Monday, 13 September 2010

Restaurant Review: Leong's Legends II

I used to love going to Chinatown.  When I was little I used to go their for dim sum with my dad.  Sadly Chinatown often gets a pretty poor rap.  This is often deserved, with a lot of places serving up fairly poor gloopy food.  Just as often, however, reviewers will say that if you stick to a particular set of regional specialities which reflect where the chef's are from you can eat very well.  Leong's Legends  (II was built later to cater for demand) is just one of those places.  Leong's specialises in Taiwanese food, though  looking at the menu gives little initial indication of this as it spans the gamut of regional Chinese cuisines There is for instance a heavy focus on Sichuanese, which is perhaps unsuprising given the success of places such as Bar Shu.  However, the Taiwanese items are easy to spot as they correspond to the recommended starred items and we stuck almost completely to these.

Named after a Robin Hood style figure, the interior of Leong's Legends II is decked out quite oddly to keep with the theme with fake pikes and spears and faux animal skins stuck up along the walls.  Apart from that it's fairly plain with grey walls, small corners with wooden tables, benches and stools.  As well as an odd interior the service is a little distracted.  So far so mediocre.  Then the food started to come.  The first things to arrive were morning glory stir fried with black beans, nice and crispy, with a fresh clean finish that still packed enough saucy meatiness from the beans.  Then came a fantastic stir fried chicken with a thick, sweet sauce made from rice wine, soy sauce, ginger, garlic and holy basil which leant it a great aniseed kick.  The chicken was lovely and soft inside with a delicious fatty, chewy skin.  The garlic cloves were just as soft and for the antisocial amongst us were great to eat whole.  The only complaints were that the red peppers in the dish could have had a little less rawness to them and that I found the sauce (admittedly after several spoonfuls) a little sweet.

Then came the dumplings.  Listed as dim sum, these had little to do with that Cantonese dish, instead they were soup dumplings, and reputedly some of the best around.  The dough was thick and the filling fairly coarse with a great deal of broth inside.  I am certainly not complaining that these were not traditional dim sum isn't a complaint.  I love dim sum, but sometimes something a bit more robust really hits the spot.  These ones were well flavoured and satisfying, though not so good that I am desperate to go back and have more.  That is perhaps because I have been eating them wrong.  In writing this post I found a most helpful guide.  Apparently the key is to put them on the spoon and puncture the pastry drinking the soup and then eating.  Biting into them when holding them with chopsticks like I was seemed to result in too much soup explosion, meaning  more of it than I wanted ended up on the table.  So I will have to go back and try them again with my new method, which should allow me to get more of the rich juices inside.  Of particular note in the dim sum section though were the deep fried turnip pastries which were at once crisp and  soft and yielding.  Finally came some sticky bamboo rice that was forgotten from our original order.  This was tasty, though since its seafood variant is not my favourite dish or one that I would normally order I'm not the best qualified person to judge.

All in all a good meal, which at £40 for too much food (realistically £30 would have been more than enough) represents good value.  Since we only tried the Taiwanese specials I can't tell you how they compare to the non-speciality dishes, but I definitely will say they were well worth it.

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