K1 MUSEA is no stranger to the arts. In fact, it's the beating heart of its existence, a designated arts and culture hub, flanked by the gorgeous Victoria Harbour and sister hotels including K11 ARTUS and Rosewood Hotel Hong Kong. Unsurprisingly, the dining scene also takes note of pursuing creative culinary practices, with restaurants taking an innovative approach to their menus to complement the thriving creative scene it resides within. COBO HOUSE is such an example, offering guests an unconventional dining experience by serving edible art and showcasing exquisite artist works within a sophisticated setting. Every six weeks, Chef Ray Choi and Devon Hou update their constantly-rotating menu to experiment with new ingredients and culinary fare in an ode to modern fine dining. The Knife and Spoon Chapter 5—POMOLOGY is the latest menu for summer, celebrating the best of succulent and quenching fruits of the season. We speak with the chefs, Ray Choi and Devon Hou, on the new menu, COBO HOUSE's vision and creative cuisine in modern dining.
Could you tell us about your background and how you got into the culinary scene?
Devon Hou: Chef Devon Hou began her culinary career in Amber at Landmark Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong, an environment where she gained her key culinary skills during her 3-year tenure. In her 16-year journey as a Chef, Devon worked in different restaurants, including Test Kitchen, L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, Café Gray Deluxe in The Upper House and the Michelin-starred restaurant in London’s The Goring Hotel.
Devon was also part of Tate’s founding team, which earned a Michelin just six months after its opening. Devon’s extensive experience earned her a sharp sense of taste in which she artistically applies to her dishes and canapés. She demonstrated her talent in designing the most creative and contemporary dishes during the collaboration of Test Kitchen and Butler Hong Kong, in association with Chef Ray Choi.
Devon’s experiences have equipped her with a vast range of quintessential culinary skills. She now joins COBO HOUSE as an Executive Head Chef to continue staying true to her vision in serving only the most outstanding flavors to her customers, while enjoying the process of creating her dishes.
Ray Choi: Born and raised in Hong Kong, Ray Choi began his career in 2005 as a young chef at The Hong Kong Jockey Club Derby Kitchen before furthering his culinary skills and passion at Michelin-starred restaurants including Mandarin Grill + Bar and L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon. Ray met his long-term mentor Chef Vicky Lau at Tate Dining Room in 2012 where he remained for six years, helping her to gain the first Michelin Star for Tate Dining Room and progressed as the Head Sous Chef during his tenure. Ray then joined Arbor Restaurant as Sous Chef to Chef Eric Räty. During that year, Arbor moved up from one to two Michelin stars. Ray then travelled to Michelin 2 Starred Restaurant La Cime in Osaka to continue furthering his culinary skills. Upon returning to Hong Kong, Ray was appointed to be Butler Hong Kong’s Head Chef.
Today, Ray joins COBO HOUSE as an Executive Head Chef. His passion for delivering the best has never changed. He takes every event as a unique display of excellence, creating sensational flavors and textures through the use of premium hand-picked ingredients. Ray is determined to serve nothing but the best to his customers.
What makes COBO HOUSE unique and why is this important in the Hong Kong market? D + R: COBO HOUSE’s menu is very diversified, taken by the name COBO, resembling the lifestyle of the Bohemian, which is very unconventional and innovative. We target to change our menu every 6-8 weeks, and each menu features an unique theme to highlight key ingredients. This menu is also a secret menu, so before guests arrive, they would still be curious about what to expect, and resembles Hong Kong, the city that always has something exciting to offer.
How does COBO HOUSE incorporate creative cuisine in its menu and where do you draw inspiration from?
D: Inspiration from stuff around including family and surrounded happenings. It also revolves around a lot of trending stuff and seasonal ingredients in our process of creating a new menu. R: I get inspired by my mentor and previous culinary experiences as well as from my mother – she is my biggest inspiration in culinary and the biggest reason for how I got into the industry.
Image courtesy of Adam Thompson | CSP Times
Who are your biggest chef influences? D: One of the Spanish chefs: Ferran Adrià, he pioneered molecular gastronomy. When I first entered the industry, his techniques inspired me the most. R: The biggest chef influence is Chef Donovan Cooke from Happy Valley Jockey Club (He is now the current chef de cuisine of Ryne).
What about cuisine influences?
D: Spanish + Japanese cuisine inspires me the most because it’s my favourite cuisine and they have come across my career life quite a few times and each time they surprise my palate.
R: Japanese cuisine because of its ingredient offerings and it gives me a lot of variety in composing a new dish. Also, the technique they use is very delicate and I enjoy learning from the culture a lot.
What are three dishes everyone must try on the current menu and what is the cooking method behind it?
D + R: Jack Fruit Three Ways – People’s feelings towards jackfruit are often tremendously polarised – either they are obsessed with it or they despise it. We fully utilise the jackfruit, using not just the white flesh and yellow flesh but also the seed of the fruit. We bring them to the plate crafted into a dainty, bite-sized sesame ball and a flaky, jackfruit pineapple bun, served with fresh jackfruit slices on the side.
Pomelo peel Hata Grouper – this dish was co-created by me and Ray, inspired by our neighbour’s delectable traditional Chinese dish, which is indeed very special to us because we have learned how to make the stock from scratch to marinate the fish for at least two days with the aged pomelo skin taken from our neighbour. It was quite memorable. The cooking technique we used in this dish is steaming after aging it for two days.
Oyster – because we have made a very unique kombucha to pair with it and for the shima aji, we have aged it for 2 days to get the flavours and oil level more stand out.