Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Dumplings' Legend

Restaurant Privilege is a huge and not-to-be-messed-around-with company. Its portfolio includes the various branches of Leong's Legend, Goldfish City, what was Keelung but now this, and a rather embarrassing host of faux Japanese joints. Together with the Royal China Group (yes these guys own the Four Seasons ducky destinations as well), they dictate and prescribe what ‘cuisine Chinoise à la mode’ is currently about in London. (And FYI, Hakkasan et al, are too ‘fusioned’ to be considered). If I’m an independent Chinese restaurateur in Central London I would soon be shitting myself reinventing my wontons into pierogi instead.

Restaurant Privilege has also diligently progressed ahead with the needs of the ‘new’ Chinese peeps that appeared in London during the past decade. London is now the mandatory ‘university’ home to the young Burber
rys and Prada clad Chinese students. Cantonese and South Chinese cuisine to these Mainland China folks from the north of Guangdong and Fujian provinces are all too complex, fussy and unnecessarily adventurous…they ultimately prefer the more plain-Jane approach of more pork, fat, saltiness and that’s it; wham bam thank you ma'am. As a result Chinese food in London is no longer exclusively Cantonese and Restaurant Privilege took advantage of a niche.

Now let’s be honest, we should be grateful to RP for the XLB phenomenon in London. The Xiao Long Bao or as I prefer, Siu Loong Bao (Cantonese and described as such from now on) has always been of tertiary importance when ordering dim sum. It simply paled amongst the established must-haves of siu mai, har gau and dare I say chicken feet. But RP woke everyone up instead with this. It simply made the little soup dumpling into a massive and rewarding sustenance to the soul.

Dumplings' Legend is RP’s latest baby. The group took over a Chinatown stalwart that was Lee Ho Fook (the Hong Kong heartthrob Chow Yun-fat was rumoured to be a co-owner); a forgettable but somewhat iconic place of the late and great Warren Zevon’s beef chow mein and renamed it Golden
Harvest. The latter was a short-lived affair, as Cantonese fayre was becoming over-familiarised (for entirely the wrong reasons I might add) and sadly complacent in London, RP decided to re-brand and cater for the other ‘Chinese’ as well.

Anyway if you’re in a hurry and tired of my rant, please head off to Mr Noodle’s review here. I wanted to start the post with an immense damning of the service at this place but got carried away with the pseudo Gill-ish pre-food-review rhubarb. I first came here with my daughter and discovered two irritating quibbles with Dumplings' Legend. First the hidden service charge (a reckless practice RP thrives on); it was nowhere to seen anywhere in the restaurant except for a small print on page 3 of the a la carte menu!

The bill with a random total, wtf! Actually wtf twice, Golden Harvest? A serious caveat emptor is thus reminded to anyone wishing to dine at any of RP’s restaurants- if let’s say that your budget is strictly 20 quid and no more, that means £16.70 for the food, £1.10 for the tea and over 2 quid for the odious charge…you’ve been warned! Secondly the service was appalling, the young staff employed by DL are masters of total emotional detachment and don a constant degree of condescending sighs. And as they only spoke Mandarin; this made the overall experience more despairing.

Dumplings made before your eyes- a showcase to whet one’s appetite (although not the first).

Multiple guess and tick-yourself lunch menu. And as nags go, please don’t bother with stuff like crispy aromatic duck and pancakes or crispy shredded beef…the lunch menu here is a bit more discerning than the norm.

Thai-style Spicy Chicken Feet

Boneless, served correctly at room temperature and not too spicy. I gathered that it might sound weird but these ‘phoenix talons’ possess the most intense chickeny flavours. Excellent eating if one’s au fait with the Chinese obsession with ‘texture’ eating.

Taiwanese-style Noodle Soup with Minced Pork

A well-proportioned and midi-sized bowl for a dim sum meal. Noodles were perfectly al dente along with a generous amount of lovely minced pork and half a wonderful soy egg. As for the latter, boiled eggs as garnishes make me perennially happy. Eat with chopsticks, slurp from bowl and burp if necessary…recommended.

Fresh Crab-roe Siu Loong Bao

Having been to DL’s sibling’s, I waived on the classic pork Siu Loong Bao and ordered the higher cholesterol crab dumplings.
Dip dumpling in some gingered rice vinegar, rest on spoon, puncture with chopstick, sip the soup, and devour the rest. Your mouth doesn’t facilitate the smelting of iron core, so don’t burn yourself and consult one of those despicable injury lawyers thereafter!

At the best of times dining Chinese can be a lottery, but there was plenty of white crab meat here! An impressive rendition of the Siu Loong Bao.

A mis-order, ticked Steamed Rice with Braised Beef in Curry instead of Malaysian-style Curry Chicken Rice.

I suppose it’s the same thing. The actual curry base was outstanding, fragrant, spicy and packed full of coconut cream. But the beef chunks were too tough and chewy. With enough potatoes thrown in and a generous bowl of rice, this ended up as a hearty one-dish meal. Good value but stick to the chicken methinks .

Came back here a second time with KC, a Chinatown veteran and restaurateur.

Well I never!

Limited edition dumplings with black truffle!
Six instead of the usual eight.

No skimping here. There were enough truffle bits to preserve its pungency. For obvious reasons the dumplings were eaten without the all-important rice vinegar. Truffles and MSG go beautifully together, highly recommended even if it doesn’t appear on the menu by the time you’ve read this.

Scallop with Cheese & Mashed Taro

This was basically Wu Gok (pork filled taro dumplings) with a scallop filling. At the very least real taro was used here as opposed to most Chinese restaurants resorting to cheaper mashed potatoes. Despite a quarter of a scallop used per dumpling and the cheese going AWOL, they were extremely scrumptious.

Rice with Minced Pork & Sauce

One of DL’s supposedly signature dishes. Unfortunately more rice than the rest of said ingredients. What little pork and sauce there were, it managed to indicate a masterclass in five-spice powder and soy sauce seasoning. Alas, the whole dish was too dry and mirage-like. Nice egg but an overall disappointment.

Cheung-fun with Sliced Sea Bass & Preserved Vegetable

Forgettable and unbelievably salty. Avoid.

Sichuan-style Noodles with Minced Pork

Now, and by this time you should have a pot of Chinese tea (preferably Pu'er) on the table. The incredulous presence of chilli oil in any Sichuan dishes requires not lager, wine, coke, or Gaviscon but a pot of the above to aid with the digestion. Not exactly the all defining bowl but I’ll probably order it again as I'm partial to chilli sadism.

Oh the bill!

Turn overleaf…an itemised total, a gift from the heavens!

Golden Harvest Dumplings' Legend is not so bad, in fact it’s great for lunch but if I’m going to have dinner in Chinatown I’d rather go to Joy King Lau or New Mayflower (a Cantonese speaking friend on tow is essential). Dumplings' Legend is currently the place in London for soup dumplings.

15-16 Gerrard Street
London W1D 6JE


tehbus said...

I quite enjoyed the Gill-ian ranting and learnt a bit too. I love to learn a bit about Chinatown, and actually a little shocked about the growth and domination of RP. Won't be long until they take over the whole of Chinatown!

bellaphon said...

Hey Old Johnian, thank you for your comment.

MillySpamBot- you're history.

SootSoot said...

Hello, I've been reading your blog for quite a while now and love your posts, but I have to disagree and say that their dumplings were not that great to me! The "skin" was so thin that the frequency of bursting was much more than usual. I think Leong's Legend trumps them, even by decor alone. The truffle dumplings look interesting though.

bellaphon said...

Hi Soots,

Thank you for your comments. I believe that when a camera is plonked on the table, words travel accordingly to the kitchen about more attention to quality is needed without fail or I've been lucky most of the time.

Mr Noodles said...

I see you got lucky with the crab. I may return here for lunch but as you know I found dinner really underwhelming.

tehbus said...

How did you know I am an old Johnian??

bellaphon said...

Mr Noodles- good luck!

tehbus- you mentioned once before on this blog that you were at Hursts as I was at Lancing.

tehbus said...

Ah, got you. You have an awfully good memory, clearly better than mine.

Kay @ Chopstix2Steaknives said...

I have not been to JKL or Mayflower yet. I'll have to go check it out. I do really like the steamed egg dish using 3 different types of eggs at DL though. Is really good.