Few chefs can present a dish that looks like a used condom on a beach and still get 3 Michelin Stars (true story) – so we were already in awe of Alvin Leung even before we tried his first Mainland China restaurant.
Otherwise known as The Devil Chef, Leung is famous for two restaurants: Bo Innovation in Hong Kong and Bo London; the former earning 3 Stars in 2014.
To be clear, Leung doesn’t grace the kitchens of this brand new Shanghai outpost, but has instead sent two worthy emissaries – DeAille Tam and Simon Wong – to bring his signature ‘X-Treme Chinese Cuisine’ back to the motherland.
And while there’s nothing so whacky (or even gimmicky) on Bo Shanghai’s menu, it is delightfully creative and pleasingly China-focused. How often do you see dishes like “Sea cucumber with langoustine mousseline, horseradish and Shandong millet” on a menu for heavens’ sake?
In fact, all 12 courses of Bo Shanghai’s degustation menu have been inspired by different Chinese provinces – ‘inspired by’ being the key part of that sentence.
Make no mistake, this is fusion food more than it is Chinese. Tam explains that they’ve kicked off with a combination of French and Chinese, and that in three months time they may have switched it up to an Italian or Japanese pairing.
The amuse bouche set the tone for what’s to come: a small French-style mantou and a Chinese-style croissant are insanely moreish, while a deconstructed xiaolongbao (that literally explodes when it hits your tongue) is served alongside a tiny, reverse-engineered French onion soup.
And despite how it sounds on the page, none of this is pretentious in the slightest. Servers are sweet and attentive, the interior design is warm and casual and the best seats in the house are at the bar overlooking the prep kitchen, where Tam, Wong and the team are happy to talk through their dishes, share stories and answer questions.
So, at 1,500RMB, does every course hit the mark? Not quite. The aforementioned Sea Cucumber (piped through with langoustine mousseline) doesn’t do the already unappealing delicacy any favors. And pairing lychee with Wagyu beef didn’t make our palettes rejoice either.
Nevertheless, other dishes were truly wonderful. Take the ‘Sichuan’ course, which arrives as a generous portion of foie gras hidden beneath a sheet of lavender gelatin and dotted with fresh green Sichuan peppercorns and chunks of pickled duck tongue. Or ‘Hunan’: a spectacularly fresh oyster (from Normandy) made zingy and even more delicious by preserved and fermented chili and coriander.
In fact however you feel about each course that’s presented to you, that you’re motivated to discuss your meal and its ingredients at all is a plus in our book.
Bo Shanghai 6F, Bund 5, 20, Guangdong Lu, Huangpu District, Shanghai (5383 3656)