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MARCH 27, 2000 VOL. 155 NO. 12


Hong Kong's Palate Pleasers
Lifted by dotcom fever, Hong Kong has come alive. One result: more cool eateries have opened in the past year than in the previous two combined

Lovers of good cuisine in Hong Kong can be thankful for Maria Lee

Hot Spot
If you're looking for a good old-fashioned barber, head for the Barbershop, in the heart of the brick-covered, beer-splattered streets of Lan Kwai Fong

Hot Tip
Visitors to Hong Kong in the coming months will be overwhelmed by the choice of things to do

Web Crawling
Hong Kong's guides to what's on

Lovers of good cuisine can be thankful for the collapse two years ago of Maria's, one of Hong Kong's most famous chains of cake shops. The 72-year-old Maria Lee, who had run the business for 32 years, turned the failure into opportunity. She set up a website (www., which offers menus and information about her life--content she produces herself. Two months ago, she used the site to begin inviting visitors to her home. For $30, you can reserve one of 10 seats at her dining-room table for a 12-course meal.

The response, she says, has been overwhelming. Lee started off hosting dinners once a week; she's now up to three. Growing demand may mean even more frequent dinner parties at her 110-sq-m apartment, which features a few dozen photos of her with vips like Ronald and Nancy Reagan. The popularity of her food and company shouldn't come as a surprise. Lee has built up a loyal following in Hong Kong as a public persona, hosting a televised cooking show in the 1960s. She also has published several collections of recipes, a compendium of her poetry and a book on her life philosophy.

When cooking for guests, Lee doesn't represent any particular Chinese region, shuns the use of monosodium glutamate and keeps deep fried dishes to a minimum. The meals tend to be light and creative fare: bamboo lining stuffed with seafood and mangos, for example, or chicken steamed in lotus leaves. For beverages, she serves only water and tea. Guests invariably ask how Lee creates the dishes she serves, but she won't give any secrets away. She does, however, freely dispense family and health advice. Reservations can be e-mailed to

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