well Chinatown. We decide on Leong's Legend (or rather I decide! I am after all the reining foodist in this group of boozers and fitness trolls - it's an odd group yes; but a funny one nonetheless).
I am immediately seated and request some tea. You should always have tea when you eat Chinese food (i want to note that leong's advertises itself as taiwanese but most of the dishes are mainland and without prejudice i would say that as a restaurant this place qualifies under the generalist term chinese; hence this post shall refer to it as chinese with all disregard to any possible political tensions that might stir)
My friends arrive just moments later and together we fawn over the menu (and my friends boobs; which look ridiculously big in the basically seethrough vneck she is wearing). It's byob so one friend pops out for tiger beers - It's all happening. We eventually settle on a pretty wide selection that we intend to share.
We ask about the meat content of a few dishes that sound vegetarian (because one friend is vegetarian) and the waiter appropriately deflects the question by feigning language barrier; "Yes. Yes. Vegetables." She says as she scribbles down the numbers of our dishes. In the waiters defence; if you are going for regular Chinese food at a regular Chinese restaurant you should probably expect meat traces in basically all the food. It's just the Chinese way. No offence.
I do love me some Chinatown:
We first order some dim sum. Xio Long Baos, pork buns and shrimp dumplings. They come with soy and vinegar. As I take my first bite I am immediately pretty pleased with our venture into this Chinese establishment (Safe to say I have found my home away from home in Chinatown). The dumplings are good; not too thin and not too thick. The Xiao long baos of course are disappointing. Honestly, I love Xiao long baos but I have just never had a truly great one since that summer I worked in Shanghai and used to go to the hole in the wall market stalls for bowls of baos filled with scorching hot porky fat soup. Heavenly! But sadly, it seems, only available in China. These were naturally to thin on the dough side, too dry on the soup side and overall much too cool for my liking.
The pork bun however is a different matter. It had fretfully soft dough, filled with saucy stewed pork. It was better than average. And I want to state for the record that if it had been just average i would have though that ok; this is after all not a dumplings restaurant but rather an actual restaurant. I equate it to expecting great pasta in a pizzeria. It can happen; but it mostly doesn't.
Moving on; we definitely over ordered; egg pancake, spicy fish soup, silken tofu stew (my favourite), braised pork belly and duck. Holy smoke. The food just kept coming; so much so that I was sad we weren't at a round table, with a turning plate in the middle; a definite give away that this place is really modern Chinese. To my surprise (sort of: for some reason I have come to expect terribly little form Chinese restaurants even as I continually find delicious ones all over London. We shall re calibrate this prejudice; now.) it was all super good. The Sichuan fish soup was spicy, filled with small fried chile. The silken tofu stew; was delicate and glisteringly greasy. The duck pancake was roast and moist, with fresh garnish to accompany. The fried egg and veg pancake was tasty; without being over seasoned.
Digging in to all the dishes:
The pork really was the one thing I had had very high expectations of. This was a house specialty and supposedly really great. To be honest, it was very unmemorable. So much so that I actually don't remember it. I suppose we got so caught up in all the other goodness; it really didn't leave an impression.
I am definitely coming back to this extremely reasonably priced and entirely delicious technically Taiwanese jam. And I definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a relaxed night out with properly greasy good Chinese.