Bib n Hops is the union of the Liberty Group, 'demon chef' Alvin Leung and his young protégé Yong Soo Do from Busan, who have created an edgy eatery that serves up modern versions of Korean comfort food. The street-style restaurant is in the former location of Bo Innovation, tucked away on the second floor of J Senses on Ship Street in Wanchai.
Chef Yong Soo Do
We got the scoop from the two chefs behind this exciting new addition to the Wanchai dining scene.
Chef Yong Soo Do tells us about working with Chef Alvin Leung:
It’s quite challenging and joyful at the same time. Even though we are serving comfort food, there is much higher expectations and lots of details to pay attention to in terms of food and service, and I enjoy these types of challenges. Alvin is one of the most creative chefs I know, and he was, and still is, my idol since the day I became a professional chef. Working with him is my dream come true. With his vision through Korean food, I learn the possibilities of different directions of growth in Korean cuisine, like he did with Chinese cuisine but in much more casual way. We try to break the rules and push the boundaries while we maintain the fundamentals of Korean cuisine. It almost feels like I’m going to school every day, in a much more enjoyable way. It has been nothing but a pleasure working with Chef Alvin.
What are you most proud of at the new restaurant?
I am most proud of our team. One for all, all for one. Our number-one rule in the restaurant is to have fun and share that fun with every guest who walks into our restaurant. I haven’t worked in a restaurant where I can be completely me, and everyone else thinks the same. They are the ones who make this restaurant shine and sparkle. We wouldn't be what we are without our staff. Our team are young, good-looking, energetic, and most importantly, everyone has six packs, other than our manager, Jun, and me.
The six-pack-sporting team
What is your favourite dish at Bib n Hops?
I like everything on our menu, but if I had to choose, it would be the yukhoe, which is Korean beef tartare. Ice-cold beef, soy sauce, black truffle, cured duck yolk and pear sorbet … all my favourite things on one plate. My manager, Jun, doesn’t eat beef tartare, but now he loves it. The yukhoe is a must-try item from our menu. I also love all our flavours of bib n baps, which are our play on bibimbap. We take different flavours from other countries and infuse them into the bibimbaps, such as Peruvian and Singaporean. I had fun making and eating them.
What do you think will surprise diners when they come to Bib n Hops?
First, people will be surprised that we are not serving molecular cuisine, because Chef Alvin designed the menu. Proudly, we are serving comfort food, the soul food of Korea, not molecular fine dining. Second, people will be surprised by our friendly servers and kitchen staff. Lastly, of course, our food. Sorbet in a savoury dish, mac 'n' cheese on top of a hearty stew. The list goes on…
Chef Alvin Leung also took the time to discuss his love of Korean cuisine:
After visiting South Korea a couple times in previous years for work and to shoot my TV series Seoul Extreme and Soul Refined (for LiTV), I had a chance to see and taste quite a bit of their cuisine culture. I found their local flavours and ingredients are quite diverse. It comes from a very long history reflecting the way Korea is today since they were occupied by Japan, which had a heavy influence on their culture. After moving Bo Innovation, we wanted to open a concept [Bib n Hops], a place where people can eat, drink and enjoy. I’ve been working with a Korean chef, Yong Soo Do. With our collaboration, we worked on this menu inspired by Korean street food.
Can diners expect some of the cheeky dishes they’ve grown to love at Bo Innovation or are you going for a completely different vibe?
I’d rather not have people call my dishes cheeky but, rather, fun. I would like people to perceive my food at Bo as more dressed up, like putting a handkerchief into your jacket pocket. It’s about giving people a unique and fun experience such as the dish Sex on the Beach. In contrast, Bib n Hops is a place where I want people to be more casual. It’s a place to chill out, relax, perhaps play drinking games and enjoy Korean cuisine with a twist. At Bib n Hops, we do a bibimbap twist by serving it with Peruvian pork and Sichuan chilli. Our army stew has been playfully reinterpreted with homemade sausage and mac 'n' cheese, and the Korean fried chicken is also slightly different but still something to die for!
What have you learned over the past years of openings (and closings), both in Hong Kong and your international locations?
I’ve learned that you need a solid partner and a friend to help to bring the vision to a successful business. Liberty Group is one of the best. I met Peter Tsu, CEO of Liberty Exchange, Twenty Six by Liberty and Qi, through Qi – House of Sichuan, his restaurant above us on Ship Street. Through meetings, we both had a vision to bring a unique Korean street food experience to Hong Kong. We instantly got along; he understands the passion, the business, doing things efficiently and with consistency, which are all required for a restaurant
What’s your favourite Korean dish?
I gained my love of Korean food from my wife; her favourite at Bib n Hops is the tteokbokki rice cakes. That is my favourite too. And to add to that, after my visits to Korea, I have gained a better understanding of kimchi and banchan and also the Korean beef Han-u.