Since I was a kid, 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 a worthy direction. So Dumplings Legend specialises in Xiao Long Bau – that would be soup dumplings if you’re not in the know and it’s owned by Geoff Leong. Leong has been here since the 80’s, so arguably he’s part of the second generation 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 get’s a scorching in a searing wok to intensify the umami, chilli and addictive savouriness the ingredients bestow. I order it every time as it’s genuinely good, whether you do so or not, it’s your call if you want to miss out or not.
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. You’ll end up with sauce on your face, shirt and ear lobes, but it’s worth it. The sticky sauce is laden with curry leaves, garlic, peppers, sugar and a whole load of rewarding umami. You’ll be licking your fingers clean, and it you’re as fat as me you’ll be doing it with a grin wrapped around your chops.
Eating back fat from the crab is an mandatory thing to do. It’s a flavour bomb of roe, eggs and that wonder of tongue tingling sauce.
Stir-fried Chinese broccoli with ginger paste £8.80 get’s a good wok- sizzle too bringing out all the crunch and earthiness of the vegetable
The dumplings are hand pleated in a glass exhibit right in the middle of the restaurant, which means there’s kitchen theatrics to cure any dull moments. The dumplings come piping hot in bamboo baskets, 1000’s are probably inhaled each 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 it’s cool enough to gulp.
Classic pork Xiao long bau £7 had a unctuous favour of swine.
Steamed prawn dumplings £7.60 were a simple wonder of sweet minced prawns seasoned with white pepper, sesame oil and diced bamboo shoots gave the crunch. The pastry I found to be more denser and doughy in comparison to some of the other dumplings I’ve had – but were all the more satisfying for it.
Dim sum platter £12 has a variety of usual suspects made of porkp-stroke-prawn. I found these all a bit one-noted but they still fresh and good enough to devour within seconds.
Prawns are the ocean’s confectionary wonders, here they crisp them up and treat them to good slathering of viscous pumpkin sauce. (£12.50). They’re worth getting too.
Taiwanese omelette with oysters looks like a car crash, but actually is a street food legend in Taiwan that’s very rewarding to eat. A mixture of seasoned batter, egg and oysters gets a good smear of sweet-sour sauce. They’ve taken it off the menu now, so if you’re reading this Geoff, bring it back please!
Fragrant aubergine with minced pork and chilli sauce £8.80. I believe they used a similar sauce as the beans, this can only be a good thing as they went down a treat.
Three years or so later in 2016, I came back for another good feed. There were during August & September evenings 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 were still full of vigour and intensely savoury flavours.
Fragrant aubergine with minced pork and chilli sauce £8.80 is a dish that never get’s tedious.
Fried noodles with beansprouts £6 get’s a good fire in the hot wok. They’re greasy, waist thickening and full of smoky favour.
The dim sum platter £12 were the pert and fresh dumplings I remembered.
Prawn dumplings £7.80 – have stayed consistently good.
No, the fish in fish tank are not on the menu – put that thought right out of your head you wicked people.
I’d avoid the set menu at all costs as they’re better things you could spend your money on. It’s designed for tourists’ who don’t have a Scooby doo. (I say this respectfully of course).
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 dim sum platter comes with a welcome addition of the siu mai, in sacrifice of the prawn and chive dumplings.
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 to let you know what it is.
Classic pork Xiao long bau £7.
Minced pork with tofu £9.50. They use the Japanese variety in this dish. Tofu is sponge in the culinary world, the absorbent qualities take on all the meaty flavour of the sauce. It’s a fantastic dish that could be eaten or bathed in – it’s that good.
When did I go? Various
The damage: Expect to pay £25-£30 per head with drinks.
The good: There are certainly worse ways that you can spend your money than to come here. It’s a great intro into xiao long bau too if you haven’t had the pleasure of trying them yet too. I love the way they mingle dishes from Taiwan, Shanghai and Malaysia together – it’s a treat for the palate. And, yes it is on the beaten track but to get a good feed for £20 per head, 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 as they say…
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