Sign o’ the times that the marketing mavens at Restaurant Magazine are launching Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants in Singapore next February. Any chance of an Africa’s 50 Best any time soon? Probably not, as Veuve Clicquot have yet to get around to including the continent among the 17 countries in which they run their Business Woman of the Year Awards. The Widow would not be impressed! Africa seems to have been abandoned by the gods of gastronomy.
Still, it was nice to see Alvin Leung and his Bo Innovation restaurant in Hong Kong storm into the S. Pellegrino Awards at #52. Alvin should adopt Love Shack by the B52s as his theme tune. So is Alvin better than any African chef? He’s certainly a sharper dresser than most.
I dined at Bo last year and was entranced. My thoughts.
The east is nothing if not inscrutable. Take suburbs of Hong Kong as an example. On Hong Kong Island, Wan Chai is a cavern of skyscrapers between Admiralty in the east and Causeway Bay in the west. It was the site of the handover from British rule to China and is home to some of the city’s ritziest hotels.
Chai Wan, on the other hand, is last stop on the Island Metro, a few kilometers to the east of Wan Chai. It’s like Cape Town having two suburbs called Bo Kaap and Kaap Bo. The Bo Kaap has been in the news recently as there is uproar about liquor being served at the Coral Hotel now part of the Hilton chain, with newspapers full of photos of the hotel taken from the stoep of Harley Liquors on Buitengracht.
Chai Wan was formerly six fishing villages: Dai Pin, Sai, Law Uk, Luk Uk, Nam Uk and Sing Uk, a confusion of Uks. Chai Wan is not the location of Bo Innovation, a Michelin one star restaurant where one of Hong Kong’s trendiest chefs, Alvin Leung, practices extreme Chinese cuisine as I found out from an exasperated taxi driver.
The Bo in Bo Innovation clearly has nothing to do with the Bo Kaap as the restaurant boasts an extensive wine list. Just about the cheapest thing on it is a bottle of “Bo”-llinger Champagne at HK$750 (R660) – cheaper than you can buy it retail in SA.
Drappier 2005 is even cheaper at HK$580 – R500 for a vintage bubbly in the world’s 64th best restaurant according to San Pellegrino mineral water, who know about these things. To put this in perspective, when top Champagne executive Daniel Lorson was in Johannesburg earlier this year he paid R560 for a glass of non-vintage French fizz in a restaurant. Top of the line Drappier, the Carte d’Or, is served in first class on Japan Airlines which is a serious recommendation as Asian airlines understand luxury.
Bo lists no SA reds but does include three whites: Meerendal Chenin 2007 (HK$600), Mul-derbosch (their hyphenation) Chardonnay 2008 (HK$580) and Groot Constantia Sauvignon Blanc 2008 (HK$430). Which turns SA pricing on its head when Chenin Blanc is more expensive than vintage French Champagne and Chardonnay – especially a heavy hitter like Mul-derbosch.
So what is extreme Chinese cuisine? A set lunch of two starters, a main plus dessert sends you into agonies of indecision. Should it be tiny cannellonis covered in melted yak’s cheese, a single fat dim sum stuffed with foie gras, a solitary quivering globule of reduced pork essence, risotto made from cauliflower and black truffle…
Or perhaps Iberian ham aged for 36 months served with a gazpacho foam or a deep fried cuttlefish ball? I opted for the slow cooked suckling pig with an egg and Chinese vinegar as main and a dessert du jour – a trio of sorbets with ferociously exotic flavours such as guava with Chinese rose wine. All this for HK$ 228 – less than R200. It’s almost worth flying to Hong Kong for lunch at these prices.