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Bo Innovation - do people seriously rate this?

TomEatsHK Nov 15, 2010 10:10 PM

So I finally made it to Bo Innovation (kindly accompanied by e_ting) and as the weeks have gone on since I ate there I find myself increasingly incredulous that people actually rate the place.

Our meal, with just a couple of glasses of wine and entry level menus, cost 1,500hkd per person. I would have, perhaps, been satisfied if it had cost 750hkd per person and I could say that it was just some experimental attempt by an up and coming chef (as per Le Chateaubriand in Paris). But... this is by an internationally known chef who is held in high esteme in HK charging over the top prices.

None of the courses were surprising or innovative. Some were straight rip offs from dishes pioneered by Ferran Adria many many many years ago. Only the dessert was actually enjoyable. Other dishes led to fits of coughing, disappointed poking and indifference.

Why oh why is this a recommended restaurant.? I haven't felt so cheated in recent history since I went to Zuma for lunch. Amber, though expensive, at least shows some interesting moments and everything is enjoyable/ edible.

Is there anywhere actually good in HK for molecular gastronomy? I've looked at the Krug Room but those prices seem even more over the top and I now harbour a deep suspicion of potential failures in this area. I am tempted just to save up and leave this type of food to the Spanish (and the odd Englisher interloper) when I go back to Europe.

Tom

PS if you want to see some pretty pics here is my post on the meal http://bit.ly/bQ49OX

  1. a
    Asomaniac Nov 15, 2010 10:15 PM

    THANK YOU!

    Bo Innovation was the most overrated, overpriced and underwhelming two Michelin star restaurant I have ever been to. Glad to hear I (and my dining companion that day) am not the only one to think so.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Asomaniac
      TomEatsHK Nov 15, 2010 10:54 PM

      Well don't worry, it is still a massive missfire!

      Though they are no down to 1 star. Just one more to go and a halving of prices and it might be ok

      1. re: TomEatsHK
        Charles Yu Nov 16, 2010 05:47 AM

        Though people have mixed opinion about Michelin's rating, I do find it extremely useful in helping me to avoid potential 'land mines' Their star demotion of restaurants do reflect the going downhill of those establishments. Bo innovation is such one example. The others which I found to be pretty accurate reporting are L'Esperance and La Tour d'Argent of France. On the other hand, new members to the star club or promotion are pretty good indicator of restaurants on the rise. I particularly liked to pick candidates with an uptrend to try, especially the 2*s before they ultimately receive their 3rd and start charging sky high prices!

        1. re: Charles Yu
          FourSeasons Nov 16, 2010 07:51 AM

          My experience was actually pretty good at Bo Innovation. I think that was 2 years ago pre-Michelin era before it was awarded 2 stars: I picked the most expensive menu (that was linked to a UN charity promotion); 4-5 dishes were outstanding. Alvin Leung was there cooking on that evening unlike the OP's experience on his blog that he is hardly there now. Perhaps his absence explained why it had gone downhill.

      2. re: Asomaniac
        k
        klyeoh Nov 16, 2010 05:37 AM

        Totally agree - it's a travesty that in a city replete with dozens upon dozens of great Cantonese restaurants, the Michelin inspectors chose to bestow its stars on a flashy avant-garde eatery.

      3. m
        modernleifeng Nov 16, 2010 08:42 AM

        I've been to Bo twice, the last was about a year ago (both times Alvin was there), and both times the experience was good. I agree that the techniques aren't innovative, nothing done at Bo is completely new, but nobody else is taking Chinese food molecular and its one of the few spots in HK using this style. Okay, the xiaolongbao copies Adria, but its an amazing dish. The meal did have a few too many misses considering the price, but there were also some really excellent courses.

        23 Replies
        1. re: modernleifeng
          TomEatsHK Nov 16, 2010 03:44 PM

          I am very curious to as and when Alvin returns to the kitchen from doing 'performances' and whether it makes a change.

          The rumour in London (on the basis that he cooked for a series of bloggers and told them so) is that he is opening in London. If so I would guess Bo Innovation HK will remain the forgotten understudy. I have to say I am slightly surprised Alvin hasn't gone to China (like Jason Atherton) before going to London as it would seem that he could do well in the Shanghai dining scene.

          Charles I definitely agree with you on the Michelin upward or downward trend. I am finding as I am new to Asia Michelin stars are a useful orientation tool as well. That said, in Europe when chefs drop stars it often spurs them onwards and upwards again (Gordon Ramsay at Claridges was a particularly good place to visit just after they lost the star for example). Here there was no apparent effort by Alvin.

          Modernleifeng - point taken on molecular gastronomy and Alvin being one of the sole proponents but I still think (and this style of cooking beyond all) that the food still has to work underneath all the techniques. One of my big outstanding questions is whether there is anywhere else to get good molecular cuisine in HK.

          There has been a ringing silence to my question about the Krug Room and searches here have turned up so so reviews which leaves me dis-inclined to try it!

          Tom

          1. re: TomEatsHK
            Charles Yu Nov 16, 2010 04:47 PM

            I believe fellow 'ex-chowhounder' Peech had a pretty nice experience there a while back.

            1. re: Charles Yu
              TomEatsHK Nov 16, 2010 05:08 PM

              Charles - just checking but you are referring to Krug Room re Peech? Interesting to hear so. I actually had a look on his blog to see whether he had been there before writing this post (and to see his thoughts on Bo) but he hasn't posted about the Krug Room.

              I also enjoyed his reviews on Bo. He had good experiences there. From what I can gather there has been (i) a downward trend (ii) little new innovation since it began. Perhaps it is indeed time for a revamp.

              1. re: TomEatsHK
                FourSeasons Nov 16, 2010 06:04 PM

                TomsEatsHK:

                Unfortunately, Peech has "retired" from the Chowhound community ever since the moderators upset him sometime ago. He gave good reviews on both Krug Room and Bo.

            2. re: TomEatsHK
              Charles Yu Nov 16, 2010 05:23 PM

              Question??!! - Which restaurants in Hong Kong in your opinion is on a Michelin star 'uptrend'??!
              I recall hearing fellow chowhounder Fourseason telling his lucky experience of going through the Michelin uptrends of Tokyo's sushi restaurants like Saito and Sawada. To be able to eat potential 3* food at 1* pricing was such an adventure and joy!
              In my case, I was fortunate to catch the uptrend of Caprice eating there when pricing was a 2* but the food is definitely 3*.
              However, my most fortunate experience was trying out the restaurant of a young chef after it was mentioned with rave enthusiasm by food critics of both Paris Figaro and Le Monde. Every time I ate there, he had a star promotion afterwards! Ha!! From no star to the ultimate three stars! His name Alan Passard of L'Arpege!!
              On the other hand, not realising the restaurant was on the verge of losing a star, I spend mega-bucks eating a totally under-whelming meal at Jung's Le Crocodile in Strasbourg.
              Oh well, in this Michelin roulette, you win some, you lose some!!

              1. re: Charles Yu
                FourSeasons Nov 16, 2010 06:08 PM

                Charles:

                I would not want to trust Michelin Guide on both uptrend or downtrend on the dining scene in Hong Kong, especially on Cantonese food. To me, they cater completely to the tourists and Western expatriates market; the Guide completely does not understand how the locals and Chinese appreciate Cantonese or other Chinese food. Many of my favorites actually do not appear at Michelin at all, and many of their all stars list (including the lone 3 stars) failed me.

                1. re: FourSeasons
                  TomEatsHK Nov 16, 2010 08:25 PM

                  I think after my first meal in Hong Kong (at Yung Kee - really not impressive) I decided to take Michelin stars with a pinch of salt over here.

                  One thing which is evident given that the list features a lot of Western names is that it is Western/ expat focused. I've enjoyed my meals at Fu Sing more than LKH for example. Still, what does one expect from a guide originally aimed at French eaters.

                  That said, if you want Michelin stars (by which I mean food and decor) I don't think it is terrible. It is just that they don't seem to catch the "Asian" experience of food fully as the French idea of good dining (white tableclothes) slightly passes in the night by the "Asian" experience of dining (the food, forget the service).

                  Obviously v over generalised but I do find some of my best meals in HK have come with service which is... well... incredible (in a bad way)

                  1. re: TomEatsHK
                    t
                    tkamp Nov 17, 2010 02:31 PM

                    I went to Bo Innovation once right after it got 2 stars and I liked it, but after that I have only been hearing bad news and it indeed showed in its next years rating. So I guess it may now even lose its 1 star in the next edition?

                    I am ok with Michelin having a Western focus on the restaurants in Asia, but I think a 3 star restaurant in Asia should be as good as a 3 star restaurant in Europe. The biggest problem being that none of the restaurants in Asia for me so far have been "exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey".

                    1. re: tkamp
                      Charles Yu Nov 17, 2010 02:40 PM

                      Not even the ones in Tokyo, Osaka, kyoto...??!!
                      I found the 'food' in some of Tokyo's 'western cuisine' restaurants AMAZING!! Casing point, I had better tasting pasta dishes in Tokyo than I did in Italy's Tuscany, Piedmont and Umbria!!

                      1. re: tkamp
                        k
                        klyeoh Nov 17, 2010 04:48 PM

                        tkamp: Maybe, like Charles Yu has inferred, you should try Japan's top tier restaurants - they are quite good. The ones serving Japanese haute cuisine should impress you.

                        I've only known pre-Michelin Tokyo/Osaka, but many very good restaurants I'd tried there never even got featured in the Michelin guides to Tokyo and Osaka/Kyoto/Kobe when they were published. So I think there'll be lots of hidden gems waiting to be discovered.

                        I know what you meant by "I am ok with Michelin having a Western focus on the restaurants in Asia, but I think a 3 star restaurant in Asia should be as good as a 3 star restaurant in Europe." - many French-style fine dining restaurants in Asia seemed content to follow the trends in Europe, rather than finding their own styles or innovate.

                        1. re: klyeoh
                          t
                          tkamp Nov 17, 2010 07:26 PM

                          I like Tokyo. Let there be no misunderstanding about that. I think the place looks very much like Brussels. And let Brussels in my point of view be the culinary capital of the world. But I was already warned that in order to eat good Japanese food, there is no need to go to Japan. Then as far as I have been to Michelin star restaurants in Tokyo (Chez Tomo and L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon) they could very well do with one star less! To make a long story short I think the place is extremely overrated.

                          1. re: tkamp
                            skylineR33 Nov 17, 2010 07:46 PM

                            But if you want great Japanese food, you need to go to Japan. So you have not been to any 3 star in Tokyo. No wonder you have your problem. BTW, yeah, for "Western cuisine", it is better to stick with Europe. For Chinese food, it is better to stick with China, common sense. And in general, Michelin is considered crap by many people outside Europe.

                            1. re: tkamp
                              u
                              Uncle Yabai Nov 17, 2010 09:09 PM

                              You can have good Japanese food outside of Japan, in some places. For great Japanese food, only Japan will do, sorry. If your experience of Western food in Japan is Chez Tomo and L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon, I can see why you may think Tokyo is overrated. In your case, it isn't Tokyo, its the places you're going to that are overrated. L'Atelier is definitely overrated, and no more than a chain in my mind. Some outstanding Western restaurants in Tokyo that will give anything in Paris, London, and New York a run for the money, and more. You just haven't been to them, it seems. Keep trying.

                              1. re: Uncle Yabai
                                TomEatsHK Nov 18, 2010 01:12 AM

                                Well on the 3* Michelin topic, I finally ate at Caprice today for lunch and it was a solid, excellent, French worthy meal.

                                Quite frankly I would say that woudl be 3* in Paris (though with slightly toned down decor).

                              2. re: tkamp
                                Charles Yu Nov 18, 2010 05:33 AM

                                L'Atelier is L'Atelier is L'Atelier be it Hong Kong, Tokyo, NYC,.....etc. Similar food and decor worldwide! 1* - 2* depending on how many and how symmetrical the dots on the plates are??!!
                                I don't think the 1* Chez Tomo is a good representation of how great French/Italian and Spanish cuisine can be in Tokyo!! Next time try giving the 3* Quintessence a try! May be that will change your mind!
                                BTW, there are tons of overrated 3* in Europe as well! Gordon Ramsay in my book is one!!

                                1. re: Charles Yu
                                  k
                                  klyeoh Nov 18, 2010 06:32 AM

                                  Gordon Ramsay's over-stretched himself - he seems to be everywhere. His namesake restaurant at the Royal Hospital Road, Chelsea (where Pierre Koffmann's Le Tante Claire used to be) was quite good, but I was warned off the one at Claridges. I still thought the best pizza I'd ever had anywhere was from his restaurant at the Conrad Tokyo.

                                  Ironically, his TV program, "The F Word" which pits the top 2 restaurant chefs in Britain each type of cuisine(French, Italian, Indian, Chinese, etc) is really doing a favour for all those unsung heroes of the British culinary world. One example is Eric Guignard of the French Table in Surbiton - he was one of the 2 finalists in the French category. He didn't win the challenge - but believe me, go & eat in his restaurant in Surbiton, it'll be one of the BEST French experiences you'll ever have - inside or outside of France.

                                  1. re: klyeoh
                                    Charles Yu Nov 18, 2010 03:49 PM

                                    klyeoh! My friend, chatting with you ALWAYS bring back fond memories!! You are bringing nostalgic tears to my eyes again!!
                                    Surbiton!! Man! that place was just a stone throw away from my home in Worchester Park!! That was years ago, when I was working in London!! Unfortunately, when I was residing there, there was NOTHING worth eating in the vicinity!! Now! restaurant with best French experience outside of France opening up near by??! Wow!!
                                    For me, those days, eating out was almost always train to Waterloo station and then Northern line to Leicester Square for Chinses food in Chinatown!! Ha! Cantonese roast duck at Lee Ho Fook? Remember?
                                    Wonder where in London does Alvin planning to open up his Bo UK? Next to 'Wong Kee' in Soho?! Ha!!

                                    1. re: Charles Yu
                                      u
                                      Uncle Yabai Nov 18, 2010 04:06 PM

                                      Lee Ho Fook? Are you by any chance a werewolf of London?

                                      1. re: Uncle Yabai
                                        Charles Yu Nov 18, 2010 04:34 PM

                                        No! But I am `Charles the food ripper`!! Ha!!

                                      2. re: Charles Yu
                                        k
                                        klyeoh Nov 18, 2010 08:07 PM

                                        Charles, of course Lee Ho Fook holds a lot of old memories for me - probably one of the best-known restaurants in Chinatown for decades (though my family preferred Fung Shing on Lisle Street for its Toishan dishes & crispy duck, and New Mayflower on Shaftesbury Ave for its lobster noodles).

                                        But during my last trip to London a year ago, I went down to Chinatown & found out - horror of horrors - Lee Ho Fook's closed! It's gone. In its place stood a Northern Chinese restaurant called Dumplings Legend, selling la mian & xiao long bao.

                                        1. re: klyeoh
                                          u
                                          Uncle Yabai Nov 18, 2010 08:18 PM

                                          That's too bad. Now the werewolves will have to be searching for that big dish of beef chow mein for the rest of eternity.

                                          1. re: Uncle Yabai
                                            k
                                            klyeoh Nov 18, 2010 08:31 PM

                                            LOL! Picture of the old restaurant and also Warren Zevon's music video here:

                                            http://aroundtheworldtoday.wordpress....

                                      3. re: klyeoh
                                        j
                                        JamTam Dec 1, 2010 04:52 PM

                                        The French Table is brilliant, and deserves that review. Definitely worth anyone's time to visit.

                    2. e
                      Elgreenholio Nov 20, 2010 05:40 AM

                      I ate at Bo earlier this year and thought it was great. Alvin was in attendance and running the kitchen. Interesting, tasty, fun food.

                      My experience of fine dining is pretty limited but I had a good night there.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Elgreenholio
                        M_Gomez Nov 21, 2010 07:26 AM

                        I think that's the most important thing - that you have a good time there.

                      2. HKTraveler Nov 22, 2010 01:11 AM

                        Have been to Bo Innovation probably like 10 times over the years and while it does have its off nights, I have always enjoyed the experiences. Some of their dishes are also very memorable like the hairy crab souffle, salty lemon ice cream, lap mei fan ice cream ..... I haven't had a chance to go back for at least a year now and would be sad to see that the food has deteriorated so much. Was Alvin in the kitchen when you were there? In any event, I think Bo is a restaurant which is better enjoyed by those who are familiar with Cantonese food and certainly not a restaurant for everyone.

                        As for the Krug room, I have tried it once and enjoyed the experience as well. But I much prefer Bo Innovation given the incorporation of Chinese food ingredients and concepts. The only dish I really liked was the dessert. But other than that, the dishes at Krug were interesting to look at (and definitely better presentation than Bo) but average in taste.

                        While many of the techniques are obviously copied, what makes it special is the incorporation of Chinese ingredients and that is already innovative enough for me.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: HKTraveler
                          M_Gomez Nov 22, 2010 02:08 AM

                          I think the poster did mention in his personal blog that Alvin was away.

                          1. re: M_Gomez
                            TomEatsHK Nov 30, 2010 12:31 AM

                            Sorry for the slow reply, been back in London eating a lot. But yes Alvin Leung was away and according to the front of house was expected to be so for a couple of months. Rather unimpressive if when away the food quality deteroriates.

                            I wouldn't say I am an expert with Cantonese food but after having lived in HK for 5 months am, by now, familar with it. That said on the dishes I tried familarity wouldn't have added much. A rich roe laden crab is a rich roe laden crab and a souffle which has the consistency of a mousse is obviously pre-prepared. Other dishes may have used types of Chinese vinegar or operated by reference to principles in Chinese food (yin/ yang etc) but were just plain unimpressive.

                            By reference to the best meal I had in London (the Ledbury) last week it was all the more a disgrace. The Ledbury showed real innovation (drawing on Japanese, Korean, Spanish, and Peruvian techniques) but served joyous food.

                            I think one of the greatest problems with Bo Innovation was that so much of it was prepped long before without the joy, freshness or immediacy of fresh cooking. A bit of off tasting ginger liquid nitrogen-ised ice cream didn't change that.

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