Friday, July 20, 2018

X-treme Tasting Menu

Talk to any food lover in town about the restaurant Bo Innovation you will probably find some vastly different responses…  ranging from an indifferent shrug to proclamation of that being the best in town, or less often, something in between those extremely polarizing opinions. I didn’t come here often enough to pass on my verdict but I did enjoy trying Chef Alvin Leung’s food every now and then, admiring some of the creativity involved in those dishes, evoking memories of street food that we grew up with - some I like more than the others but that's just the way it is with any avant-garde cooking.

I was at the restaurant a few weeks ago to try a few new dishes in the tasting menu with a few friends. It’s my first time setting foot inside the restaurant in this current location during the day, and the décor does provide a different vibe than at night with the lighting somehow reminded me of those old school Cantonese tea-house with a modern touch of murals depicting our beloved city of Hong Kong. Table setting was simple with modern-style cutlery and an “antique” porcelain plate (from the early 60s-80s) with the pattern that’s common in every local household in the old days.

“Tasting Menu” was what we had, arranged ahead of time by the Chef Alvin for us, and we were told the menu is a narrative of “Hong Kong Story”, the chef’s interpretation of old-school local dishes. We began with the appetizer platter called “Child’s Play”, served on an acrylic board which looked like those used for a popular board game called “Aeroplane Chess”. On the platter was a few bite-sized canapes, an re-interpretation of common street food of sorts – starting with a croquette with curry fish-ball flavor, a puff that tasted like pineapple bun, and a meringue with pork belly and pickled mustard green taste. There’s also a mini egg-waffles (aka gai daan zai) served with green scallions and in a paper bag – that’s one of Chef Alvin’s signature dish and it’s something good to munch on.

The second course came in the form of an old Dr Seuss children book, and inside, a green-colored liquid “century egg”, cured ham, and pickled ginger in meringue and powder form. It’s said to be inspired by the Dr Seuss book “Green Eggs and Ham” – and the funky presentation aside, I actually thought the combination of century egg, pickled ginger and ham was very interesting with the play of salty, creamy and sweet flavor in an exotic sort of way - my only complaint was I wish the century egg flavor was even richer.

Our next two courses featured dishes with similar texture but different presentation. First was what’s described as “Ode to the dragon”, with a croquette of “oyster tofu” served on a plate with the calligraphic Chinese word “Dragon” brushed with black garlic puree as a tribute to Bruce Lee using his favorite food ingredients and his name written. I couldn’t taste much of the oyster sauce nor tofu so to me that’s just a fun dish to look at (but I did like the crispy batter). I felt pretty much the same with the next course, a “typhoon shelter” crab with chili sauce blended into puree and served in a baby food jar – I was a bit put off by the texture to be honest though it’s interesting to have a spoonful or two to taste.

The “Classic Upgrade” was served in a tin can in the design like the classic “Fried Dace with Salted Black Beans” (which was commonly found in local supermarkets and a staple for many households). Here Chef Alvin has given this an “upgrade” (hence the name), using Haida Gwaii Wild Cod from British Columbia (a nod to chef’s another identity being a Canadian), served with black bean miso powder and crispy, dehydrated indian lettuce. I loved the execution using everyday ingredients to the theatrical effect and taste. With a palate cleanser of “mou tai” rice liqueur mixed with calamansi juice and infused with butterfly pea flower color (which resulted in a funky-looking green drink served in a traditional Chinese wine vessel), we were served with yet another seafood dish, with Brittany blue lobster, sea cucumber and sweetbread in chunks in skewers and served in a enamel deep dish lined with parchment paper, the style more commonly found on those old food carts on the street serving marinated vegetarian gluten balls on a skewer. The pungent English-style mustard was the condiment of choice for the street food version of the dish, and here the food was served with a spoonful of English mustard mixed sea urchin puree to bring in a subtle umami taste.

We finished with an off-menu item of chicken rice, prepared in front of us by Chef Alvin himself, with Italian rice mixed with chicken broth reduction, scallions and generous sprinkles of grated dried abalone and sea cucumber on top. They did add to the dish a crunchy flavor but I was expecting a bit more distinct and richer flavor from the abalone. (perhaps mixing in some braised abalone in the rice for some additional texture and taste?) And then there’s a dessert of mango and coconut in various forms, essentially a re-interpretation of the mango and pomelo dessert common in Hong Kong – it was beautifully presented and tasty.

So if you ask me what I thought of the restaurant and the food, my opinion remained the same as in my previous post – it’s definitely not the type of dishes I wanted to have on an everyday basis, but it’s fun and worthwhile to give them a try every now and then and be wowed at some of the dishes that are playful and unique.

(Meal was by invitation, and more photos can be found in my Flickr album:

When? June 12 2018
Where? Bo Innovation X-treme Chinese Cuisine, Shop 8, 1/F The Podium, J Senses, 60 Johnston Road, Wanchai
Menu Highlights?  Back on the Street – Britanny Blue Lobster, Sea Urchin Mustard, Sea Cucumber, Sweetbread

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