Dining Under the Demon Chef’s Watchful Eye at Hong Kong’s Bo Innovation

On July 3, 2012, Andrew took me out for a date at Bo Innovation, Hong Kong.

I’m inspired to tell the tale right now, because we just finished watching some MasterChef Canada episodes we’d PVR’d.  Really the main reason we watch is to see Chef Alvin Leung… otherwise known as the (self-proclaimed) Demon Chef.   Bo Innovation is his 3-Michelin starred restaurant, which Anthony Bourdain had inspired us to visit.

Back in 2012, Chef Leung was not yet on MasterChef Canada, so I only knew of him from that episode with Bourdain… and I thought he seemed insane.  But, I was super-curious.  In my experience, dining at a Michelin-starred restaurant is never a bad idea if you have the opportunity.  Also, at the time, Bo Innovation was ranked #52 best in the world… #15 in Asia.

And so there we found ourselves, savouring one of the very best meals of our lives.  We chose the “chef’s menu”.  Here’s what we dined on that evening:

OYSTER: spring onion, lime, ginger ice, seaweed

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SABA: sesame, ponzu cloud, ginger, parfum de hong kong

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FOIE GRAS: “mui choy”

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The foie gras: my favourite dish of the evening… according to my journal, the best thing I’d ever eaten in my life (up until that point).

HAR MI: “lo mein”, chili, kaniko

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TOMATO: pat chun vinegar, fermented chinese olives “lam kok”

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Andrew has been mistaken for a food critic before.  I can see why.

MOLECULAR: “xiao long bao”

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Andrew’s review: “A molecular gastronomy version of a xiaolongbao dumpling.  A brief, but amazing, blast of flavour.”

LOBSTER: star anise butter, corn, chanterelles

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BUBBLE TEA: mango, hawthorn, chili

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The mango and hawthorn were cool and sweet… the chili heat at the end was fantastic.

ORGANIC “LONG KIANG” CHICKEN: baby carrot, charred spring onion, pencil asparagus, sand ginger cream, 7 years aged acquerello rice, yellow chicken stock

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I still remember that rice.  It was exquisite.

MEMORIES OF CHA CHIAN TENG: french toast, condensed milk, peanut butter and jam, corn syrup, ying yang

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Deconstructed PB&J French toast = Erin utterly in love.

SANDALWOOD: chinese almonds, mandarin, ginger

PETITE DIM-SUM: eight – treasure

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Eight different tiny desserts, including coconut panna cotta, chrysanthemum steamed cake, and rose macaron.  I could sing sonnets about that macaron.

So, I’m not sure if you watched that Bourdain episode wherein he dines at Bo Innovation and chats with the Demon Chef… but if you have… and if you haven’t seen Alvin Leung all smiling and encouraging on MasterChef Canada… then you might feel as weirded out as I did when I turned around and realized he was standing there, just right there, not that far from us… seemingly watching us.  But maybe not watching us.  I have no idea.  I mean, he was wearing sunglasses.  Inside.  At night.  So… that was odd.

I leaned forward and whispered to Andrew, “I’m pretty sure the chef is insane!”

“He can hear you!” Andrew responded, barely moving his mouth.  “Now is not the time to discuss this!”

And… maybe he was watching us.  I mean, why wouldn’t he?  We’re clearly out of our element, being all painfully super-polite.  I had no idea he was partially Canadian-raised at the time… so maybe he was simply recognizing our awkwardly polite mannerisms as the custom of the land he had been raised in.  (Yay Canada!)

Also… I suck at understanding accents.  We once ate at some place in Fargo, and I couldn’t for the life of me understand what our server was saying to us.  True story.  Fargo isn’t even that far from where we live.  I’m just an idiot at understanding people.  So, it was quite agonizing for me when the servers at Bo Innovation would stand there and explain every dish to us.  Two gentlemen would alternate — one I could understand just fine, but the other fellow… I just could not figure out anything he was saying to us.  I felt like the worst fool.  I tried my level best to pretend I was totally catching everything he was saying, and I tried very hard to respond to what I perceived to be questions… and I’m sure I made a complete ass of myself in my efforts.

If the other diners that night noticed as at all, they must’ve thought we were fairly amusing.  I mean, I’ve noticed that most other people dining at Michelin-starred restaurants will actually completely ignore their servers.  I’ve watched people be huge assholes to these people.  What happens to a person’s mind that makes them think that’s okay?  I know I make an idiot out of myself in my fumbling to be as polite as possible… but honestly I wouldn’t have it any other way.  No way in hell would I ignore someone struggling to explain the vision or intention of a dish to me.

Anyway!  I felt pretty out of my league dining at Bo Innovation… but I almost feel like it wakes me up, and makes the experience all the more vivid for me.  I found it all so dazzling.  I’m definitely a fan of high-level molecular gastronomy… and of Alvin Leung.

And THAT is why we watch him on MasterChef Canada.

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