2019 was a big year for restaurants promoting a healthier lifestyle. The return of Richard Ekkebus’ Amber, newly dairy-free and gluten-free (though bread has also made a return to the table) and the launch of Christian G Mongendre’s Treehouse at H Code had us paying more attention to what we ate. In the year 2020, ZS Hospitality presents Miss Lee, their latest vegetarian restaurant since they shuttered Home: Eat To Live.
Residing on the ground floor at 198 Wellington, the same building that houses VEA, the entrance is unmistakable. Designed by JJ Acuna and his firm Bespoke Studio, the facade of Miss Lee feels a lot like a scene taken from Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel. The extensive use of emerald green, blush pink, and bright yellow brings playfulness and energy to the restaurant, while handmade tiles, glass and marble enhance the texture. Tables are evenly spaced throughout the petite space overlooking the bar.
Miss Lee is a vegetarian restaurant where flavours are essentially Chinese but presentation and execution mostly Western. With gluten-free and dairy-free options available, guests can find comfort in labels highlighting dietary restriction-friendly options from the a la carte menu. We began with Pearls On Lotus, where rice crackers are deep-fried, displayed on a bed of puffed rice. The wafer crackers come with two varieties of toppings—beetroot with vinegar pearls and wasabi-laced lotus root with yuzu pearls. The tartness plays well against the root vegetables, especially the tangy yuzu juice pearls melting into the wasabi mayo-dressed lotus root chunks, a welcoming Japanese touch to appetisers at the restaurant.
Swirling Raindrops by description sounded very much like a traditional rice noodle roll stuffed with Chinese cruller. Instead, the sweet cruller was braised in a mushroom sauce until slightly soft, laid atop a bed of rice noodle rolls and served with shimeji mushrooms with a touch of black truffle. The cruller was cooked until just soft enough and great pairing in texture with the glutinous noodle rolls, if only the sauce was thick enough to dress them better.
Golden Flowers is a winner. Deep-fried cauliflower florets are topped with salted egg yolk sauce, and pumpkin puree adds sweetness to the rich dish that is best for sharing. The cauliflower is cooked right, retaining just the right amount of texture without turning mushy.
Larger mains are great for sharing at Miss Lee. Fire Balls is a vegetarian version of sweet and sour pork. Substituting the pork with king oyster mushrooms, the thick, meaty texture is great under thin battered crust. The sweet plum sauce is particularly good with dehydrated pineapple slices served. It is a wonderful main dish served with a small bowl of steamed rice.
Fungi Farm, a mushroom and pearl barley risotto, is rather large in proportion. The pearl barley is cooked right to keep a soft but al dente texture, with sautéed chanterelle mushrooms scattered on the top. The restaurant went overboard with the addition of truffle to the mix, as we feel porcini and chanterelles could have work the magic just as well with the miniature tuiles of parmesan crisps.
The selection of dessert is modest. Hawthorne Tree joins the tart hawthorne with mascarpone cream-filled chocolate cake layers. The apple sorbet is sweet, rounding the tartness of the hawthorne. Yellow River is a playful take on the ever-popular mango-sticky rice, as Miss Lee pairs black glutinous rice with cubed mango and ‘udon’ made with coconut milk. The dessert is a bit too sweet but the combination of mango, coconut, and glutinous rice always is a winner.
The selection of wine is weak at Miss Lee, with only one variety of beer, Prosecco, white and red wines available on the list to choose from. Teas, infusions, and booze-free beverages are best here, including fresh juices and smoothies made with unsweetened almond milk. The Pineappley-Ever-After, a green smoothie blending avocado, pineapple, and spinach is fantastic topped with toasted flax seeds. Despite being enriched with avocado, the healthy beverage is of a good consistency and not too rich to compliment the selections from the food menu.
Service is warm and friendly at Miss Lee, as the service team is keen to understand guests’ dietary preferences and make sound suggestions on food and drink options. Pacing for the meal can be a little rushed at first but service remains speedy and attentive even when the restaurant is at full capacity.
Miss Lee’s colourful interiors and menu offerings bring joy to lovers of vegetarian cuisine, as ZS Hospitality learns to highlight the benefits of healthy eating through great execution. Everything is aligned with the establishment’s ethos, that vegetarian cuisine needs not be defined by being Chinese nor English, as long as it is done well. As Miss Lee demonstrates, it is definitely a keeper.
SOURCE: Tatler Asia