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Review of Asian Legend

m
montrealer70 Aug 5, 2008 02:54 PM

Went to Asian Legend last week. It was our second time visiting the Brimley/Sheppard location. The decor is classy and like the first time we visited, the place was packed (a very good sign). The service is spot-on, fast and courteous, and the prices are reasonable. We ordered chicken and seafood soup, spring rolls, general Tso Chicken, Kung Pao Shrimp, Sizzling Beef with Chinese Broccolli, vegetable fried rice.

I know this place is considered by many to be a "chain" restaurant, being that there are 6 locations in the city, however, there is nothing chain about it (at least not at the Scarborough location). The food is top quality, taste-wise and in presentation, the service is great and the place was packed and booming.

To the food:

Chicken + Seafood Soup: 4 out of 5 Stars. The portion of this dish serves soup for 10 people, at least (maybe even 15). Filled in Wonton soup broth was chicken, vermiccelli noodles, chicken breast, shrimp, tofu and fish. Really, a hard dish to screw up, but nothing negative to mention here.

Spring Rolls: 3.5 out of 5 Stars. Good tasting, but tiny in size. This is another establishment that serves appetizers with entrees simultaneously, so when they brought out four main course dishes, there was no need for a tiny spring roll to appear in front of me. It came with homemade cherry-plum sauce which frankly wasn't sweet enough. The spring rolls are not needed at this resto. for the above-mentioned reasons.

General Tso Chicken: 4.5 out of 5 Stars. Delicious!!! The chicken came battered and covered in quite a spicy, tangy, sweet sauce and the dish was laced with szechuan peppers that were stir fried with the dish. Two things to mention here - We were here three weeks ago and the chicken was completely different. Last time, it was candied mini-donuts with a honey dripping sauce over it (not exactly what we were looking for, but still good). For some reason, on this occasion, it was completely different. The sauce this time was richer and more thought out and the chicken was not as candied as last time. I deducted 0.5 stars from the rating because I had one piece of chicken with a bone in it. I find that unacceptable. Another note: Finally, a spicy version of General Tso in Toronto. This dish was a 5/10 on the spicy scale. (10 would be straight tabasco). I will order this dish again.

Sizzling Beef with Chinese Broccolli: 5 out of 5 Stars. The most tasty, most tender chinese beef dish I ever had. The meat melts in your mouth. The sauce was well thought out and goes perfectly with the beef. One small comment: I prefer Canadian Broccolli because it has the florettes that I normally dip into the sauce, however, Chinese Broccolli is exclusively broccolli STEMS. The beef is so good, I will let this one slide.

Kung Pao Shrimp: 5 out of 5 Stars. The best Kung Pao I ever had. Diced vegetables with 15 to 20 medium sized shrimp in a light reddish colored peanut-flavoured oil sauce. Pretty spicy dish as well (to my liking) - 6/10 on the spice scale. The flavouring of the sauce is rich, yet not heavy on the stomach. It goes down very easy. Also, the peanuts in the dish tasted home-roasted and definitely went with the dish. At inferior places, you could tell the chef throws a handful of peanuts on top of the dish after it's cooked. Not here. Also, most places in the city have a 4-1 vegetable to shrimp ratio in this dish - you normally have to fish around the plate to find the shrimp. On this dish, it's a 2-1 ratio. The shrimp are plentiful and cooked to perfection. I will order this dish again.

In all, a great experience - we will be back.

Dinner for 4 - $73 including tax - no alcohol. (definitely a value).

  1. c
    chunkeymonkey Aug 5, 2008 04:03 PM

    I dislike Asian Legend,Ive eaten there before and its nothing especial.I once went to the location up on Steels behind the plaza with one of my friends.It was lunch time and the waiters were all eating their lunch,and completely ignored us.We waited for 5 minutes and then left.If it was just me I could understand usually they tend to ignore white people all the time,but I was with my Chinese friend.

    8 Replies
    1. re: chunkeymonkey
      t
      tjr Aug 6, 2008 06:39 AM

      I've never been at lunch, only at dinner, but they're always packed and service is generally quick and professional (and I'm not Chinese). It may not be the best Chinese--maybe not even the best Northern Chinese--in the GTA, but I've never been disappointed with the food, and it's usually cheaper than take-out, which is pretty surprising. Last time I went with 14 people, the bill was only $110, and we all left stuffed.

      Also, kai-lan (Chinese broccoli) isn't exclusively stems, it's usually leafy, and the stems aren't as tough as those on Western broccoli. I prefer the dish with kai-lan, but to each his/her own.

      1. re: chunkeymonkey
        Charles Yu Aug 7, 2008 05:49 PM

        I totally concur with chunkeymonkey's assessment! AL's food is nothing special! IMO, eating Northern Chinese food there is not unlike eating Italian at Olive Garden!
        With the current influx of so many immigrants from the northern part of China to our city, there are tons of new restaurants and dumpling places springing up in strip malls along the Hwy#7, Finch east and Sheppard east corridors. Some of them have fantastically yummy and authentic food! A few that comes into my mind include the re-juvinated Shanghai bund at Kennedy/Denison, the dumplng houses inside the plazas adjacent to each other at the corner of Finch/Midland, the new restaurant in the plaza at the corner of Yonge and Glen Cameron as well as Northern Dumpling Kitchen inside of Times Square. In addition to the hits, obviously there are misses. However, if one is willing to be more adventurous these days, one would easily come across establishments that offer food much tastier than the over-rated and mediocre AL!

        1. re: Charles Yu
          s
          shir Aug 8, 2008 07:59 AM

          I heard Shanghai bund is closed!!

          1. re: shir
            Charles Yu Aug 8, 2008 05:58 PM

            Wow! The turn-around rate of restaurants in Toronto is un-real!! Seems like only yesterday when it was given a 're-try' a few weeks ago?! And now they are closed?!!

          2. re: Charles Yu
            j
            juno Aug 9, 2008 08:12 AM

            Charles, when you mention the new resto in the plaza at Yonge and Glen Cameron, are you referring to the same all-Asian plaza in which Legend (not Asian Legend) is located? If so, I'll assume it's the Shanghai-style joint that took over the premises from a previous Shanghai-style joint that you recommended - as an alternative to Asian Legend - about a year ago. That previous one was quite good, I thought, but then a few months later, after I'd visited it just three times, it was out of action. I'm game to give the new occupant a workout, but damned if I can recall the name of the new place, which I passed on my way to its next-door neighbor in that plaza, a respectable Vietnamese spot called Sai Viet. But I think I can find it if I've got the plaza right. What say you?

            Though we seem to disagree on the merits of the Asian Legend chain, you've never steered me wrong on a Chinese resto recommendation. To me, Chinese food is the last great inexpensive ethric dinner in this town ($30-$35 or so for two) - I tend to stay away from the fancier joints - and I'm desperate, despite the obstacles, to keep that tradition alive.

            1. re: juno
              Charles Yu Aug 9, 2008 07:09 PM

              Exactly! Same plaza as Legend! Unfortunately, both the English and Chinese name of this new place are hard to remember and skipped my mind!

              1. re: juno
                Royaljelly Aug 9, 2008 07:33 PM

                Is this the place you guys are referring to?

                Old one: Shanghai Xue Yuan
                New one: Tian Xin Place

                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/469869

                5 Glen Cameron Road
                Thornhill, ON L3T 5W2
                (905) 707-7990

                1. re: Royaljelly
                  Charles Yu Aug 9, 2008 08:10 PM

                  Yup!!

          3. m
            magic Aug 6, 2008 07:08 AM

            I agree with your assessment of Asian Legend. Although it's a chain their food is excellent. I'm sure a knee-jerk reaction to chain Chinese food will be predictably negative and boring, but I could care less. Their food is great. Service......iffy. Some locations are capable and nice (like Dundas near Huron), some locations horrendous (like Yonge/Finch). But their food is fantastic.

            1. red dragon Aug 6, 2008 09:24 AM

              Thanks for your review and feedback Montrealer70. We frequented Asian Legend so much that we bought a VIP card every year. I think service/quality, etc differs with each location. We always went to the one on Steeles (Warden), by the IBM building. Would go once a week, and things started going downhill. The beef noodle soup (our favorite) change considerably. Found alot of the dishes to be super greasy. Service was hit and miss, mostly miss. We stopped going a long time ago, but will certainly give the Sheppard location a try!

              7 Replies
              1. re: red dragon
                c
                chunkeymonkey Aug 7, 2008 07:57 PM

                There is a better Northern Chinese restaurant in the same plaza of the Asian Legend on Steels and Warden I cant remember the name because its in Chinese,but I do know the have another location on Finch and I think Midland.The Finch and Midland location is way better,they have the original chef of the first one.

                One thing we can all agree on is that Asian Legend is a far better franchise and better tasting Chinese restaurant than Spring Rolls.

                1. re: chunkeymonkey
                  skylineR33 Aug 7, 2008 10:05 PM

                  The one you are referring to is called Backyard Garden 半畝園, they just opened up a new location at Leslie and N. of 7. The Chinese name is the same but the English name has been changed to be called Chili Secrets.

                  The decoration of the new location is nice, way better than the other 2 locations. It is very busy and always full even the space is big ! I tried it two times with the new location, one with casual dining which is good, the second time is with their 10 people dinner set.

                  The dinner set we tried is one of the most expensive dinner set in there which features the famous and fictional dishes resembling from the "Dream of the Red Chamber" - 紅樓夢, a masterpieces chinese novel. The idea is good, however, it fell short, way short, they just want to do too much and the end product is a failure .......

                  The casual dinner we had the other time is good with common sichuan dishes. I guess they should be concentrating on doing this with the level of skill of the kitchen.

                  1. re: skylineR33
                    red dragon Aug 8, 2008 06:05 PM

                    Are the items similar to Asian Legend (such as dumplings, pancakes, etc) and prices would you say same or pricier?

                    1. re: red dragon
                      skylineR33 Aug 8, 2008 10:10 PM

                      Yes, pricing and items are similiar, I don't notice much difference in the bill.

                      It is just other than that, the new Chili Secret has some so-called "exotic" dishes from Tam's cuisine and Emperor cuisine, with a more experience price, but from what I have tried, I don't think the quality of those expensive dishes worths the price at this moment, hopefully they will do it better in the future.

                      1. re: skylineR33
                        Royaljelly Aug 9, 2008 06:15 AM

                        Is Backyard Garden (Markham), Szechuan Legend (Scarborough) and now the new Chili Secret all under the same ownership? My wife had thought so...

                        1. re: Royaljelly
                          skylineR33 Aug 9, 2008 08:56 AM

                          Yup, same ownership (they use the same chinese name and I have confirmed with the server there).

                  2. re: chunkeymonkey
                    red dragon Aug 8, 2008 06:04 PM

                    Hmmm, let me know if you find out the English name. Yes, at first I thought Spring Rolls was amazing ...LOL. I personally would not dine there ever again.

                2. a
                  air621 Aug 6, 2008 09:53 AM

                  I've been to the one at Leslie and Finch and the one in Chinatown. Both locations have been consistent and excellent, especially for the price. Their scallion and beef pancakes are a craving for me.
                  chunkeymonkey, I don't agree with you regarding white people being ignored. I have lived in Toronto for almost 40 years and eaten in more Asian restaurants than I can remember. I have never been ignored by anyone.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: air621
                    j
                    juno Aug 6, 2008 11:36 AM

                    For a chain, although a comparatively small one, Asian Legend is pretty damn good. I've been going mainly to the one on Yonge Street north of Empress - though I've been to a couple of others occasionally - and find it to be consistently good value, as well as consistent in its cooking. Consistency is important.

                    Agreed, there are other restos - as some of our more knowledgable authorities on this site have maintained - that do northern Chinese dishes somewhat better. But over the past years, I've been through just about the entire voluminous menu at Asian Legend (it helps that I don't live too far from the Yonge Street outpost) and I'm eminently satisfied with how they do most items. Naturally, some things on the menu are better than others - for example, a few nights ago I inhaled a dish I'd never had there before, bitter melon sauteed in garlic, and it was wonderful. I can also recommend #10, the dim sum-style pancake with shrimp and green onion ($4.95), and bean curd with pork (#101, I think), which goes for about $9, if I recall (the resto recently raised its prices slightly, so memory for these newer details grows furtive). Even when the place isn't working at its peak level, it's still pretty decent.

                    The Yonge Street site gets a youngish crowd, mainly Asians living in surrounding condos. The Finch-Leslie crowd is older, and also overwhelmingly Asian. Service is good at both branches, and I've never felt slighted - as others have suggested they have - because I'm not Asian. The Yonge Street joint I frequent is clean, well-run and kinda fun to be in. Everyone seems to be enjoying themselves. More serious eaters populate Leslie-Finch. And, as at all Asian Legends, you get a 10 per cent discount if you flash your Art Gallery of Ontario membership card. The only beef I have is that, at the Yonge Street site, the tables for two are rather small if you intend to order a lot of dishes. So we two just order a soup, an appetizer, rice, and one or two main dishes (now mostly $9-$10), with waitstaff promptly clearing up dishes as they're finished, and walk out content and well-fed for about $30-$35 or so, tax and tip included. In my view, it's a winner on almost all counts.

                    1. re: air621
                      c
                      chunkeymonkey Aug 8, 2008 09:37 AM

                      I don't usually get ignored in a Asian restaurant, but it does happen to me.Since I was with my Chinese friend I was double surprised,I just think we when there at the wrong time.If they did not want to serve anyone and have their lunch break they should have closed their restaurant doors or told us that they wouldn't serve us because they were having lunch.

                    2. creambrulee Aug 7, 2008 04:31 AM

                      My 2 cents: many people consider Asian Legend as "chain restaurant", but from what I've heard, owners of the restaurants are brothers of the same family.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: creambrulee
                        j
                        jayseeca Aug 9, 2008 02:55 PM

                        I personally like Asian Legend... I've only been there twice, but I wasn't expecting something amazing. Just a solid hit-the-stomach meal.
                        I think it all depends on which plates you order also... the last time i was there, i left super satisfied. Had the braised beef wrap thing..., the spicy peanut noodles, chicken wings (yum), and the pepper cuttlefish (yum, but then again i enjoy almost anything fried). Didn't care much for the fried rice, but i'd still go back even though its a little pricier than other places.
                        My usual go-to place downtown is King's Noodle, and I guess Asian Legend is a little more 'exciting'.
                        Also, I think some of the Asian employees could definitely be not paying as much attention to people of other ethnicities, but maybe its also that most of us Asians know you gotta be just as ruthless and loud to get the service you want.

                      2. sugarcube Aug 9, 2008 04:14 PM

                        Have you been here for lunch? Is it dim sum style (items from wheeled carts)? Or do you order off a menu? What items would you recommend getting?

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: sugarcube
                          c
                          climacus Aug 9, 2008 09:42 PM

                          Lunch is ordered off the menu a la carte. They also have a budget quick lunch menu that is quite mediocre and decidedly not Northern Chinese.

                          1. re: sugarcube
                            red dragon Aug 10, 2008 06:53 AM

                            Not Jayseeca, but they don't have dimsum. Asian Legend is more a Shanghainese style restaurant. They do have great dim-sum related items on the menu, like their fried and steamed dumpllings, etc. You order all items off a menu.

                            We used to go once a week and this is what we ordered for lunch (not all of it, but we vary our choices):

                            Chunk beef noodle soup
                            Steamed siu long bow (sorry, trying to decipher the phonetic translation)
                            Fried pork dumplings
                            Green onion pancake with egg
                            Beef roll (I don't have the menu in front of me but it's a tasty beef wrapped in a thin pancake roll and then wrapped in foil and sliced)
                            Red bean pancake
                            Any of the rice dishes (example: ma po tofu)
                            Sticky rice wrapped around a deep fried cruller (chee fan - I think that's the name)

                            Depends on what you like. We haven't been to the Sheppard/Brimley location but used to frequent the location on Steeles (near Warden) all the time.

                            1. re: red dragon
                              Chocaholic Sep 6, 2008 11:50 AM

                              I agree that depending on what you order and what you like that makes the meal good!

                              I always forget to try Asian Legend when I am on my way to Chinatown!

                              Gonna go try it soooOOOOnnn!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

                              I guess I better read what everyone else likes at Asian Legend and try those dishes.

                          2. deepeshbanerji Nov 4, 2008 02:51 PM

                            I went to the chinatown location downtown toronto with the family -- i thought the food was really good, fresh, tasty, chinese in a great setting for a nice night out. the bbay bok choy with garlic and shrimp with chinese brocolli were the best. definately recommend it.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: deepeshbanerji
                              Brain of J Nov 5, 2008 06:33 AM

                              Tried A.L.. for the first time last week. I hit it twice it actually. I was really impressed. Tried the green onion pancake---great, sweet and sour pork---tender and great (unlike the stuff they serve at Congee Queen!). Beef with Chinese broccoli---very good! Pork chops with honey garlic---excellent! Pork with black bean sauce----very good! Fried rice----as good as you'll find anywhere else! It's really nice setting. The service is friendly and helpful even when they are very busy and the prices are fair too. What's not to like about this place?

                              Another poster mentioned that A.L. serves more of a Shanghainese cuisine. I need clarification of exactly what Shanghainese cuisine is. The reason I ask is because I recently attended a wedding reception at an authentic Shanghainese cuisine restaurant in Scarborough (across the street from Pacific Mall). One hallmark of the dishes was the use of sugar. For example, a beautiful crab dish was turned sugary sweet because of the liberal use of sugar in the sauce covering the crab. Is done at Asian Legend?

                            2. b
                              baby_tran Nov 5, 2008 06:47 AM

                              We've been to the Brimley/Sheppard location several times and the Warden/Steeles location once. I prefer the Brimley location...much larger location and more attentive servers.

                              The menu is the same whether its lunch or dinner. We've tried the steamed soup dumplings, beef roll, red beef noodle soup, hot and sour noodle soup, shrimp fried rice, glutinous rice dumpling, green onion pancake, mooshu pork. We didn't like the glutinous rice dumpling and green onion pancake.

                              We really like that there isn't a layer of oil at the bottom which you usually find with fried dishes. We've been to Dumpling House and others in the past but find servers just don't care (i.e., you don't like my attitude, go eat somewhere else). Some of the smaller authentic restaurants are too small and don't speak english.

                              We even bought the VIP card.

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