The Most Interesting Meal I’ve Had in a Year, Bo Innovation in Hong Kong: Vietnam, Cambodia, Macau and Hong Kong Trip Report

Index:

I had the most interesting meal I’ve eaten in a long time, lunch at Bo Innovation, a Michelin 3-star restaurant in Hong Kong.

I’ve tried some of the best examples of molecular gastronomy — I loved El Bulli when it was open, and thought the Fat Duck was more style over substance.

But Alvin Leung’s Bo Innovation was interesting because it’s Chinese molecular gastronomy. He calls it ‘X-Treme Chinese,’ refers to himself as ‘the Demon chef,’ and earned his third Michelin star this year.

It wasn’t hard to make a booking several weeks out. It was actually harder to find the restaurant than it was to get a table.

You need to go through a non-descript entrance to get to an elevator up to the restaurant, and that entrance is actually on Ship Street.

It’s a small restaurant inside with an open kitchen. There’s outdoor seating but it was on the chilly side in early February and they weren’t seating guests outside (not that we’d have wanted to). It’s also not a luxurious dining room.

    (Note that that’s a tattooed image of the chef on the outside of the restaurant)

We selected the chef’s tasting menu for lunch, which is ~ US$100++ (780 HKD). Click to enlarge:

They also have a ‘set lunch’ for ~ US$37++, you get 2 mains, a starch, and a dessert. Click to enlarge:

The first item on the chef’s menu was ‘Dead Garden’.

Underneath was almost a fluorescent green-colored foam flavored with lime. It went amazingly well with the morel and enoki mushroom.

Next up, the scallop.

It was only slightly seared Hokkaido scallops served with ‘crispy woba’ (burnt rice, this was the leftovers in rice pots prior to the invention of rice cookers) and peas. The dish was in ‘jolo’ sauce which is fermented red rice vinegar, it made for a dish that was salty, sour, and sweet.

Then the foie gras ‘mui choy’.

Mui choy is sweet preserved mustard greens. The foie gras had a caramel fragrance, and we were told to eat it with the ice cream that brought out the foie’s sweetness.

Then the ‘Har mi’ course.

This was lo mein in a har mi oil, dried baby shrimps infused in the oil for 3 days prior to distilling. It was served alongside extra oil, although there was likely enough already in the dish but I did try it both ways and it was surprisingly spicey as well.

Molecular – ‘Xiao Long Bao’

This wasn’t actually xiao lung bao, it was encased in a gelatinous shell with a strip of red vinegar on top. We were instructed to eat it straight from the spoon in a single bite. The gelatin broke easily, releasing a warm pork broth in the mouth.

Langoustine

This was the first of two dishes with truffle.

The langoustine was tasty, and contrasted well with the cauliflower foam and went well with English mustard. The black truffle was seriously intense.

Saga-Gyu Beef

Saga-Gyu is a top wagyu beef brand of Japan, and it was certainly a good piece of beef but not the best that I would have during my short two night stay in Hong Kong. I thought it worked with the black truffle but two courses in a row I had become used to it, so fortunately the truffle wasn’t overpowering of the beef.

Dessert was less memorable.

The restaurant is controversial, at least according to opinions I found online, and frequently not what one expect in terms of a Michelin 3-star in terms of formality or refined service although the service was certainly fine. The food is also not what one usually expects either, of course.

But it was good food, reasonably priced at lunch (for what it was, the ingredients and number of courses), and it was actually interesting so rates very well in my book.


About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. CANCER, OBESITY, HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE, STROKE, DIABETES.

    BEHIND EVERY BITE THERE WAS AN ANIMAL THAT BEGGED FOR LIFE, THAT SCREAMED IN HORROR.

    SHAME ON YOU

  2. Haha. I can’t help but chuckle a bit at Animal’s revAnge… behind your name was a 3rd grade grammar teacher that screamed in horror as well.

  3. ANIMAL’S REVANGE – time to go back to school

    Seems a lot overpriced for what you get! To each his own…give me some awesome street food.

  4. Wasn’t he the one featured in Anthony Bourdain’s HK Layover episode? Or was it No Reservations? At any rate it is definitely an interesting place and somewhere I’d like to visit when I stop by HK!

  5. 8 courses at a Michelin 3* restaurant for $100 seemed pretty good to me, but I agree, there’s some fantastic street food in the world and it’s hard to make me happier than an evening on the beach at the East Coast Lagoon Village food center in Singapore.

  6. ANIMAL’S REVANGE – Get over it. Humans have conquered the animals. To the victor belong the spoils.

    Also learn to spell.

  7. If you love molecular gastronomy, the absolute best restaurant in my opinion is Alinea in Chicago. Grant Achatz is brilliant and he did an homage to El Bulli at his Next restaurant that was amazing. Whatever you do, do not go to Mugaritz in San Sebastian Spain. Horrible.
    I will be in Hong Kong in few weeks so I may see if I try this place.

  8. @Chip W: “ANIMAL’S REVANGE – time to go back to school”
    wrong – he’s probably still in school, a 12-yr old ideologist who has figured out the problem of the world. I dont know why he reads this blog, aren’t we just the snobs that over-indulge in the environment we live in?

    Anyone tried the “gold fish” shrimp wonton soup at Chi Ji?

    Btw I am a member of PETA – People Eat Tasty Animals.

  9. That first comment makes me hungry. Think I’ll have steak tonight.

    Thanks for the review Gary, and for keeping the comment up 🙂

  10. Gary, reading this trip report you use “we” a lot. Where you traveling with someone? Names are needed but at times you write that there is someone else with you and at times you write “I” without mention what the other person was doing or having… It’s a bit confusing…

  11. @Tony I was traveling with my wife but I am very circumspect is not mentioning her very much on the blog nad never including photos that she’s in.

  12. Gary, have you tried Lung King Heen in HK? It is another Michelin 3-star Chinese restaurant. Just curious…

  13. @Gary, I wasn’t asking for a photo of your wife, but the writing gets a little confusing at times. Thank you for explaining this.

  14. We went there last year and you are right that it is quite an experience. Lunch looks like a bargain — dinner was much more expensive. Didn’t realize he had gotten another star.

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