Happy Year of the Rabbit! (Of course, I keep thinking that Rabbits get a bum deal for having *just* missed being a Dragon – which everyone knows is much cooler).
By coincidence, LondonEater also blogged today about Dumplings Legend, the latest Chinatown offering from the Leong’s Legend people. And I completely agree with him that DL is aiming to be the Din Tai Fung of London. Having recently visited the original Din Tai Fung in Taipei, I can say that Dumplings Legend certainly looks the part, from the white-chef-hatted cooks assembling the xiao long bao in the window down to the xiao long bao-headed cartoon character.
I’d gone to Dumplings Legend hoping it was a dumpling house. The sort of place that specializes in all that is beautiful in the world of filled dough, from baozi to jiao zi to xiao long bao. Instead, it’s a place that serves several types of xiao long bao and then offers a long menu of totally random and generic “Chinese” dishes.
It sounds like LondonEater had dim sum at DL, whereas I was there recently for dinner. That said, we both ordered the star attraction at Dumplings Legend: the xiao long bao.
The XLB we ordered were visually unattractive, but at least they were super soupy. They were no better than what you’d get at Leong’s, though, so considering the rest of our experience at Dumplings Legend, I’d return to Leong’s. (Note that even at Leong’s the quality of XLB has gone downhill over the years. Click here to see how gorgeous the XLB used to be there, way back in August 2008. It as if the more XLB are offered in London, the worse their quality becomes. That makes no sense, until you figure most of the XLB seem to be offered by restaurants that share the same ownership as Leong’s. A mere facade of competition).
In any even, while the XLB tasted alright, I wouldn’t stray too far from the dumpling offerings at DL. The space is large and sits on Gerrard Street, so I reckon it’s a commercial necessity to appeal to the many diners who are randomly picking a place to eat in Chinatown. Which means it’s not surprising the rest of the food is pretty mediocre. The menu blurb at Dumplings Legend talks up the seafood offerings, so we gave the steamed crab a go. And while the crab was large, the meat was a bit tough and not very sweet. And the sticky rice pretty dry, failing to absorb any delicious crab flavors.
I had hoped that sweet-and-sour spare ribs might be the real deal, but instead it was just cloying orange sauce poured over tough bits of fried spare ribs. Classic Gerrard Street fare.
Service, while rushed, was fine up until the end of our meal, when the waitress dumped vinegar and soy sauce all over my shirt while clearing our table. She tried to wipe at it (always dab, people! dab!), and when I asked her to just give me napkins so I could dab myself, she disappeared and was replaced seconds later by another server who just handed us the bill. You could only laugh, really. We paid the bill, and while Jon was using the gents’ upstairs, another server swooped in to change the table cloths while I was still sitting there. It’s not like there was a queue of people waiting to sit down, either.
So, for food and service, thumbs down. For xiao long bao, Dumplings Legend was fine, but for the same quality of XLB, just go around the corner to Leong’s Legend. They offer better food, generally, and the service is better.
Dumplings Legend, 15-16 Gerrard Street, W1D 6JE; 0207 494 1200; Nearest Tube station: Leicester Square.