Since I was a kid I Chinatown was the mecca for authentic Cantonese cuisine, it was notoriously good for your niche Chinese groceries too and still is. In the past few years or so though it’s become a baffling experience, as soon as you find somewhere decent the quality dissipates as chefs and owners move on. Ok so I’m not over the changing hands of the Mayflower or satisfied with the varying quality that Chinatown brings but hopefully this post will steer you in the right direction. So Dumplings Legend specialises in Xiao Long Bau – that would be soup dumplings if you not in the know and it’s owned by Geoff Leong. He’s been here since the 80’s and he’s the new-geneneration of owners. (Leong’s Legend and Manchurian Legends are also part of the Leong’s repertoire). Here are some of my various visits, I hope it’s useful!
Stir fired green beens with mince pork £8.80. A total must as they are delicious, especially with the chilli kick.
Fresh crab stir fried in black pepper sauce £15.50. Be prepared to get mucky with this one as there is no clean way of prising all that sweet meat from the shells. But it’s worth it as that wonderful sauce is laden with curry leaves, garlic, peppers, sugar and a whole load of umami. You’ll be licking your fingers clean.
Eating back fat from the crab is the elemental thing to do. You will regret it otherwise, it is a flavour bomb with all the roe and eggs.
Stir-fried Chinese broccoli with ginger paste £8.80. It’s cooked really well here – you can tell it’s tossed in a scorching wok as the sweet earthiness of the vegetable is intact as well as the inherent crunchy texture. They’re awesome.
The dumplings are hand pleated in a glass exhibit right in the middle of the restaurant and they come piping hot in bamboo baskets. I wonder how many thousand s they churn out in a week?
Spicy pork Xiao long bau £7. Don’t eat these like a lunatic as they are filled with hot soup. Let them cool or bath one in your ginger vinegar sauce until you’re ready.
Classic pork Xiao long bar £7. Flavour explosion dumplings – all the delicious soup a minced pork coats your tongue as you bite into them.
Steamed prawn dumplings £7.60. Filled with sweet minced prawns seasoned with white pepper, sesame oil and diced bamboo shoots. The pastry I found to be more denser and doughy in comparison to some of the other dumplings I’ve had – but delicious all the same.
Dim sum platter £12 – here is a variety of pork/prawn dumplings, the ubiquitous har gau are here too. There’s not much differentiation in taste between them and not to be compared to dim sum elsewhere as the flavours are more distinguishable. They still fresh and good though.
Crispy king prawn with pumpkin sauce £12.50. They taste exactly how their described. Pretty good.
Taiwanese omelette with oysters – this is a Taiwanese street food legend which is no longer on the menu now, instead it comes with chopped salted radishes which I’ve not tried yet. But damn why did they take it off?!
Fragrant aubergine with minced pork and chilli sauce £8.80. I believe they used a similar sauce from the beens but that can only be a good thing.
3 years or so later during an August & September evening in 2016 I come back (I’m sure I have been many times in between!) and the menu appears to be different, noticeably there are more dishes and some are missing as per the aforementioned Taiwanese oyster omelette. I’ll let the pictures do the talking:
Green beans with spicy mince pork £8.80.
Fragrant aubergine with minced pork and chilli sauce £8.80.
Fried noodles with beansprouts £6. Delicious and smoky like how they should be.
Dim sum platter £12.
Prawn dumplings £7.80
No the fish in the ubiquitous fish tank are not on the menu – put that thought right out of your minds!
Do yourself a favour and avoid this set menu at all costs. It designed for tourists’ who don’t have a Scooby doo! (I say this respectfully of course, as people are here to be educated!).
However you must order some of these dishes – as you can see I seem to pick the same things as they are really that good – especially the beans.
The essential ginger-vinegar sauce for your dumplings – for bathing and flavouring!
Prawn dumplings £7.80
The current dim sum platter that they serve comes with an addition of the siu mai minus the prawn and chive dumpling it came with originally.
This is the prawn and spinach dumpling – it’s my favourite from the basket.
Crab meat Xiao long bau £8. The middle one is crested with crab roe so you can tell the difference between baskets.
Classic pork Xiao long bau £7.
Minced pork with tofu £9.50. They use the Japanese variety in this dish and they absorbent qualities to take on all the flavour in that delectable meaty sauce.
When did I go? Various
The damage: Expect to pay £25-£30 per head with drinks.
The good: This is well valued, fresh food with an abundant of flavour, that’s what matters and it’s a great intro for those who have not had Xiao long bau yet. I love the fact that it’s pan-Chinese too with dishes from Taiwan, Shanghai and Malaysia – it makes it more interesting. And yes it is on the beaten track but to get a good feed at £20 per head or so there’s not a lot to complain about. They also do dim sum in the day which I’ve not properly explored yet – to be continued I guess.
The bad: It’s bright in there and avoid the set menus please!
Would I go again? Yes
Address: 15-16 Gerrard Street, Chinatown, London, W1D 6JE
Closest tube: Leicester Square/Piccadilly Circus
Phone: 020 7494 1200