After a great trip to Hong Kong last year my keen interest in dim sum is now threatening to become a full blown obsession. Having heard pretty good things about the Taiwanese style dim sum and street food at the latest branch of this mini chain I was looking forward to trying out.
The interior is fitted out to resemble an oriental drinking den: booths separated by slatted partitions, dark wood and low lights. Although it's pretty dark it still manages to feel welcoming and spacious inside. The Ewing remarked she felt as though we in a scene from the Deer Hunter- thankfully without the game of Russian roulette.
The dish I was most excited to try was the bizarre sounding casket. Described on the menu as 'minced chicken and mixed vegetables in crispy box shape of toast' this is apparently a regional speciality in Taiwan and is also know as 'coffin bread'. Sure enough a deep fried basket, complete with lid, quickly appeared at the table.
The inside resembled a kind of western style chicken pie, pieces of peas, carrots, chicken and mushroom were bound in a thick, bechamel style sauce. Certainly strange and strangely satisfying this was quite unlike anything I'd eaten before. One word of warning, eaten piping hot it's rich, crispy and comforting but once it cools down the filling quickly becomes gloopy and the bread greasy, and I fear too many of these would see you meeting your maker alittle earlier than you may have hoped.
The restaurant is well known for one of my favourites, xiao long bao (soup dumplings), which come with a variety of fillings. We picked the pork and crab and were pretty happy. The wrappers were light, but thick enough to hold in the piping hot soup (with only one casualty sticking to the bottom of the steamer) and the filling was juicy. Although I would have preferred it to taste a bit more 'crabby' if i was being fussy.
Another traditional snack on the menu was the mini kebab with pork, served in a white bun made from a springy dough very similar to that used in char siu bao. I enjoyed this a lot, the fatty pork belly was complimented by crunchy peanuts and fresh green herbs. The Ewing remained unconvinced by the addition of nuts, but that didn't seem to stop her polishing off her portion. A spicier chili sauce would have cut through the fat and richness, but I'd still happily eat another.
We also ordered stir fried (what's the story) morning glory, which were bright and crunchy with a saltiness from added black beans and a lovely, iron-rich flavour.
A coconutty seafood broth with with two huge prawns, scallops, mussels and squid. (not really my thing and I didn't get the chance to taste this but the Ewing assured me was delicious, in between slurps.)
And finally some steamed rice in bamboo with shrimps, scallops and dried mushrooms. The rice was good, sticky and full of nuggets of fishy, savoury loveliness.
With two (slightly warm) Tsing Tao beers and service the bill came to a shade over £40. Not bad value as we struggled to finish everything and ordered a decent variety of dishes. Service was good and the food came quickly. If anything this was more of a problem as the overwhelming choice, coupled by the fact that most the dishes needed to be eaten hot to be at their best, made deciding what to eat next quite a challenge!
In an area with a variety of traditional Cantonese restaurants Leong's Legend makes a interesting change and is worth a visit to sample some unusual Taiwanese favourites.