If I were a fan of bumper stickers (and if I had a car – and a valid driver’s license), I’d get one that reads: “I brake for xiao long bao.”
Two weeks ago, Tasty Treats in her alter ego form, TimeOut London restaurant reviewer, highlighted Leong’s Legend in Chinatown as a place that served not only Taiwanese food, but also xiao long bao (a Shanghai specialty). So, it was inevitable that I’d try it out asap. And I liked Leong’s so much the first time, I went back again a few days later with friends in order to maximize sampling of dishes.
First, let’s talk about the fragrant, soupy crab xiao long bao. The skin’s good – thin and almost translucent, but still firm enough to hold all that soup in while you tweezer the dumpling into your soup spoon. The filling is also good – as good as it gets in London, anyway (still a little bit too light and fluffy, like all xiao long bao I’ve tried in London). Lots of hot, delicious soup. Key. And you get eight for £6. A steal. Cheaper even than at Pearl Liang.
Now, even though I’ve been to Taiwan six or seven times, I couldn’t tell you what makes Taiwanese food distinct from other types of Chinese food. But one thing that’s hugely popular in Taiwan is beef noodle soup (nio ro mien). And the version at Leong’s Legend is pretty tasty. You get a massive bowl of fragrant, slightly-spicy beef broth and tons of fatty, tender beef for £4.50. Much better than the over-tendoned small portions sold at Cha Cha Moon. I’m almost looking forward to the dark, rainy days of winter, just so I can run over to Leong’s and warm myself up with their nio ro mien.
The impressive-looking whole chili crab for £11 deserves a shout out for being quite possibly the best deal in London. Salty, garlicky and spicy on the outside, moist and sweet on the inside, the crab is served in the shell, but it’s already cracked so you don’t need to fuss to get at the crab meat.
Many of the dishes at Leong’s are meat and seafood, with just a few veg options. So perhaps not so ideal for vegetarians unless they eat seafood. Dry-fried beans have proven the best of the veg. The garlic shoots on the menu were tough and fibrous, so I’d avoid those. And I’m going to go against the tide and say I didn’t enjoy the oyster omelet (owa jiang). Too wet and liquidy for me.
Service has been speedy both times I visited, so that kind of makes up for the no-reservations, queue-up-at-the-door policy.
The food and prices are great, whether you get dim sum at lunch or “regular” dishes at any time of day. I’m sure I’ll be visiting more often going forward.