With two new openings under the Bib n Hops name, Hong Kong’s very own ”Demon Chef“ Alvin Leung has taken to a rebrand for the chain’s original location, kicking things up a notch from high-end street food to reveal Bib n Hops Refined – complete with a new identity and menu and promising a more upscale experience, even higher-grade ingredients and predictably steep price tags.
Seafood mung bean pancake
After our visit, we can safely say that Bib n Hops’ new menu is like a Now That’s What I Call the 80s CD: hits after hits after hits and even more bangers after that. The decadent starter of yukhoe ($168), Korea’s answer to Western steak tartare, combines raw USDA steak with pear sorbet, crunchy pine nuts and Parmesan cheese, with droplets of soy-truffle aioli and salty cured duck yolk. The perfectly crisp seafood mung bean pancake ($178) had us digging into bouncy octopus, sweet prawns and a crunchy pancake base.
Astonishing and unpredictable dishes were to be had, from the gaejang lobster ($468) to the mulhoe ($188). If you’ve never tried fermented Maine lobster before, well, lemme tell ya, it’s a trip. Aged in Korean soy sauce and coffee and served over seaweed rice, the lobster burst with tantalising, intense flavours and was easily one of the most interesting dishes we’ve tried this year. The mulhoe turned out to be quite bizarre – but enjoyable all the same: ice cubes made of strawberry and anchovy dashi provided sweet, cool relief to the chewy, rubbery and spicy gochujang buckwheat noodles. Now, top that off with cured ocean trout and a big lick of sea urchin and don’t tell me that’s not tasty.
Then there was the jangachi chayote ($98), another dish that took us for a turn. Though the chayote, or pear squash, does not originate in Korea, it’s a staple banchan and the chefs at Bib n Hops have given it a Western flourish. Doused in warm tofu-ricotta sauce and sprinkled with crushed pistachios, this creamy and slightly sour bite did well to jolt our taste buds.
Alaskan king crab bibimbap
Long Jiang chicken skewers
For those who’ve come to love Bib n Hops for what they’re great at – bibimbap – the classics have thankfully retained a spot on the menu, with a few welcome additions. Grilled Ibérico pluma bibimbap with a dash of jalapeño aioli? Yes, please. We sampled the Alaskan king crab bibimbap ($268) served on a bed of your usual fixin‘s, topped off with a runny egg and gochujang, and found it a flavourful crowd-pleaser that we’d like to try again. We also loved the Long Jiang chicken thigh skewers ($188). If you’re familiar with Chef Leung’s work, you may recognise the poultry – it has been heavily featured on Bo Innovation’s menu in the past. Sizzling on a small grill, the skewers were well seasoned in gochujang and sesame, wafting a mouth-watering aroma across the table – these tasted as good as they looked and smelled. And though we didn’t fancy the flavour of the foie gras terrine ($128), we found a certain appreciation in the adventurous effort to give this French staple a Korean twist.
I confess, I have never been particularly taken with the type of shock-value brand and persona that the Demon Chef has built up over the years, but I find nothing offensive or garishly excessive about Bib n Hops’ new menu. It’s a collection of well-developed dishes that take the taste buds on a thorough ride through the culinary landscape of Korea and beyond, in true East-meets-West style. The showcase of refreshingly original ideas is a huge hit with us, and we’re quite excited to see what else young chef Yong Soo Do has up his sleeves. We’ll earmark Bib n Hops Refined as a destination for the adventurous-within-reason foodie who has a pretty penny to spend on dinner.
Shop 13, 2/F, J Residence, 60 Johnston Road (entrance at 18 Ship Street), Wanchai, 2882 9128
This write-up is based on a complimentary media tasting provided in exchange for an honest review and no monetary compensation. The opinions expressed here represent the author‘s.