Something didn’t feel right when I got back from my end-of-year Asia trip. It bugged me a lot as it was not the usual post-holiday blues and felt worse than the rubbish weather I came home to. There was no telling what it was until I walked past Chinatown on my way to meet a friend. For some weird reason I stopped in front of a restaurant, gazed at the window and the answer came to me: I had post-xiao long bao depression.
Such serious situation needed to be dealt with so I called my girlfriends and we headed off to Dumpling’s Legend for a serious war of diets and a serious serving of xiao long bao. There was a long queue for tables but we managed to charm the hostess as we walked in. As soon as we were seated we ordered two servings of XLB: one spicy, one classic. At £6 for eight pieces per serving this was such a treat.
The little soldiers came soon and powered by a hunger I’ve not felt in a while, I picked one. It wasn’t exactly love at first sight – it looked a bit too thick-skinned and a tad too tall. It didn’t move as smoothly and it didn’t look as promising as the ones that came before. I had a sudden fear that it won’t be good enough, that it’s not going to satisfy, that this was a doomed choice to begin with. But I had to give it a chance. Substance over form.
The first bite was good enough to land second base.
Yes, we are still talking about dumplings.
I shared the spicy pork XLBs with The Don and it was quite tasty. There was enough broth and the heat kick definitely came afterward. The filling was porky enough and you can see from the specks of chili that they’ve upped the spice level for those who like their food hot. I guess my only problem with this was the major aftertaste of chinese five spice (I’m really not a fan of anything aniseedy). Admittedly, it was bearable once I ate it with the soy-vinegar and ginger sauce but I’m not a huge fan of having to add sauces on food.
I didn’t try the classic pork XLBs because the aftertaste of the spicy ones put me off a bit but G&T both seemed to enjoy it. Nonetheless, I was somehow pleased my craving was satisfied. But they were no Din Tai Fung (and I know that even DTF do not serve the best XLBs).
And of course we didn’t stop there.
We had some sir-fried morning glory (aka overpriced kang kong at £7.80) and stir-fried beef with chinese broccoli (£10.80). Both dishes were pretty average. The meat was tender and the broccoli was cooked just the way I liked it (crunchy stalks and firm leaves) but flavour-wise, I wasn’t totally moved. Pushed, maybe.
Our last dish was possibly what saved the night. Surprisingly.
I do apologise for the lack of photographic skill but hello, black pepper crab! At £15.50, this is ‘reasonably priced’ for London standards. We were crazy for the sauce. It had a nice consistency, silky but thick and not gloopy, with a good balance of sweet-salty-spicy flavour (even G who has low spice tolerance enjoyed it), and it did not overpower the sweetness of the crab. The crab itself was meaty and there was quite a lot of it hidden under all that sauce! I swear they threw in an extra claw or two. Possibly even three. I had no shame grabbing the last few legs, I was really happy with this dish.
Overall I’d say our dining experience was just alright. The service was brisk but attentive despite a busy night and I guess we were lucky we didn’t have to queue. As for the food, I think it was a decent enough meal and that crab was super delicious. However I did go there for XLB and as I’ve only tried the spicy ones (which apparently is the least favourite), I can’t rate them yet on the first date. So I’ll give this restaurant another chance later on but overall, I think I somehow got over my post-xiao long bao depression with a little help from my friends.
And that extra crab claw.
15-16 Gerrard Street, Chinatown, London, W1D 6JE | +44 020 7494 1200
Ave spend pp £20. Set meals start from £14pp