16 February, 2011

Asian Fine Dining INDEED!

I got a tip from a lady in a salon (usually a horrific haircut tale follows a comment like this...) when I told her I was having trouble coming up with a credible recommendation for Asian in the area.  Right across the way there is a place called "Asian Buffet" but I had heard so many mixed comments and I LOVE Asian cooking...I just didn't want to blow my love for it out of the water.  I asked her about the place.  She kinda crinkled her nose and said she hadn't heard a mixed anything about it, she's only ever heard of its never-ending lack of deliciousness.  When I asked her where she sends the people she loves without hesitation she said "Mr. Lee's".

Now...I'll admit, the FIRST thing that popped into my head was stereotypical Mr. Miyagi looking figure yelling orders at sweaty cooks in Mandarin in the back of a one hinie kitchen with a scowl on his face (I know what you're thinking...tres chic right?  Yeah...sure thing).  Until.... he turns to you, then he cops a contrived smile and asks you in horrible English "How I help you?", meanwhile you're frantically trying to translate the Mandarin on the menu into English by the picture of the food next to the picture of the name of it.  Oh...there's broccoli in that...that MUST be Beef & Broccoli right?  Of COURSE right!  I'll order THAT.  This is what I am used to in my neck of the woods.  And...that's really only if I walk into order...most of my Asian experiences have been via phone.  There are NO Asian dining places near where I reside.  When I say dine...I don't mean "eat"...I mean food, lighting, sights, sound...a TOTAL meal package.  

I was about to find out that "Mr. Lee's" was ANYthing, but typical. 

When you come up 75N and pass the Wyse/Benchwood exit you see it...just there on the horizon.  A round small sign sticking up that reads "Mr. Lee's".  Nestled behind a small "authentic Mexican" joint (they ALL say they are "authentic" don't they?) is this beautiful place.  At first glance it almost looked like a spa.  Were it not for the parking lot being PACKED, I'd have been in a bit of denial this was a restaurant.

I started looking around me...IS this a restaurant??  Ah ha!  The closer you get, the more descriptive the experience becomes...this is no longer "Mr. Lee's" as seen from the highway.  This is "Mr. Lee's Fine Asian Dining".  I could NOT wait to get inside...

The very first thing I noticed as soon as I made my way up the front stairs was that the foyer and receiving desk had such simple, elegant decor.  

Even the door was a perfect accent to the evening we were about to have.

As I made my way through that door I noticed that directly behind the receiving desk was a wall fountain....and I mean the WALL was a FOUNTAIN people!  BOTH sides!  This place was literally DRIPPING in good vibes.  A feng shui master had been through this place thoroughly.  

And...since you can already see it in this shot...lets talk about the bar you see back there.  My Mister and I don't imbibe so I rarely bother looking at the bar areas and never at the liquor lists.  But it looked SO inviting and intimate; I just HAD to take a peek.  Without getting any guests into the shot, this was what you get.  It was so appropriate that the bar, with the typical television playing sports, was on the other side of the establishment so conversation and meal could be enjoyed without intermittent cries of "Ooh...fouled on that play."  Basketball was on...yeah I looked....

Here is their wine wall...even that is flibbin awesome!  Nice clean lines and bright finish....great!

We were seated in a beautifully lit dining area by the hostess.  She brought us a high chair for our son right away.  When I made the reservation and told them there were 2.5 of us and Mr. Lee asked us if we needed one, my interest was peaked.  Was this some place that regularly has small children?  Was it going to be loud?  Not to worry, it was none of the above.  It's just fine dining.  For couples, for families...for whomever enjoys a decadent adventure.

The menu was extensive, very well organized and every thing was priced very reasonably.  We started out as we always do...Spring Rolls & Crab Rangoon...then took a walk into uncharted territory and went for a Sushi Sampler.  Mr. Lee's has a whole 3 pages dedicated to sushi.  I decided there MUST be something their sushi... 

The spring rolls were a chicken/shrimp combo & came with a horseradish mustard sauce TO.DIE.FOR!

The crab rangoon had REAL crab meat & fresh herbs in them!  FABULOUSSSS!

Being in this place on Valentine's Day evening was a risky thing.  The place was packed, but you didn't notice.  One of the reasons you didn't was the unbelievable ambiance.  The lighting was perfect, the seating was comfortable and then...there was music.  I looked at my husband peering around the restaurant, like he was looking for something.  When I inquired he told me he thought the music sounded live, but he couldn't see anything.  Then we both shrugged it off.  I got to thinkin' about it and went wondering.  Besides, I HAD to see what else was in this place!

I meandered my way to the rear of the dining area, walking past a very beautiful private dining room that was filled with people happily eating away.  Then I see them...seated near the mirrored wall.  I thought to myself..."Well, I'll BE if there isn't live music!"  I walked over and introduced myself and let them know that my Mister & I were really enjoying their playing.  Their playing was soft and super relaxing, with him on the flute and her on the acoustic guitar, with vocals every once in a while in the perfect places.  Michael & Sandy Bashaw of Puzzle of Light really made it the total package evening.  Wonderful!

I went back to my table because I was ready to get to the main event.  The entree. I'd already heard people around me commenting on their food..."Outstanding..."; "Yeah, this is great."; "We have to come here again!"  I was coming unglued.  I had ordered one of my favorites, Kung Pao Chicken.  As with the appetizers, at first bite you can tell this food was made to order.  All the vegetables were tender crisp, the meat was succulent and the sauces were as bold as ordered.  It was Kung Pao the way it was MEANT to be made!  Oh joyful!  I got so enamored with my dish that I almost forgot to take a shot of it....note the fork and the small dent in the food.

As if the evening couldn't get any better....here comes the Sushi Sampler!  Now...this I didn't get a picture of.  I saw it and just started grazing!  I couldn't help myself!!  It was an array of DIVINE morsels!  Eel, Red Snapper, Salmon & Tuna; all expertly cut, unbelievable flavor...our favorite of the group was the Eel hands down.  It was moist, flaky and just a smooth taste.  The sauce it was paired with really highlighted the meat.  There was some wonderful wasabi and ginger peel to round out the platter.  Each variety of sushi was fresh and had really clean flavor.  Nothing was "fishy", which is usually the kiss of DEATH for most places that offer sushi. 
Happy family; full tummies

Bottom line....Mr. Lee's Asian Fine Dining is a total gem; it's a slice of heaven and Asian as it was meant to be.  Mr. Lee himself spent a great deal of time in front of house; his hands-on approach impressed me.  He takes great pride in his restaurant, as well he SHOULD!  AMAZING evening from start to finish!  I didn't want the night to end.  Attentive staff, family friendly set up, gorgeous & fresh expertly prepared food all came together to produce a thoroughly enchanting experience.  Mr. Lee's Fine Asian Dining truly earns the name "fine" and will remain on our "must go" list whenever me & my Mister are in Dayton, OH.  

謝謝 Mr. Lee....

Mr Lees Fine Dining Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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