructed, and endowed with its own meaning and story. More importantly, the food was portioned so that you would be able to try twenty different combinations of flavors and textures, each ranging from bitesize to five spoonfuls, without ballooning your stomach.

The highlight, to me, was not only the aesthetics and the story, but brainchild and head chef Alvin Leung Jr’s courage to bring the most unconventional, amusing yet pleasurable flavors together without needing to use an excess of anything—whether it be sea urchin, salt, or some other greasy condiment—as a shortcut to tantalize our brains. Everything was as plain as they could be, yet no less intriguing and satisfying. That is not something to be taken for granted, as many restaurants load their food with butter/oil and salt to up the game from your regular home-cooking. Of course, not every flavor combination will be your favorite, but it would be a surprise, a contrast, much like life itself.

The restaurant was also furnished with many interesting details that added to my experience. Servers are generally courteous, and we were also introduced by Chef Alvin himself to many of the courses we were served. Again, that is something I appreciate as you will never interact with chefs at many restaurants.

If I had to complain about something, it would be the air conditioning that was blasting at North Pole-like temperature that was perhaps more comfortable for those working than those sitting for hours without moving. And after-sales services seemed also to be lacking—in order to complete the review I had just some queries about a few of the dishes of the night, and after being thrown around like a ball and redirected four times between various members of the hosting team I was given the response from the manager that it would take him a few days to get back to me as they are busy and “the menu will be changed starting tomorrow anyway”. So I thought I would just finish the review without waiting for the few days. I chased them one more time after five days and received a response on the eighth day of my request.

I can’t make a recommendation for or against Bo Innovation. It really depends on whether this is the sort of thing that intrigues and pleases you. For me, at least, the cultural reference and explicit love for Hong Kong—as reflected in the effort put into endowing each course with a special significance—gave the experience its unique significance. And as I was with my closest friend who enjoys creative and imaginative food, it was a worthwhile visit.

Food Rundown

Taste of marriage 婚姻滋味 – Playful starter (right side) representing the “savory” aspect of marriage, with salty egg yolk, pork and red onion on deep-fried rice cracker. It’s beautiful, colorful, crunchy and, well, savory.
Taste of marriage 婚姻滋味The “sour” aspect of marriage is represented by a sea urchin and miso-topped glutinous “dumpling” with shrimp floss and a few droplets of very dense Chinese vinegar. The combination was quite unusual, and I can’t really say that I liked it.
Taste of marriage 婚姻滋味 The “bitter” aspect of marriage is a mini ice cream in disguise. What’s green and bitter? Well, it turns out that the ice cream was bitter melon and coconut flavored, with some smoked cod. It wasn’t that bitter after all, and with the buttery cone was pretty delightful. I didn’t quite discern the smoked cod, however.
Taste of marriage 婚姻滋味 – Spicy is represented by a burnt cherry tomato with mayonnaise. The chili pepper is optional, and was primarily used as a visual and prop for burning (not photographed) so that we can smell fumes mimicking Chinese-style firecrackers going off.
Taste of marriage 婚姻滋味The “sweet” aspect of marriage is presented in the form of a bridal tea, with foie gras, lotus seed purée, dry red date and XO sauce. A most harmonious combination that we loved.

Taste of marriage 婚姻滋味 comic strip

Son of a scallop 帶來兒子

Scallops were very tender and well marinated, going well with the thinly sliced lotus root. The subtle flavors of Chinese yellow wine and tomato consommé complemented them well. I didn’t quite like how strong the shiso plum was against the delicate scallop, but it was still interesting.

The Phoenix rides the Dragon 龍鳳呈祥

This was the star of the night. The steamed egg smelled like smokey ham. Morel added depth of flavor and the lobster (dragon) and stuffed chicken (phoenix) were a delight. The whole dish was simply splendid.

Pisces paradise 雙魚得水

Another beautifully executed dish with local tile fish going with slightly spicy mentaiko, some salmon roe, tomato sauce and notes of Sichuan peppercorn. The fregola sucks up all the fish stock and butter and is very hearty.

Rich abalone 鮑羅萬有

I didn’t like the mung bean mash enough because it was a bit heavy and overpowered the abalone and caviar in consistency. But the butter poached abalone was very enjoyable, sliced paper thin for maximum tenderness.

7 happiness 七囍

Being a drink this was an unexpected course, and it was mainly 7-up and a local gin (called Perfume Tree Gin) mulled with a blend of spices, including cinnamon, cardamom, star anise, lemongrass and vanilla. It was refreshing, but I thought two sips would do as the sweetness was paralyzing.

Miss Piggy goes red 紅運當頭

The theme is pork and red here, and we start clockwise from the little white celeriac flower. That was made with pork ear and pork knuckle. It didn’t make a big impact on me. Next was slow-roasted suckling pig with beetroot sweet sauce, which was standard, crispy suckling pig skin that reminds one very much of traditional, festive Cantonese feasts. Then, we have an interesting blood pudding wrapped with deep-fried bits of rice paper. At the time of eating I didn’t know it was blood pudding, and it tasted nothing like it. I just found it to be pretty intense in the mouth and I quite liked it. Following this is pork braised in vinegar and sugar with orange zest. I thought this was a little too sour for my liking, but it was nevertheless interesting contrast with the rest. Finally, and probably the best, was the suckling pig wellington with Chu Hon sauce, possibly the smallest wellington I have ever seen.

Cheerful grains 幸福美滿

I really liked this dish. The nine-grain mix included red rice, quinoa, sunflower seed, pumpkin seeed, couscous, corn and mashed rice. It was nutty and hearty and while the top layer was toasted and crispy, the bottom was a pasty pool of blended cooked grains, which resulted in rich and contrasting textures and flavors. A most thoughtful dish for simple grains.

Unbroken lineages 連綿不絕

This was deep-fried “e-fu” noodles, a particularly popular kind of Cantonese-style noodles. Noodles are typically a symbol of longevity, but here it also symbolizes unbroken lineages, something that Chinese parents are often obsessed about. This is surprisingly a dessert—the “unbroken” noodle is deep-fried and coated in honey, tasting a little bit like churros, perhaps a tropical version, as it is served with coconut ice cream, dried longan fruit and porcini crumble. A dessert full of imagination and novelty.

No shark fins 魚翅

As the trend is to boycott shark fin, we have something that looks like shark fin, but is made with honey jelly, peach gum, yuzu and Osmanthus vinegar. I’m not a fan of Chinese dessert, so this didn’t speak much to me.

Comes after sex 百富添丁

Quite interesting served in a baby food container. You are also given an old Hello Kitty plastic spoon to eat this for maximum drama. The white part is a salty mousse with subtle flavors of mui choy pork. The rest is chocolate mouse and caramel crumble. Mui choy pork is a classic Hakka dish made with pickled mustard and fatty pork. This must be the first such dessert I have had. The savory-sweet combination was pretty irresistible. I couldn’t really taste mui choy pork to be honest, but the salty mousse was addictive.

V generation 五世其昌
V generation 五世其昌

Five items to make for five prosperous generations: cooked sweetened apple, “pat chun” vinegar, chestnut mousse with Chinese white wine, and ginger foam. This was light and quite OK as the flavors worked nicely together.

Bo Innovation
2/F, J Residence, 60 Johnston Road Wan Chai
$$$, Chinese, Fusion