One to try: Miss Lee delivers a progressive and thoughtful take on Chinese vegetarian cuisine
09 Jan 2020
It’s not exactly news that the past decade has seen an increasing collective consciousness around plant-based diets – or at least diets minimising meat intake.
This has led to a subtle yet significant shift in how vegetarian dishes and restaurants are viewed, and how they position themselves. While meat-free products like Impossible and Beyond have successfully appealed to meat eaters (which is entirely the point of them), these lab-made meat substitutes have also served as something of a gateway for the sceptical – rather than ‘othering’ vegetarian meals and menu items, plant-based dishes are now seen as just another option. Omnivores don’t necessarily feel like they’re missing anything, it’s just that some dishes or meals happen to be meat-free. It’s not so black and white anymore.
Miss Lee’s emerald façade stands out on the corner of Wellington and QRC.
Restaurants like the brand-new, meat-free Miss Lee help to illustrate this shift: more considered options that aren’t exclusionary, appealing to eaters of all persuasions.
The story: New from the ZS Hospitality stable – and part of the expanding Lee family of restaurants – Miss Lee presents modern, plant-based Chinese fare. Much like her sister restaurants Lee Lo Mei and Lee Ho Sing, Miss Lee presents modern and playful interpretations of Chinese cuisine that still honour traditional ingredients, dishes and techniques.
The JJ Acuna-designed Miss Lee is awash with soothing hues.
The vibe: Nestled on the corner of Queen’s Road Central and Wellington Street, the ground floor space has been beautifully re-imagined and realised by noted interior designer JJ Acuna. Miss Lee’s eye-catching emerald green façade leads into an airy, relaxing and cleverly fitted-out dining room in which blush pink walls complement warm yellow and green accents, while handmade tiles, marble, textured glass, and brass details add extra points of interest.
The menu: Let’s get this out of the way first: don’t go to Miss Lee expecting anything traditional. Yes, it’s labelled as Chinese vegetarian. And, in essence, that is exactly what it is. But Miss Lee proposes a new way forward for the Chinese vegetarian cannon. Rather than meat-free takes on existing dishes, the rules seem to have been thrown out entirely. This isn’t plant-based because it has to be accommodating – Miss Lee is plant-based with purpose.
Flower Bouquet makes for a fresh, texture-laden start.
The menu is designed for sharing, with a clever, but not overwhelming, selection of small, medium and large dishes. As well as vegan, and gluten, dairy and egg-free options, the menu also includes a number of Buddhist-frendly dishes. We start with the Flower Bouquet (HK$78), a colourful medley of fresh vegetables wrapped in a spring roll sheet which are enhanced with a lovely sesame sauce. Full of texture, it’s a bright start.
Next up is Golden Flowers (HK$98). A nod to Lee Lo Mei’s signature salted egg yolk shrimp, Miss Lee’s version sees cauliflower generously coated in well-seasoned yolk, sitting on braised mushroom and a velvety pumpkin purée. The florets are topped with spherified olive oil, adding a visual pop to the dish and bringing the flavours together cleverly.
No meat? No problem: Misty Veil is inspired by the Shanghainese classic gai see fun pei.
Another clever dish is Misty Veil (HK$98). Inspired by the iconic Shanghainese cold appetiser gai see fun pei (shredded chicken with mung bean noodles and sesame sauce), Miss Lee’s version replaces the meat with tender king oyster mushroom, and is drizzled with a homemade vegan sesame sauce.
Lotus Leaf is a great meat-free take on the classic lo mai gai.
For mains, the Fire Balls (HK$138) are a well-executed take on the classic sweet and sour, with king oyster mushroom offset with sweet plum sauce, ribboned pineapple and dried pineapple chips. Elsewhere, Drifting Clouds (HK$168) are lovely spinach, corn, organic Chinese cabbage and tofu wontons, accompanied by a generous amount of mushroom foam, while the hearty Lotus Leaf (HK$148) is a combination of brown and glutinous rice wrapped in the eponymous leaf, steamed, with an earthy depth provided by elm fungus, bean curd sheet, lotus seed and chestnut.
Hawthorn Tree is the pick of the desserts – and it’s lighter than it looks, too.
Hawthorn Tree (HK$70) is the highlight of the desserts. The Buddhist-friendly dish is a nicely constructed tower of mascarpone cream sandwiched inside a delicate chocolate sponge, topped with a quenelle of housemade apple and hawthorn sorbet, and garnished with pistachio and edible, dehydrated flowers. It’s a beautifully balanced plate, and a great way to reinforce the Miss Lee ethos – just because a dish is labelled a certain way, that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily missing anything.
Miss Lee also offers a range of fresh smoothies and juices.
What else: Miss Lee also has a thoughtfully crafted drinks list, featuring freshly made smoothies and juices. There’s also a takeaway counter, where, from 12pm until 2:30pm, you can pick up a healthy salad or a set lunch that won’t break the bank (both HK$68).
PR speak: “The beautifully plated dishes are inspired by flavours found in Chinese cooking, full of aroma and texture, to ensure that every diner, even carnivores, are fully satisfied.”
Miss Lee, G/F, The Wellington, 198 Wellington Street, Sheung Wan, +852 2881 1811; misslee.hk
This feature was sponsored by ZS Hospitality.