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Dumpling Legends, Chinatown, London

limster Oct 16, 2010 12:52 PM

A xiao3 long2 bao1/"little basket dumpling" aka "soup dumpling" place on Gerrard Street, where Harvest used to be. I believe it's part of the same group that owns Leong's Legends & Empress of Sichuan etc...

The xlb were very good, reminiscent of the ones at Leong's Legends back when they opened. Thin, tender, but slightly resilient skins; a slightly thick topknot, medium about of broth within. Crab version had generous amounts of crabmeat that were fairly sweet, supported by pork beneath. The sichuan version had a tiny spicy kick to it, with a mild citrusy angle from a hint of what I thought might be sichuan peppercorns. Flavours were good. The strip of ginger should have been more finely slivered.

Solid rendition of stir fried glass noodles (dong1 fen3) with bean sprouts, minced pork, scallions and (best part) crispy dried prawns. The glass noodles could have been more chewy, but were otherwise fine.

Bitter melon stir fried with garlic and salted fish was fine, but the salted fish should probably be more finely diced, rather than served as big salty chunks.

2 baskets of xlb, the glass noodles and bitter melon came to ~£25. Xlb were the best of what we tasted. Worth going for xlb; wondering what the other dumplings are like.

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  1. steve h. RE: limster Oct 16, 2010 06:30 PM

    This sounds good. Is it a true dim sum place? What can you tell me about the room? Are there carts? What time did you go? Ratio of Europeans to Asians? Etc.
    Thanks in advance.

    5 Replies
    1. re: steve h.
      limster RE: steve h. Oct 17, 2010 11:34 AM

      It's not a dim sum place - xlb is a Shanghainese dish that would be separate from the Cantonese dim sum traditions, even though it's been adopted by many Cantonese places. The remainder of the menu seemed rather Taiwanese/Southern Fujian, with perhaps overlapping quite a bit with Leong's Legends. (I wished they made Shanghainese pan-fried dumplings/shen1 jian1 bao1)

      The room seemed pretty big, in basic white, and of interest is a window to the kitchen showing them making xlb. There are no carts; we had dinner there and there seemed to a mix of diners typical of any place in Chinatown.

      Hope to hear additional impressions from yourself and other hounds!

      1. re: limster
        t_g RE: limster Oct 17, 2010 11:39 AM

        They have dim sum during the day, we were there today

        1. re: t_g
          limster RE: t_g Oct 17, 2010 12:12 PM

          Dim sum as in Cantonese dim sum? Is the menu similar to Leong's Legends dim sum menu (I vaguely recall it was weekend lunch only at Leong's).

          1. re: limster
            t_g RE: limster Oct 17, 2010 01:19 PM

            yeah the menu's similar to the leong's one (iirc) except there were more varieties of dumpling

            1. re: t_g
              limster RE: t_g Oct 17, 2010 01:21 PM

              Forgot to ask, what did you get and did you like it?

    2. t
      thecriticalcouple RE: limster Oct 17, 2010 11:28 PM

      Thanks for this write up. I love xlb. I wish they did a mix of pork and crab like at Joe's Shanghai in NYC but I look forward to trying out the Sichuan variety

      3 Replies
      1. re: thecriticalcouple
        t_g RE: thecriticalcouple Oct 18, 2010 12:36 AM

        i think they might do a mix of pork and crab...

        1. re: thecriticalcouple
          limster RE: thecriticalcouple Oct 18, 2010 02:30 AM

          The ones we had were a mix of crab and pork. It's not going to be like Joe's Shanghai's version though -- from what I've read, Joe's rendition is different from the traditional Shanghainese version, and Dumpling Legends follows a more classical path. See http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/4341...

          1. re: limster
            thecriticalcouple RE: limster Oct 18, 2010 05:29 AM

            I also lived in Shanghai for a little while and agree that the dumplings at Joe's are not traditional but they are my favourite. Think I will give Dumpling Legends a try on Wed.

        2. s
          Simon RE: limster Oct 18, 2010 02:47 AM

          thanks for the descriptions...and since Emperess of Sichuan has become my go-to/default place in Chinatown, i like that DL has the same owner...

          when i lived in Shanghai i lived here:


          for about 8 months, and homemade xlb were served for breakfast about once/week...which pretty much spoiled me, and i haven't been thrilled by xlb anywhere else since -- but DL sounds nice, and bitter melon is also one of my fav foods -- i've never had the preparation w/ salted fish but i want/plan to try it there...

          re: the glass noodle dish, there is another Shanghainese glass noodle dish made w/ chicken/duck liver, that i've only seen in SH -- the richness of the liver coats the noodles in a really succulent way...curious if you've seen/eaten this dish anywhere...

          2 Replies
          1. re: Simon
            limster RE: Simon Oct 18, 2010 10:46 AM

            Haven't had that specific Shanghainese dish you mentioned. The glass noodle in the dish is of the dong1 fen3 variety, which is made (I think) from mung bean flour -- a Southern Fujian dish. Quite a bit of the menu looks Taiwanese/Southern Fujian to me a la Leong's Legends. Love to hear more reports, to get a better idea of what this place is like.

            1. re: limster
              Simon RE: limster Oct 18, 2010 10:54 AM

              cool...i'll try DL sometime in the next couple weeks...

              i had the duck-liver/glass-noodle dish at the hallowed Grape in SH (not one of my fav places overall as it's a bit of a bland place, but i returned there a couple times for that dish and because they serve wine by the glass)...

          2. s
            sikop4t RE: limster Oct 18, 2010 02:49 AM

            Thanks Limster. Went there last night and was also impressed by the delicate skin and the sweetness of the crabmeat. Did not quite have the oomph of flavour that some restaurants in asia deliver but still pretty good.
            Also tried some sichuan wontons which displayed the same lightness of touch from the kitchen.
            Steamed pork dumplings were less impressive and just bland.
            I liked the sweet potato fries in salted duck egg yolk batter. The potatoes might have benefitted from being a little bit softer/fluffier inside (it had a slight crunch) but it was tasty nonetheless. Mind you, I am addicted to anything with salted egg yolk batter!

            1 Reply
            1. re: sikop4t
              limster RE: sikop4t Oct 18, 2010 10:41 AM

              Cool -- good to have additional reports -- need to try the sweet potato fries, they sound good.

            2. zuriga1 RE: limster Oct 18, 2010 03:27 AM

              Do you think we'd have to book a table on a Saturday night or can one just drop in? I ask because friends from the States are in London this week, and I'm trying to come up with a dinner they might enjoy. .. as if there aren't a lot of choices. :-) I'll definitely try it one lunchtime - thanks for the tip.

              2 Replies
              1. re: zuriga1
                limster RE: zuriga1 Oct 18, 2010 10:40 AM

                We dropped in on a saturday evening ~6:30pm and waited ~10mins.

                1. re: limster
                  zuriga1 RE: limster Oct 18, 2010 11:43 AM


              2. t
                thecriticalcouple RE: limster Oct 20, 2010 12:43 PM

                Just got home after going to this place. It was terrible. The xlb were the only good thing. Everything else tasted like it was cooked with sugar and ketchup.

                7 Replies
                1. re: thecriticalcouple
                  zuriga1 RE: thecriticalcouple Oct 20, 2010 02:22 PM

                  Friends are here in London visiting from NY. We're taking them to Chinatown Friday night. Do you have a favorite there? I was pushing for Min Jiang but lost out.

                  1. re: zuriga1
                    thecriticalcouple RE: zuriga1 Oct 20, 2010 02:36 PM

                    I really like Leongs Legends

                    1. re: thecriticalcouple
                      t_g RE: thecriticalcouple Oct 21, 2010 12:53 AM

                      and you found the food a lot worse than leongs legends? interesting. i found it v similar, just w/ better dumplings

                      1. re: t_g
                        Simon RE: t_g Oct 22, 2010 10:52 AM

                        i'm curious about the actual connection in terms of owners/cook/staff etc at DL/LL/EofS...i haven't been to DL yet, but i stopped in at LL the other day randomly for a solo late-lunch/early-dinner and had a completely wretched dish...i only ordered one thing, so possibly unrepresentative, but it was inedible...really vile...and the staff didn't seem to notice/care that i'd eaten a single half-bite of my food before asking for the check and leaving...

                        Which i find curious, since Emperess of Sichuan has superb nice service, and good food...

                        Gotta say, London Chinese has been disappointing this past month...i like Emperess of Sichuan very much...and the dimsum at Royal China Queensway has often been very tasty, though inconsistent...but the list of Chinese restaurants that i'd never-ever return to is shockingly lengthy: Hakkasan, Royal China Baker St for dinner, New China (Chinatown), Chili Cool, Golden Day, and a couple others that i think i've blotted out of my memory...

                        Odd, because overall i've been delighted w/ London food, service, variety, etc...and Chinese cuisine is nowhere near the cuisine i'm pickiest about...having lived in Shanghai and Beijing, i'm used to oddball service and menu miscues and i tend to take it all in stride in the search for some authentic lovely craving items...

                        While there are a few non-Central places i'd like to try (e.g. Royal Place for hotpot, N.10 for Sichuan), i'm not sure whether there any other central London places i should try, or whether to stick w/ my couple decent hits and abandon the rest of Central London Chinese...


                        1. re: Simon
                          limster RE: Simon Oct 23, 2010 11:51 AM

                          New Aroma in Chinatown had good Fuzhou (i.e. Northern Fujian) cooking when I ate there over a year ago. If the chef is still there, would be worth trying for that genre. They added a bunch of Sichuan dishes to their menu several months ago, so looks like they've taken on another chef. The Sichuan-style dou4 hua1/soft tofu flower dishes do look interesting, probably worth looking into to see if they are any good.

                          1. re: limster
                            Simon RE: limster Oct 23, 2010 12:31 PM

                            thanks...i'll add it to my list...

                  2. re: thecriticalcouple
                    limster RE: thecriticalcouple Oct 24, 2010 10:01 AM

                    What did you order?

                  3. c
                    chief1284 RE: limster Oct 22, 2010 09:33 AM

                    I went here the other night. Xlb were very good, perhaps the best I've had in London. As others have said, it isn't quite Shanghai standard, but no doubt well worth a trip here and I'll certainly be back for more.

                    I also had dry-fried green beans, one of my favourites, and this rendition was unauthentic but still tasty enough. Nevertheless it was pretty mediocre compared to the real thing done properly. Sichuan style wontons were good. Really nice vinegar, soy and chilli sauce, wontons were nice enough but nothing to write home about. Guotie were the only poor part of the meal, much too thick skins leading to rubberyness.

                    Despite the qualms about the extras, it was actually nice surroundings and very good xiao long bao. What more do you really need? On a return I might try some of the things people have talked more glowingly about.

                    1. limster RE: limster Oct 23, 2010 11:54 AM

                      Anyone tried their crab roe xlb? Saw it on their dim sum menu today but they sold out by the time I was there.

                      The skins on the regular pork xlb that I had today seemed ever so slightly thicker than the crab+pork ones that I've had a couple of times. Wonder if it's within the realm of variation or if the chefs making them are different.

                      The minced pork with rice is typical of Southern Fujian and Taiwan. A decent rendition, with star anisey flavours in the dark soy gravy. Somewhat of a comfort food.

                      13 Replies
                      1. re: limster
                        Simon RE: limster Oct 27, 2010 10:16 AM

                        heya...went there today for a late lunch w/ oonth...we had the crab roe xlb, the bitter melon w/ salted fish, and the Malaysian chicken curry w/ rice (the latter we chose randomly)...

                        Was very happy w/ the xlb...nice non-greasy soup, nice fragrant crab...i liked the XLB here even better than at the much-praised DTF...also was very pleased w/ the bitter melon dish...i thought the Malaysian chicken was so-so and the white rice that came w/ it was a bit cold/old...

                        Pleasant staff...will surely return, as i'm curious to try their hargow and other dimsum items, as i'd love to find an alterative to Royal China...thanks for the rec...

                        1. re: Simon
                          esharpest RE: Simon Feb 15, 2011 02:49 PM

                          Tried the XLB at Dumpling Legends over the Chinese New Year - they had a special on the menu of XLB with truffles. They were pretty good but not great; I'm surprised to hear Simon preferred them to DTF's. I found them decent - well-made, good amount of soup inside, and the wrappers didn't come apart too easily; but the filling lacked flavour. It'd be helpful if they served them on muslin instead of paper, though, to prevent the dumplings sticking/breaking and leaking the soup out.

                          (I prefer the ones at DTF in Xintiandi to any I've ever had elsewhere - which I think is the best of the DTFs; in the Beijing DTF I went to not long ago the XLB were very disappointing, and the refined versions with foie gras, truffle etc at the Xintiandi branch weren't available.)

                          My favourite place for XLB in London is Noodle Oodle at the eastern end of Oxford Street. Royal China Baker St used to have pretty good XLB, with and without crabmeat (I prefer them without), but no longer.

                          Still haven't found an alternative to Royal China for dim sum; tried Princess Garden last weekend and were sorely disappointed. Empress of Sichuan is a big favourite, as Simon says, great food and staff. If you like the food at Empress, there's a new-ish place on Cleveland St in Fitzrovia which serves Hunanese food, with some Sichuanese dishes, and is worth checking out. Can't remember its name though...

                          1. re: esharpest
                            limster RE: esharpest Feb 15, 2011 02:54 PM

                            Is it M&Z the place on Cleveland street? It was a Shanghainese place, sounds like a chef change... Do you know if they make their own la4 rou4/"waxed meats"?

                            P.S. It might be an issue of DTF branch to branch variation. The ones from DTF in Singapore are nice but not special.

                            1. re: limster
                              esharpest RE: limster Feb 15, 2011 04:10 PM

                              Yes, it's M&Z. I don't know about a chef change or their la rou, but my gf might - I'll ask her - and it certainly wasn't Shanghainese food two weeks ago.

                              And yes, it seems there's lots of variation between DTF branches. A real pity, as the XLB in Beijing were a pale shadow of those you get in their Xintiandi operation, and I've been told that even their other branches in Shanghai aren't as good as that one.

                              1. re: esharpest
                                limster RE: esharpest Feb 16, 2011 01:52 PM

                                Thanks for the update, will have to check out the place again soon. If you've had Hunan at Golden Day, love to hear a comparison.

                                1. re: limster
                                  esharpest RE: limster Feb 19, 2011 07:46 AM

                                  I asked my girlfriend, and she doesn't know if they do their own waxed meats but will ask next time she's there. It's definitely not Shanghainese now - it's Hunan and Sichuan food. We didn't try the Hunanese food there, though. She doesn't like Golden Day but thinks the best Hunan food she's had in London is in Golders Green at Hunan Renjia, or whatever it's called in English - she only knows it by the name on the sign: it's the place across from the Tube station. BTW, we're glad to see so much support for Empress here - we're huge fans. And what would it take to get a branch of DTF in London?!

                                  1. re: limster
                                    gembellina RE: limster Feb 26, 2011 05:22 AM

                                    I went to M+Z again last night, and there was still about 3 pages in the menu headed "Shanghai style", a few Sichuan dishes, but also things like pigs ears, frog, fresh chillies, and blood cubes which a perfuntory google suggests are more hunanese. I'm sure someone will correct me if I'm wrong...

                                    1. re: gembellina
                                      limster RE: gembellina Feb 26, 2011 06:09 AM

                                      Thanks for the update -- wish I had a chance to try the other dishes, have only had the Shanghainese ones so far. Chilli without Sichuan peppercorns are likely to be Hunanese, so I think you're right, but the other ingredients can cross provinces.

                                      1. re: limster
                                        howler RE: limster Feb 26, 2011 07:30 AM

                                        apparently, they have a shangainese chef and a sichuan chef.

                                        it is an interesting menu and i've had some stunning dishes there. for instance, the cold starter chicken is poached perfectly and seasoned just right so that the interplay between texture and flavour is marvelous.

                                  2. re: esharpest
                                    plummonk RE: esharpest Feb 18, 2011 08:42 AM

                                    Agreed the Xintiandi DTF are the best XLB's I've ever tasted.

                                    1. re: plummonk
                                      chief1284 RE: plummonk Feb 19, 2011 02:41 AM

                                      It's great to hear DTF's praises being sung here. I lived in Shanghai for a bit and I've never had xlb like I had there. Sure loads of the little vendors had some nice stuff, but nothing anywhere near as refined. It seems a la mode to say the best are to be found in a impossible to find stall here or there, but from my experience that simply isn't true. That said, I don't like Xintiandi at all really and did probably have a more fun experience at smaller joints.

                                      Never been to any outside Shanghai, so I can't comment on consistency. I would say that that the xlb at Dumplings Legends don't even come close for my money.

                            2. re: limster
                              buzzarfood RE: limster Oct 28, 2010 05:34 AM

                              Do they have any other Shanghainese dishes on the menu? Or is it a more general 'non-southern' chinese menu.

                              Been on the lookout for a place with a good selection of cold starters (Drunken chicken, hot spicy stomach, jelly fish, tofu etc)...

                              1. re: buzzarfood
                                limster RE: buzzarfood Oct 28, 2010 08:17 AM

                                Dumpling Legends seemed somewhat Taiwanese to me in the mixture of different Chinese cuisines offered on the menu.

                                Try M&Z for Shanghainese stuff. It can be pretty good.

                            3. t
                              thecriticalcouple RE: limster Oct 28, 2010 06:03 AM

                              I went to Empress Sichuan the other day. I think I will skip the xlb all together now and head straight to ES

                              1. steve h. RE: limster Oct 29, 2010 02:36 PM

                                This has been an excellent post. Thanks to all.

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