I'm not a sciencey kinda gal; I majored in English so that I could get out of having to take any courses having to do with labs, chemicals, or mechanized doodads. Still, I love creative approaches to food, so I'm rather intrigued by the idea of chefs working at the frontiers of science and haute cuisine. So when I saw a segment on Chef Alvin Leung and his restaurant Bo Innovation in the Hong Kong episode of "No Reservations," I was pretty curious about his effort to bring molecular gastronomy to Chinese cuisine.
|Molecular "xiao long bao" at Bo Innovation.|
What finally got me beyond mere curiosity to actually making a reservation was finding out that the restaurant has a (somewhat) affordable set lunch for HK$228 (about US$30) per person. The lunch includes a choice of two "dim sum" or "classic 'bo' dishes," an entree, a starch, and a dessert. No way you'd ever find this at El Bulli or wd~50!
|My sister, the gourmand, is not too impressed with the mosaic'd chef.|
|The open kitchen, with Chef Leung at work on the right.|
|The unique table setting.|
We began with the black truffle cheung fun, which is an homage to the rice flour rolls that are ubiquitous at dim sum places. While the preparation was not that different from regular cheung fun, the black truffle gave it a rich, umami taste that was really yummy. I could have eaten the whole plate of these.
My sister and I then sampled the famous "molecular xiao long bao," which is Leung's take on Adria Ferran's olive jellies. Although the spherical shape on the spoon looked nothing like the classic soup dumpling, when you put it into your mouth, the ball explodes with the taste of xiao long bao. The red strip on top of the ball is a strip of ginger that has been soaked in red vinegar; the taste mimics the vinegar and ginger condiment that is usually served with soup dumplings. It was, in a word, awesome.
Next came "har gow" -- the classic shrimp dumpling -- with black truffle. Truffle is truffle, so I enjoyed the dish. But I didn't find it very memorable or creative.
I also liked the spring roll, which was filled with chicken, bamboo shoots, and pesto. Again, not particularly innovative, but still very tasty and a good fusion of East and West.
Same goes for the cuttlefish ball with kaffir lime sauce. Not unique or memorable, but really good. The salt-and-pepper-flavored cuttlefish ball had a snappy bite to it, as all good meat balls should. And the kaffir lime cream complemented the savoriness of the cuttlefish.
I was less impressed with the final dim sum offering, a cod ball with morel and EVOO. The flavors were fine, but I didn't like the texture of the steamed fish. It was mushy and dense, like eating polenta that's been sitting out too long.
Next came the entrees. My mom ordered the "slow-cooked suckling pig, with Chinese vinegar and egg." I loved the fact that it arrived in a rustic clay pot. And my mom enjoyed the taste of it, which is reminiscent of the traditional Cantonese dish of stewed pigs feet with red vinegar.
The dish was also gorgeous to look at, even if foam is oh-so-very 2007.
Accompanying the main courses was a Westernized version of yang chow fried rice that used a long-grained rice pilaf as the base. It was decent, albeit not very exciting.