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GO -- Leong's Legend, Chinatown, London

Expertly made xiao3 long2 bao1 (xlb) are a rarity -- Leong's version is one of the finest I've had in recent years (I recall a whole bunch of posts on these dumplings on the General Chowhounding Topics board, worthwhile to do a search there). Very delicate skins, not mushy, perfectly seasoned filling -- subtle but flavourful, consisting of tender minced pork and elegant soup. They fall short of perfection in that the topknot, where the folds of the skins come together, on the thick side. Nevertheless this is serious world class stuff. BTW, they have a crab and pork version of xlb as well.

There's a technique to eating these dumpings, this thread offers some: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/18762

According to the front of the menu (in Chinese), the chef used to cook at at Taiwan's Din Tai Fung, a restaurant that built their name on xlb, which was what convinced me to pick xlb instead of the oyster pancake that I originally had in mind.

Glutinous rice steamed in a bamboo pot with a few little bits of mushroom and dried shrimp was very good, the texture of rice just right, but the seasoning was not even and there were a few blank patches as a result.

Crispy shredded turnip (luo2 po4 si1 su1 bing4) consists of an incredibly light and puffy pastry shell on the outside and a starchy filling with shredded turnip in all its vegetable sweetness. Another high point.

The menu also claims that the sticky rice with chicken in lotus leaf (nuo4 mi3 ji1) is also one of the chef's signature dishes. Will be getting that next time. For now, I would suggest ordering the dishes on the menu with stars next to them as they seem to be the recommendations from the chef.

If the other dishes are as good as the ones I had, this is going to be an awesome place.

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  1. Great
    will have to check this out. I love the soup dumplings at Joe Shanghai in NYC, but never had any nearly as good over here.
    thx for the tip.

    3 Replies
    1. re: foreignmuck

      I haven't been to Joe's in NYC, but from reading a few posts on some of the boards, my impression is that Joe's version isn't a traditional Shanghainese rendition -- e.g. http://www.chowhound.com/topics/43410...

      Thus, YMMV, since these the xlb at Leong's are of the correct size for the Shanghainese original, but they tend to be slightly more soupy than most that I've had, so perhaps that may come closer to the variant at Joe's in that aspect. Just wanted to make sure that you wouldn't be disappointed in that regard.

      But please do report back after you try them (and other things on the menu)...would be important to get more opinions on the place.

      1. re: limster

        Can i just ask, what type of restaurant is this - upmarket or fairly casual?
        nothing on the web about it...

        I'm guessing its fairly reasonable...

        1. re: foreignmuck

          It's pretty casual and relatively inexpensive; my light meal above was £11 for the 3 items. Spent the most on the xlb - £5 or 6 iirc.

    2. The sticky rice with chicken in lotus leaf (nuo4 mi3 ji1) is well made -- the aroma from the lotus leaf is lovely. Inside the parcel of lotus leaves, tender glutinous rice, well seasoned, with pieces of chicken, salted duck yolk, shiitake mushroom. A very good version of the dish.

      The Kong Pao Chicken (gong1 bao3 ji1) does show some good wok work, but the flavour is lacking; there's a lot of dried chilli but also fresh ones as well, which shouldn't be there. There is none of the smoky sweetness of the genuine version. This was disappointing, which makes me think that it might be wise to avoid explicitly Sichuan dishes on their menu. The next time I try this place, I'll probably go for the Fujian dishes.

      4 Replies
      1. re: limster

        Just been there tonight (maybe we were there at the same time)

        we had:
        xiao long bao (£5)
        Belly pork with rice (£4) (recommended dish on the menu)
        Fried vegetable vermacilli noodles (£4)
        Fried Oyster with egg pancake (£6) (recommended dish on the menu)

        So, the dumplings came first. There;s something so satisfying about the just about bearable hot liquid in these puppies exploding in your mouth and sliding down the throat. The quality and texture of the meat was good and flavour excellent - very morish. They are slightly smaller than the dumplings at Joes in NYC, and I agree with the Limster, the tops were a bit thick. Still pretty damned good though, and if you've never had soup dumplings before, I highly recommend you give them a go here.

        Next up was the Noodles. To be honest, nothing to write home about. Fairly bog standard. A few bits of Bok Choi, a lot of Spring Onions, and it was under seasoned. Filled a hole though. At £4 its not bad.

        The Braised Belly Pork - Voluptuous chunks of pork, in a glossy sauce. It was very tender, pretty fatty as it should be, but I wasnt really blown away with it. The sauce lacked flavour and complexity, but perhaps i'm comparing it with the Buta No Kakuni, the Japanese version I made a few months back at home, which completetly rocked (if I may say so myself). That took a good 2 days to make, but boy was it worth it. But then again, for a healty portion with rice for £4, its a good deal and certainly not bad at all.

        Finally the Fried Oyster Egg Pancake / Omlette. Now this really kicked some butt, and was the highlight of the meal, a real flavour sensation of oyster, chinese veg (not sure what exactly), finely diced pickes and the distinctive smokey wok flavour on the egg.. im not sure what exaclty went in it but it was really good. They top it of with a sweet chilli sauce and the finished flavour is remenisent of Japanese Okonomiyaki.. Definately worth going for this as a starter, or in our case the extra order at the end of the meal...

        Overall, this is a really great place, but I think you need to choose the dishes carefully as they are not all equal. Some other dishes on other tables looked really good, including a crab dish and also the Beijing Beef Noodles. Certainly well above the usual China Town fodder, and nicely design concept too.

        A winner.

        1. re: foreignmuck

          Great - thanks for your report! The pork belly dish is typically Southern Fujian, and uses a dark soy sauce and a bit of sugar, along with spices like star anise, clove and cinnamon (with variations in these spices), so in that regard it's a very different animal from buta no kakuni that relies on a much lighter shoyu, sugar, sake/mirin. Nevertheless, it's not a good sign when the sauce isn't complex -- it's supposed to have some level of those earthy spices.

          I was tempted to order the oyster omelette (another Fujian dish) the other day, but I was swayed away by the xlb. Will definitely try the omelette next time.

          BTW, it occured to me that some of the lower priced rice and noodle dishes weren't meant to be one-dish meals, e.g. the glutinous rice steamed in bamboo (zu2 tong3 fan4) but intended to be substitutes for white rice as an accompaniement to main courses.

          1. re: limster

            So is that the same as 'chairman mao's pork'? I made that a few times too, but the sauce isnt as glossy as the version I had here. The version I made included star anise, cinnamon and sugar.

            1. re: foreignmuck

              They're variants, Chairman Mao's Pork is a Hunan dish (from Mao's hometown) whereas this braised pork belly is from Fujian. The primary difference is probably the soy sauce and also the red cooking "hong2 shao1" style of braising in the Chairman Mao's pork. This Fujian version will often come with a braised hard boiled egg as well, and sometimes minced pork.

      2. I was disappointed by Leong's Legend. I've had better xiao long bao at Superstar, Chinese Experience and Inn Noodle, though not recently, I confess. The wrapper was too thick, the pork filling gritty in texture, and there was barely a drop of stock.

        However, most of my criticism is directed at the service. The xiao long bao were served in a bamboo steamer with the lid already removed. So, the dumplings were well on their way to going cold by the time they reached the table. Then I had to ask for a spoon to eat them with. Several minutes later they finally arrived with a spoon, by which time the dumplings were well and truly at room temperature - and there's nothing worse than a xiao long bao at room temperature. At least, I don't think there is.

        The menu claims that the xiao long bao and other 'dim sum' are being prepared fresh to order. This is not the case - they're producing a certain amount before service. At least, this is what my waitress told me after explaining that the pork and crab xiao long bao were out of stock.

        Leong's Legend has a genuinely interesting menu. And they've been open for little more than a week. So, my hope is that I'm reporting teething problems which will be swiftly dealt with. Let's hope so.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Ian

          yeah the wrapper was a bit thick, and the ones at Joe Shanghai were better in my opinion, but still these were the best ive had in the UK so far.

          I didnt have the same problem as you - the lid was removed at the table, with spoons on the table when we sat down. The dumplings were scalding hot.

          I guess you were a bit unlucky.

          1. re: foreignmuck

            It does sound like a consistency issue -- the skins on my xlb were very thin, and I had to be extra careful not to break them. Still ended up breaking about 3 -4 of them despite my efforts. Perhaps my manual dexterity is not what it used to be.

        2. Went here again, having raved about the place to a friend.
          Unfortunately, this visit was a big disappointment.... Seems like consistancy is definately an issue here.

          Crab Soup Dumplings: Not as good as the plain pork ones. more brown meat than white.

          Vegetarian Mapodofu: overly greasy, flavour was OK but tasted very much of the chilli bean paste I have at home in a jar. Really nothing special at all..

          Chinese broccoli - OK, a bit greasy

          Leungs special fried rice. Very bland. Standard egg fried rice with a few bits of seafood.. Very overpriced at £6.50. The pricing seems very odd in general here, with some items very cheap (like belly pork and rice for £4) but others really expensive for what they are.

          Ordered the Oyster Pancake again expecting great things. The oysters had a stronger flavour this time (maybe they were a bit older) but the overall dish was nowhere near as good as the time before. Didn't notice any pickles or vegetables in there.

          Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup.. The Noodles were too soft for my liking. The beef had a nice flavour, as did the soup but the overall dish was just OK....

          So all in all, quite disappointed here. A shame after a decent first experience.

          10 Replies
          1. re: foreignmuck

            BTW, do remember which days you've had good meals and bad, especially since you've had similar items both times. Perhaps there's a different guy cooking...

            I was there on a monday and sunday, and thought that the sunday meal was better, although I didn't order the same items, so my comparison isn't as useful as yours.

            1. re: limster

              First time was a monday. (some good dishes)
              second time was today (thursday)

              1. re: foreignmuck

                I might go back again, although my plans were to try their oyster pancake and braised pork belly next. Will see what happens. Thanks for reporting back!

                1. re: limster

                  would be interested to hear your take on it....
                  look out for the bits of green veg (choi sum?) in the pancake. I'm pretty sure mine didn't have it in today.

                  1. re: foreignmuck

                    my friend went to baozi inn yesterday + said it was v v good. noodles hand made every day. has anyone else tried it?

                    1. re: t_g

                      There's a post about it by supercharz: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/52912...

                      Would be interesting to have a comparison with Inn Noodle.

                      1. re: t_g

                        There's a rave review in this week's Time Out. So it will probably be very busy for a couple of weeks!

                      2. re: foreignmuck

                        I went to Leong's twice in the past two weeks and came out both times very satisfied. The service, as everyone else has pointed out, is a bit rubbish - though the same waitress was on better form the second night I was there, a week later.

                        The green veg in the oyster pancakes are actually crown daisies (or garland chysanthemums) - I'm shocked that they include them sometimes and not always. Could it be a cost-saving exercise (I'm not sure how available this veg is in the UK)?

                        I did notice how the menu pointed out the chef used to work with Din Tai Fung – a shame about the presentation of the xiao long bao, but the rest was absolutely spot on. A great stock, perfectly seasoned meat and coming steaming hot (and unveiled at the table).

                        1. re: foreignmuck

                          I liked the oyster omelette a lot - crisped on the edges and surface, nice amount of small oysters, the egg still soft in the centre, very little if any of the gooey (sweet potato or tapioca?) starch and a reasonable of the aromatic veg (tong ho in the southern Fujian dialect iirc, haven't said it in ages...probably got it wrong). The topping is the appropriate sweet sauce (probably bean-based), although I'm not totally sure of the ingredients, we just called "red sweet sauce" when I was growing up. There's more stuff about these omelettes aka "oh a jian" here: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/481141

                          The braised pork belly is pretty good, more glossy than rustic, the soy sauce probaly a little lighter than I'm used to, but the star anise flavour was just right.

                          1. re: limster

                            Went to Leong's Legends twice in 2 weeks last month - Bei Fung Tang Crab was very yummy (better than the place that I went to on Lockhart Road, HK) and good value at 12 quid? Other highlight for me was the Aubergine in Spicy Sauce.....wasn't nuts on the Xiao Long Bao (tried both versions, the crab one had no crab in it!) - best I've had in Chinatown was at Hong Kong on Lisle Street but it pales in comparison to Joe's in NYC (Flushing branch is apparently the best and the only one I've been to)

                            Overall, not a bad place to go and found staff to be fairly nice too.

                2. Adding another voice to the mix...a group of seasoned dim summers, with between us, a reasonable amount of Asian travel too, declared this on Thursday the best we've had in London.

                  The dumplings were great, the fried turnip excellent, the belly pork on rice amazing, all three kinds of cheung fun, pork, prawn and sea bass, were perfect.

                  The staff were busy, but still friendly and attentive, and the total cost at fractionally over £10 a head including service very reasonable for the amount we ate and for being in London.

                  A few pics here:

                  http://www.flickr.com/photos/davehodg...

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: davehodg

                    Well another voice to this thread, I went here purely based on the CH rec (thanks Limster), about a month ago, have only jst written it up fully at http://londonrestaurant.blog.co.uk/20... .
                    Short summary, I was very impressed, especially with the crab long bao which I thought had thin wrappers, scalding and clean tasting stock and good crab flavour. Also the deep fried turnip had a light and flaky pastry with a great mix of sweet and savoury. Also had chicken king pao, I liked the mix of dried chillis with some fresh, and thought the fresh added a peppery sweetness. The one disapointment was sea bass cheong fun with very thick wrappers and stoo much fish skin and no fish.

                    Still, loved the place, thanks for the rec again!

                    1. re: Iestyn Morgan

                      Time Out reviewed it last week. They liked it.

                  2. Another positive vote.

                    I went with 4 others at lunch. We had:

                    - Pork xlb
                    - Crab xlb
                    - Prawn cheung fun
                    - Beijing pork dumplings
                    - Beef tendon
                    - Pork/Shrip shui mai
                    - Sticky rice wrapped in nori
                    - Pork belly with rice
                    - Chive dumplings

                    With the exception of the visually interesting but rather flavorless sticky rice wrapped in nori, everything was pretty much spot on. Pork belly had that lovely rich pork flavor you want with the cut. Tendon pieces were nicely spiced with sesame and chilli and had good texture. Wrappers on the shui mai were nice and delicate with a moist, meaty taste..

                    The stars were of course the xlb. Skins were just thick enough to hold the soup with being gummy. Soup was scorchingly hot, rich, and flavorful. I preferred the pork versions personally, but both were excellent.

                    Long beans with minced pork looked excellent at the table next to ours as well. Next time.

                    Lovely, filling, tasty lunch for £10 a head.

                    S

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: CTownFeedR

                      Based on Limsters recommendation we ate here for lunch on Saturday. It was busy with slight queue at times. No complaints about the service, all three people who looked after us were really good. The food is great value, very fresh (and hot) and we had a really enjoyable lunch.

                      We had: Beijing Pork and Chive Dumpling, Crispy Shredded Turnip (very good), Legends Siu Loung Bao, Grilled Minced Pork Buns, Fillet Seabass Cheung Fun (different from the usual, the fish was interesting), and tea. Total bill for two was £19.50.

                      Best dim sum in London? I wouldn't go that far, but it is very good. We ate a Yauatcha the next day and there is daylight between the two. However Yauatcha was £44.20 for a similar amount of food so it is in a different league.

                      1. re: PhilD

                        If it's inconsistent, we must have hit one of the chef's 'on' evenings on Wednesday. I'm not an expert on Chinese, let alone Taiwanese, food, so ate just as an ordinary greedy punter. Almost everything we had was delicious and interesting. The exception was the vegetable dumplings which had quite a varied texture but dull taste.
                        I couldnt detect any sesame oil in the chicken with it and rice wine and soy sauce, but it was nicely spicy and flavoured with star anise and basil. The oyster omelette was a revelation - I've never had one before. Huge (solo diners beware), rich and both eggy and very oystery - presumably they're tinned? We also had a pork kebab, which was shredded mildly spiced pork in a wrapped-over steamed pillowy bun.
                        There were some interesting-looking non-alcoholic drinks such as melon and milk. We had a glass of pinot grigio and one of chardonnay, both better than average.

                    2. Went to Leong's Legends for lunch today, dining solo. Arrived around 2:30pm, restaurant fairly full but not too busy. Ordered crispy shredded turnip, the pork kebab bun and an order of pork xiao long bao. The turnip was very nice. The pork kebab (I don't know why they called it that because the last thing it resembles is a kebab) was OK: the steamed bun enclosing it seemed less than fresh, the edges of it were hardening; the meat was slightly too fatty for me and I had to pick off a bit of fat before eating it. I liked the picked vegetable, coriander and peanut powder topping. The star of the show for me was the xiao long bao. They were served piping hot. I did notice that the other tables xlbs had little orange toppings on the topknot, whereas mine were plain. The topknot was sort of open, like a little vent for steam. I could actually sip the broth from the topknot, which i found quite nice. The broth was lovely and I enjoyed the whole experience of eating the dumplings. The service was brusque but not bad. I will be back.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: medgirl

                        Cool, nice to get another update! The orange topping is likely tobiko/fish roe, used to mark the ones filled with both crabmeat and pork.

                        1. re: medgirl

                          Address link:

                          -----
                          Leong's Legend
                          4 Macclesfield St, London, Greater London W1D 5, GB

                          1. re: klyeoh

                            A friend had just got back from a Top Secret Mission in the Middle East where he’d eaten his way through several vats of chickpeas so was keen for something that didn’t come with flatbread or wrapped in a vine leaf. And he had a touch of the old giardia. So I thought it only fair to drag him off for my long postponed first visit to Leong’s Legends to make him eat egg-wrapped oyster, pig’s trotters and duck tongues. Just what the dodgy tum ordered.

                            Sadly he didn’t play ball and we had a rather conservative affair, but nice all the same.

                            I’ve read lots of comments about the service; we actually had the opposite problem. At least 4 different girls seemed to be looking after our table and were checking every 2 minutes that we were OK. They were all very sweet and friendly, but a little bit of overkill. I got told off by Mr 007 for being ‘stern’ with them, but…eesh. And a bit ironic for him to tell ME I was being scary; it's not as if I was waving an AK47 at them...

                            We ordered xiao long bao, the misnomered Taiwan kebab, bamboo rice, braised pork belly, spicy green beans with pork and stir fried chilli crab.

                            Two irritating things about the meal:

                            Everything arrived at once. I know Asian meals aren’t strictly structured in the Western starter/main course way, but a) it’s slightly overwhelming as the table groans and you realise just to what an extent you’ve over ordered and where do you start b) it means everything goes cold, because you can’t possibly eat it quickly enough. This was particularly the case with the xiao long bao, which, arriving as mentioned by other reviewers sans couverture very quickly cooled, and therefore stuck together and to the basket, meaning most of the stock was lost. That said, they were nice, the wrappers seemed the right thickness, and the stock was sweet.

                            The Taiwan kebab is a slice of belly pork in a burger with various crunchy, spicy accompaniments (sorry, should have noted what they were). I enjoyed this but, again, it quickly cooled and therefore the bun became a bit flabby and dull.

                            The bamboo rice was far too much on the sticky side – as in completely congealed into one lump – and, though tasty, I found it difficult to pick out any of the promised scallop/shrimp flavours.

                            The other dishes were all MUCH more successful. The beans were hot and perfectly al dente, the pork nutty, just enough chilli – kind of Szechuan style. The braised pork was in a rich, sweet, soy-flavoured stock and the meat could just be pulled off in melting threads with chopsticks. Best of the bunch was the crab. A huge entire crab stirfried with chilli, ginger, garlic and spring onion. It was yummy and satisfyingly messy sucking the shells. Most of the claws and legs had been pre-cracked so no problem to get the meat out. Really REALLY liked this and it drew envious glances from neighbouring tables.

                            Will definitely go back and have the last 3 dishes again, insist they bring the dim sum out first (might not order the rest till they’re finished) and will go with someone whose tummy isn’t attempting the triple jump so I can try the oysters and some of the other more adventurous dishes. The two turnip dim sum looked great by the way. The next door table had what looked like a large pancake with sweet and sour sauce on top, and the ‘meat balls’, which didn’t!

                            Damage, including two beers, was £48 including the service charge. Nae bad. Especially for that crab, certainly worthy of Her Majesty’s service.

                        2. Hmm, well it seems that every time I think I've discovered a place, London Chowhounds have gotten there, first!

                          Stopped by for a snack, tonight, and had the xaio long bao, "crispy shredded turnip" (pastries filled with tender, shredded white Chinese radish), vermicelli with pork liver, vegetarian mapo dofu, mapo flavored sliced pork and braised pork belly in a bun.

                          The xlb were good as others have reported, with thin skin and lots of good soup inside. I think it was probably slightly better than the version I had at Min Jian, earlier. However, my favorite dish, in part for the novelty, was the braised pork belly in a folded over bun, garnished with cilantro and served with a bit of preserved vegetables. (I forget what it was called in the menu, but it's listed right under the crispy shredded turnip dim sum.) The sweet, salty and aromatic made for a well rounded combination of flavors. Pork was extremely tender and was, despite the cut, not overwhelmingly fatty.

                          Vegetarian mapo dofu was fine, with some mala flavor (not blistering hot). I didn't find it overly greasy at all, unlike a prior poster, though there was a well balanced amount of red chili oil in the dish. I didn't actually like the crispy turnip pastries all that well. Unlike limster's, mine were a bit soggy on the outside and overly greasy. Vermicelli with pork liver was very good: the liver was tender, the grilled onions in the dish were caramelized and slightly smokey, the broth was rich and well flavored. Mala sliced pork, served with a creamy garlic sauce, was a solid preparation.

                          No problems with service, since others have commented on it. Our waitresses were quite nice and competent. They initially forgot to bring us small bowls so we could share the vermicelli and mapo dofu dishes, but accommodated our requests for bowls very quickly.

                          Nice to find a good Taiwanese restaurant, here. They're fairly hard to come by in my home town.