Tag Archives: Bo Innovation

Lûmé, Melbourne

P1170475Chef: Shaun Quade & John P. Fiechtner    Website: www.restaurantlume.com   Cuisine: Modern Australian

Amidst all the excitement and hullabaloo that surrounded the Fat Duck’s short stint in Melbourne, it wasn’t until they closed their curtain in August that I realised that a team of three talented individuals were quietly embarking on establishing a world class restaurant in South Melbourne! Ambitious you may say, but their credentials speak for themselves. Collectively they’ve worked across a number of top fine dining establishments like Bo Innovation, Chateaubriand and Royal Mail.  They looked pretty serious on paper, so naturally I had to put it to test. After all, how many restaurants in Australia can boast a generous and constant supply of wine from AP Birk’s Wendouree Wine cellar?

P1170388The history of the premises is rich and colourful. It used to be a bordello before the Bohemia Cabaret Club and, I believe, an Indian restaurant moved in at the same time. There has certainly been a big transformation. From the street however it is still very unassuming and one would be forgiven for walking past it without batting an eye lid. The interior of the restaurant is a whole different story with a relaxed but stylish designer feel. The atrium space they created at the back of the restaurant was a wonderful surprise. Covered with a retractable glass roof, it was a well of beautiful light, with green vertical walls creating a peaceful oasis. I normally like sitting in front of the kitchen and the pass, but given the glorious weather we had on Grand Final weekend, I was very happy to be soaking up the sunlight for the four hour experience we embarked on.

P1170389 The choice was pretty simple. The formal end of the dining room at the back only served one tasting menu consisting of 15 courses, with an option to match each course with a splash of alcoholic beverage cleverly chosen by Sommelier Sally Humble. I opted for the full matching option, particularly after I was advised the beverage options were diverse and not only confined to wine.

We were initially worried as this was our first fine dining experience in Australia with our 10 month old daughter but the staff were ever so accommodating (this was a nice change from Vue de Monde, who had previously flatly refused to accept a friends very food literate 8 month old daughter!!). We did promise them that she was well versed in fine dining. After all, she had already survived a number of Michelin starred meals in France!

P1170397 First course – Warm buttered dough with a burnt and sour crust. The texture was quite similar to that of a brioche; fluffy, moist and pleasant. However, I felt the flavour was one-dimensional despite the burnt and sour crust purée, and it could have benefited from a stronger contrasting flavour to the dough.

P1170398A splash of NV Larmandier-Bernier ‘Latitude’, Blanc de blanc, Vertus, France to accompany the first course. P1170399 Second Course – Rare roasted quince with notes of chamomile and honey, duck liver and nasturtiums served with Georg Breuer Auselese Riesling, Rheingau, 2013. This was a rather deceiving dish as the juicy looking slices of duck liver turned out to be roasted quince. It had been cooked in butter and sage, and was served with a a very rich duck liver parfait, dollops of honey and chamomile. I thought it was a very clever use of texture and flavours.

P1170406A glass of Maidenii ‘classic’ to go with the next course. We were told that the Maidenii Vermouth was a collaboration between French wine maker Gilles Lapalus and Australian bartender Shaun Byrne. It was what they thought was the ‘perfect’ vermouth. It was certainly not bad at all… although I’m not a big vermouth drinker so I am probably not the best person to judge!P1170409 Third Course – Native bird dressed with white soy and hibiscus. The bird of choice here was an emu that had been air dried, cured in sour cherry and hung for six weeks. It was dusted with a sweet white miso powder, tangy hibiscus drops and chewy dried native berries. One thing I would have appreciated here was a wet towel afterwards, as it was nigh on impossible to avoid having sticky fingers!

P1170413Fourth Course – Pearl on the ocean floor paired with a Uehara Shuzō ‘Soma no Tengu’ 2012, Usunigori (shaken to serve). This was a mouthful of the ocean and I mean that in a good way. The little cold ball was recommended to be consumed first to clean the palate and enjoy the flavour of the oyster which was hidden underneath the sea lettuce and other succulents. The glass of sake was ever so perfect to wash the salty flavour down.P1170420 Fifth course – Scallop dressed with Jamon, dashi, honeydew and roe served with Naka Shuzo ‘Asahi Wakamatsu’ 2008, Tokushima, Japan. Another delicious dish, and one of my favourites of the day, again with flavours of the ocean, drawing out the umami with the jamon, dashi and roe. The honeydew was texturally pleasant but perhaps the sweetness of the scallop was slightly overshadowed by the natural fructose. The jamon and scallop was a classic match made in heaven.

P1170425Sixth course – Saltbush lamb perfumed with cherry wood ash, macadamia cream and rhubarb paired with a 2012 Passopisciaro, Nerello Mascalese, Terre Siciliane, Sicily. This was another one of my favourite course. The lamb was perfectly executed, with a just a hint of smokiness, and was served on a creamy bed of macadamia purée. The slightly tart rhubarb cut through the rich and salty lamb well.P1170428Seventh course – Jerusalem artichoke, La Sirene Parline and quince peelings paired with a Maidenii ‘dry’. I appreciated the jerusalem artichoke was cooked in a salt crust. However, despite best efforts to follow the instruction to not eat the salt crust, I did find the course just a bit too salty for my liking. I did however enjoy the texture which was not too dissimilar from a baked potato; soft and creamy.P1170435 Eighth course – Sea corn and dairy cow paired with 2014 Sentio, Beechworth Chardonnay, Beechworth, Australia. Possibly another contender as the best dish of the meal and yet another visual trick. The ‘baby corn’ on the plate was actually crab that had been skillfully converted into a custard that was set in a baby corn mould. What appeared to be crab meat was actually salted cow udder that had been shredded and blowtorched. In fact the only true corn element on this dish was the crunchy fried corn silk. That’s right, even the crisp on top was made from polenta, not corn, though it tasted like corn. Whilst this may sound all gimmicky, trust me the flavours and textures really worked.

P1170439 Ninth course – Raw barbequed prawn paired with Holgate Road Trip IPA, Wood End, Victoria, Australia. I was settling down my daughter to sleep at this stage and missed out on the introduction to the course as we explored the internal vertical herb garden, so many apologies for my lack of detail. What I did however enjoy was the marriage of the sweet raw prawn and the cold malt like granita that went down ever so well with the hoppy beer.

P1170442 Tenth course – Hen cooked in chamomile, acidulated wild violets and salted yolk paired with Nakano ‘BC Chokyu’ 1999 Koshu, Aichi, Japan. Possibly the best chicken course I’ve had in Australia, cooked sous-vide in chamomile and served with a caramel-like salt cured yolk that just melted on the tongue. I’m still not decided on the pennyroyal juice as it had a hint of medicinal after taste but it didn’t distract the dish itself. Simple but perfectly executed.

P1170451 Eleventh course – Cauliflower cheese with a pastry smoked over pear wood paired with 2013 Heidenboden White, Claus Preisinger, Burgenland, Austria. One last illusory trick with what looked like a convincing washed-rind cheese turning out to be a rich cauliflower purée with parmesan oil served with a croissant. I liked the concept but did think the portion could have been smaller as I was over the cauliflower flavour as I scooped the last morsel on the croissant. The croissant was beautifully buttery and a delight to eat.

P1170456 Twelfth course – Lambs blood ganache rolled in maple oats, native apple jam and riberry pepper paired with Custard & Co. Barrel Cider liquor 13 years old, Donnybrook, Western Australia. Come again? Yes that’s right, lamb’s blood. Nothing was out of bound and I liked the fact that the chefs were happy to push the culinary boundary here. The dish represented a transition from the savoury to sweet courses, where black pudding met apple crumble. I thought the textures were pleasant from the crunchy maple oats to the candied apples.

P1170460Thirteenth course – Liquorice, violence and lime. A very pleasant palate cleanser and despite not being the biggest fan of liquorice I thought it worked well. The liquorice flavour was ever so light and the refreshing note of lime was key here.P1170465 Fourteenth course – Jerusalem artichoke, La Sirene Praline and quince peelings paired with a local stout brewed with vanilla, hazelnuts and Mexican cacao charged with a splash of Romate Iberia Cream Sherry, Jerez, Spain. This was a very brave dish as the penultimate course… and I absolutely loved it. The ice cream was made from a local stout brewed with vanilla pods, hazel nuts and cacao nibs. It was gooey, rich and a novel flavour combination.

P1170470Fifteenth course – Cacao pod from Maralumi with notes of tobacco, green banana and currants paired with 2014 Simão & Co, Alpine Valley, Victoria, Australia. Our waiter proceeded to assemble the last course by placing what appeared to be vanilla beans, ice cream and a large cocoa pod made of chocolate on the plate in front of us. P1170473The chocolate pod was smashed to reveal several goodies including currant jellies, tobacco wizz fizz, orange crema catalana and Granny Smith apples compressed in strawberry syrup and absinthe. The “vanilla pod” underneath was my favourite item as it was actually vanilla poached rhubarb juxtaposing tart and sweet flavours as you chewed it. The whole dish was quite a show stopper.

It would be premature for me to say that Lûmé will become a culinary destination but it certainly shows great promise. The chefs are talented and their creative dishes do not compromise on flavour. What’s more, the price is very reasonable compared to other fine dining establishments in Melbourne producing similar caliber dishes. The staff are equally knowledgeable and enthusiastic as the front of house at Attica. Only time will tell if they can continue on this trajectory. I for one am glad they are only ten minutes away from my new home.

Bo Innovation, Hong Kong

431693735_bo_interiors_06_udenChef: Alvin Leung         Website: www.boinnovation.com          Cuisine: Molecular Chinese

Little introduction is needed to Alvin Leung and his ‘X-Treme’ Chinese cuisine at his two Michelin starred restaurant, Bo Innovation, in Hong Kong. Leung is known for being one of only handful of chefs in Asia who looked to molecular cuisine, when it was starting to take off in the west, and applied its technique to their local cuisine. I’ve had my fair share of good Chinese food throughout my childhood having lived in Hong Kong and Singapore for a good part of my youth. I had also discovered molecular cuisine through elBulli and the Fat Duck. I must admit, however, that I lacked the imagination to envisage what the culmination of the combined elements would look like. More importantly, I wondered whether it would be another case of style over substance, compromising the all important taste.


Following a swift journey to my hotel from the airport, I immediately set off for my old neighborhood of Wan Chai. Despite my previous knowledge of Hong Kong, I had some difficulty in locating the restaurant. Luckily, I managed to get some help from a local and, after a brisk walk to a side street and up an inconspicuous lift, I was finally there! I must confess by the time I found my way I was a little flustered. I would therefore advise most people to take a cab. On entering the lift, and after having caught my breath, I left behind the hustle and bustle of the city. I was fortunate enough to have been one of only three people occupying the Chef’s Table that evening, which normally had enough room and space for six. I assume it was a last minute cancellation as the place was packed all night!P1120971As the sommelier poured my glass of champagne, one of the chef’s behind the counter explained to me that bread was not typically served with a Chinese meal. I frowned a bit, I am a bit partial to bread, but before I could interrupt they offered one of Hong Kong’s iconic street foods, “egg waffles”, as a substitute. Of course, this was not an ordinary egg waffle. This one contained Iberico ham and English custard. The sweetness of the dough married well with the salty Iberico ham and it was difficult to set them aside to avoid filling my stomach before the meal.

P1120976Almost immediately after the explanation, a beautiful vessel containing the amuse bouche of a Maotai (local Chinese liquor) sour was brought over to me. This particular one was made from Kweichow Maotai, one of the most revered of its kind where the tastes were reminiscent of pear, walnut and almond. The addition of the lime, egg white and grenadine made this an extremely refreshing palate cleanser.

P1120979On to the first solid course of the evening and the caviar, crispy oyster milk and bottarga was an immediate success. I was not aware that China produced black caviar and this particular one was sourced from Heilongjian in the Northeastern region. The bite size morsel was beautiful in flavour and the tuna bottarga (cured roe of the tuna) inside the creamy base was not overpowering despite bringing a distinct note to the dish. Combined with the crispy texture and flavour of the oyster milk, this dish had a lasting aftertaste of the sea, washed down perfectly with a glass of the Domaine J Laurens NV.


The next course of the Saba, sesame, ponzu cloud and ginger was served on a metal bowl that produced a rose aroma of “parfum de Hong Kong” through the use of dry ice. The oily fish married well with the sesame and melted in your mouth. Ponzu of course is a tried and tested combination that works well with fish and the ginger removed the slight fishiness leaving a clean taste on the palate.

P1120989A refreshing glass of Schlossgut Diel – Demon Riesling – Nahe 2010 was then poured for the next two courses. I noticed the logo and immediately realised this was bottled for the Demon Chef!

P1120995Next up was the Bo Dan Dan Noodles, chilli pepper, pine nut, preserved Chinese mustard, salmon roe, sea urchin, Iberico. The sea urchin from Hokkaido was delicate but not lost in the heat of the chilli. The salmon roe didn’t add much to the dish as it was surprisingly unsalty. The only seasoning component to the dish was the Iberico ham which I probably would have incorporated in smaller portions to spread across the dish. Whilst the flavours were delicate and beautiful, I thought there was a lack of seasoning overall.

P1130002Slightly better was the foie gras, bamboo shoot, “zhou ye qing” liquor miso, pickled Indian lettuce stem. It was a generally sweet dish and the marinade of the liquor infused miso was quite pleasant. The bamboo shoot and pickle added the textural element to the soft foie.

P1130004One of the highlights of the meal, with perhaps less visual impact than some of the previous dishes was the Abalone, black truffle and Bo chicken rice. The rice was cooked in a stock containing chicken and Japanese sake and served al dente. The flavour of the South African abalone was further magnified with the accompanying abalone jelly. To top it off, the Perigord black truffle added an earthy canvass to the rice making it a marriage of flavour in heaven! This was indeed ‘X-Treme’ Chinese cuisine without a shadow of a doubt.

P1130008I had heard many people talk about Chef Leung’s signature dish of Molecular “xiao long bao”. I tasted some of the finest xiao long bao’s during my ten day trip to China two years ago so I was curious to see whether Leung had compromised the dish for the sake of style. I was advised to eat this in one bite as it would literally fall apart after the first bite. Sure enough, there was an explosion in my mouth! It was bizarre to have the flavour of xiao long bao with no texture at all but it was sticky and delicious with a long and rich aftertaste in my mouth. P1130013A very refreshing course following the rich xiao long bao was the Tomato, “pat chun” Chinese vinegar, fermented Chinese olives “lam kok”. The tomato on the right was cooked in a sweetened black Chinese vinegar “pat chun”, followed by tomato wrapped in Chinese pastry which was then deep fried with fermented Chinese olives “lam kok”  from Chiu Chow, followed by an airy tomato consommé tower which incorporated gelatin to keep its shape.

P1130018Continuing with the theme of black truffles, the next course was the Black truffle “chian dan chee”. The toast had been cooked in wagyu beef fat which was then layered with truffled scramble egg, dehydrated ham and of course a very generous shaving of Perigord black truffle! The intensity of the truffled scrambled egg and black truffle was very enjoyable and the saltiness of the dehydrated ham was the perfect finish to the dish.

P1130023I was much more taken by the next knockout dish, Lobster Sichuan butter poached, peas, sweet corn and chili lobster chips. The juicy Boston lobster had been cooked sous-vide with Sichuan pepper and butter. I loved the moderated spiciness from the Sichuan pepper and the sweetness of the corn and peas, both adding depth and complexity. I’m not good with extremely spicey food like authentic Sichuan cuisine but this had just the right amount of heat for me.

P1130025The chili lobster chips reminded me of concentrated lobster bisque. Overall, this was my favourite dish of the evening and this alone was worth the fight against my jetlag during my meal.

P1130029I thought it would be a hard act to follow the lobster dish but I wasn’t let down by Chef Leung on the subsequent meat course. The star component of the Saga-gyu beef, truffled tendon, Chinese chive, daikon and aromatic consommé was however a surprise. The tendon was beautifully infused and cooked with black truffles for three hours, while the white and green noodles on the side turned out to be daikon and Chinese chives, which worked harmoniously with the dish. The texture and flavour of the saga-gyu beef was very good and perhaps the easiest of the components, but it was the deep and rich soup that stole the show. It took 48 hours to prepare this soup, incorporating a good balance of spices including cardamom, bay leaf, aniseed, and cinnamon. This deconstruction of the classic humble Chinese Beef Noodles was the perfect way to end the meal before indulging in dessert.

P1130036The first of the dessert was the Sandalwood, chocolate and hawthorn. Sandalwood is more commonly used for its fragrance for cosmetic products but in this case its smoke was sealed in a glass tub containing chocolate mousse and dry iced hawthorn. The smoke infused in the chocolate was certainly unique although I wasn’t a particular fan, and I felt the hawthorn was overpowered by the smoke.

P1130040The trio of ‘lung jing’ tea ice cream, ‘shui jing fang’ caramel and lychee rose icicle were unlike other Chinese desserts I had ever tasted and highly original. The ice cream resembled that of macha green tea on a bed of dried white chocolate powder and the caramel had been infused with Chinese spirit that retained a significant sweetness. The icicle exerted a beautiful perfume of rose and lychee flavour, completing the trifecta of flavour, aroma and temperature. This dessert was superb and a great way to finish the meal!

P1130044As I nibbled on the petit fours of the eight treasures, I finally succumbed to fatigue. It was quite comforting to end the meal on a familiar sight of miniature delights but with distinct Asian flavours. In particular, I really enjoyed the lotus seed, chocolate and stick rice dumpling and the mandarin peel chocolate truffle.


There’s no doubt that the cooking in Bo Innovation was very sound, and I was blown away by most of their dishes. If you took away the Chinese element, the molecular component of the dish was perhaps less dramatic than other places I’ve been to. However, in absence of any gimmicks, the food here is unquestionably serious, real and most importantly delicious. The seamless integration of modern techniques to traditional Chinese dishes using quality seasonal produce has resulted in an unprecedented modern interpretation of Chinese cuisine.

I also couldn’t recommend the Chef’s Table any more highly and I enjoyed the ongoing banter with one of the chef de cuisine, David. I personally found in my journeys across China a lack of interest and discord with the front of house and chefs in fine dining establishments. I was comfortable here dining alone and did not at one point feel either bored or awkward. What Asian cities like Hong Kong need right now are more chefs like Leung and restaurants like Bo Innovation to showcase their diverse cuisine and produce in a much more engaging and personable environment. I look forward to comparing this with the tasting menu in Bo London very soon!