The past half-year has been a busy one for ZS Hospitality Group at 8 Lyndhurst Terrace. First came Ee Da Lee, then My Tai Tai and Mamasita’s Cantina – and finally it’s up to Lee Lo Mei to fill up the ground and first floor spaces. The group have been a bit cheeky with the name: the Chinese characters translate to something akin to ‘delicious food by the Lees’, but the English translation is far from banal, meaning go f••• yourself. We wouldn’t know this if we didn’t ask, so we honestly don’t see the point. Is it meant to be funny?
Lee Lo Mei’s bar, with drinkers spilling out into the street just like in the La Piola days, is on the ground floor, but it was dinner we were after, so we headed to the restaurant upstairs. Think of a funked-up mash-up of a classic Hong Kong chan chaan teng and dai pai dong and you’ve got the gist of Lee Lo Mei. Old movie posters and striped barbers’ poles intermingle with traditional signboard wall menus, glass-topped tables, red wet-market-esque light fixtures and bright, splashy graffiti-like murals depicting HK street food scenes. The tables are set with old-school crockery and metal tubs filled with a rainbow assortment of chopsticks. It’s a very cool, open space.
The menu is crafted by local chefs Joe Lee and Max Lee (no relation), who have honed their cooking experience at many fine dining restaurants around town including GOLD and Strip House, which were awarded Michelin stars at the time. They have gone back to their roots, reinventing oldie-but-goodie Hong Kong dishes using upgraded ingredients and modern cooking techniques. Many have tried to do the same and have failed, so we were curious to see how the Lee Lo Mei chefs have fared.
Of the starters, most notable for us was Lee’s brine platter ($138). Though not to everyone’s taste, we enjoyed the twist on this dish spotlighting the favourite street eats for many a Hong Konger. Ibérico pig’s ears, octopus and turkey kidney were cured for 24 hours in a salty, savoury brine, resulting in an interesting array of flavours and textures drizzled with a punchy mustard and a sweet brown sauce. Chewing away on a pig’s ear or octopus tentacle is definitely a conversation starter if there ever was one – this dish is a risk worth taking. Another standout was the turnip cake prepared two ways ($88) – turnip rolls wrapped in crispy, golden strands of delicate kataifi pastry alongside tiny turnip rounds topped in a spicy, peppery homemade XO sauce. While tasty, the sautéed golden shrimp ($118) coated in salted egg yolk relied heavily on black truffle for flavour.
Our favourite of the mains was the ho fun in HK style ($258). This was a gold-star version of the favoured beef noodle dish served at Canto diners. The flat rice noodles were silky smooth with a chewy bite, and we loved the addition of the turnip purée, whose sweetness was a great counterbalance to the overall umami-ness of the dish. The crowing glory, however, were the thin slices of melt-in-your-mouth Wagyu beef draped ever so luxuriously over the noodles. For a noodle dish, the price tag is high, but it’s worth it. Not normally fans of the sickly sweetness and lurid colour of sweet and sour chicken ($158), we were won over by Lee Lo Mei’s refined take on this Chinese-American classic, made using pineapple jam flecked with vanilla and thin slices of dried pineapple; we couldn’t stop eating this one. The ‘full of rice’ chicken ($268) was a sight to behold – the chef used an industrial-strength hammer to break through the salt shell of the yellow spring chicken, which had been deboned and wrapped in lotus leaves along with sticky rice and South African abalone; the aroma was deliciously fragrant. Considered a luxury ingredient by the Chinese, we’ve never warmed to the charms of abalone, which we find texturally unappealing and lacking in flavour, but we did enjoy the accompanying chicken-abalone sauce, which was rich and heavily reduced. The Ibérico pork chop ($278) was hefty chunk of tender, flavourful meat in a moreish black pepper sauce, which was the ideal vehicle for dunking in the crinkle-cut chips. The chop was traditionally accompanied by a bowl of HK-style borscht – a light, tomato-based concoction that we’d happily eat on its own.
The Chefs Lee have unleashed a flurry of creativity with the sweet treats on offer. The cold white dessert ($78) featured a substantial amalgamation of tofu pudding, tofu ice cream, yuba pearls, sago and coconut, while the cold black dessert ($88) paid tribute to black sesame, showcasing seven styles of this beloved goodie, from ganache, to foam, to soup, to meringue. It was a textural triumph, even if it was pretty uninviting in the looks department (black on black on black). The winner for us was the sweet rice dumplings ($88), which were served individually on Chinese soup spoons. These orange jelly globes were bursting with a zesty ginger soup that popped with a delightful explosion of flavour and heat in each bite.
Admittedly a lot pricier than the average meal at a chan chaan teng or dai pai dong, Lee Lo Mei
would make a good steppingstone for those looking to sample local flavours in a more congenial environment. The cool-cat decor makes it a great spot to take out-of-town guests too. We’ll be back
to try the afternoon tea menu, served from 3–7pm in the bar area. We hear the scrambled egg sandwiches and HK-style French toast are epic.
G/F–1/F, 8 Lyndhurst Terrace, Central, 2896 1838