Thursday, July 24, 2014

Restaurant Review: Bibo

Location: Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan
Type of food: French
Rating: **** (4 out of 5)

As the urban legend goes, a French street artist by the alias Bibo was kicking around in Hong Kong in the 1930s. He took over an abandoned office owned by the tram company and made it a secret hideout for himself and other struggling artists in the city. Some 80 years later, another Frenchman who shares the same penchant for concealed identities opened a restaurant on the west end of Hollywood Road. Named after the enigmatic artist, Bibo is probably the most sought-after and fascinating dining experience to hit Hong Kong this year. It is part art museum and part secret society. Behind the golden sliding door is a stairway that leads to an otherworld, the kind that awaits Alice down the rabbit hole or that Tom Cruise wanders into in Eyes Wide Shut.

Bibo on Hollywood Road

At least that’s the aura of mystery the owner intends to create. But even if you don’t buy into the whole who’s-the-wizard-behind-the-curtain gimmick, you should go there for the art collection. While the restaurant has only 14 tables and seats no more than 40 patrons, there is no shortage of artwork that makes your eyes pop. Look to your right and there are pieces by Jeff Koons, Takashi Murakami and Yayoi Kusama. Turn the corner and you are face-to-face with striking murals by Banksy, Space Invader and Jean-Michel Basquiat. That means there is really no bad table at the restaurant – you are surrounded by carefully curated art wherever you sit, giving new meaning to the old adage “you eat with your eyes first.”

Taking the helm in the kitchen is French chef Mutaro Balde, whose CV boasts stints at Alain Ducasse in Paris and Robuchon in London. Must-try starters include boiled egg with mayonnaise, pan-seared foie gras with poached rhubarb and Japanese scallops cooked in three ways. For entrées, it is the melt-in-your-mouth pork belly that wins the heart. Avoid the lamb rump, however, because the serving is shockingly small (even if you order the main course size) and the taste is forgettable. Desserts are somewhat over-engineered. Most of them, like the chocolate fondant brownie, look better than they taste.

Foie gras is a must-try

Dinner for two with wine will set you back just over HK$2,000. The bill is hefty but you get what you pay for: good food, great art and a wonderful time. To make sure all three are delivered to every table, there is an army of impossibly attentive staff in tweed waistcoats and red bow ties. They know the menu inside and out and are flat-out passionate about what they do. Restaurant manager Arturo Sims (previously at Principal on Star Street) puts it best: “Bibo is not about the food; it’s not even about the artwork. It’s all about you, our guests.” The old French artist would have been proud.

Chef Mutaro Balde


  1. This makes me miss Hong Kong...


  2. Just tried it. Couldn't agree more.


  3. I don't know. I found it very pretentious. And uninviting. They should be open all afternoon from lunch through dinner, with afternoon tea and drinks at happy hour. It should have a neighborhood vibe. Instead of the "a la francaise' pretension. The restau windows open on the alley and should allow people to have drinks/coffee/tea in afternoon/apertivo etc. Too many rules and regulations and too much silliness at door when one tries to get in.