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Update 19/11/2008: Charmaine and Chowhound confirm that Leong’s Legends is open again!

Update 06/11/2008: Not sure what’s up with this restaurant lately but I’d heard they’re closed for renovations and now I’ve heard they’ve closed completely! Will update again when I find out what’s happening. Here’s the review anyway!

There was a queue outside Leong’s Legends when we went to visit one weekend. If we had known beforehand that the wait would be long, perhaps we would have gone elsewhere but we stood there and waited and waited and eventually, after about 45 minutes, we got a seat in this small restaurant. We were given menus while we waited and so by the time we finally sat down, I was ravenous after reading all the menu items and we knew exactly what we wanted to eat. We placed our orders and then contemplated the low hanging lamp (if we leaned too far forward, we’d hit our foreheads on it). Table sizes were also nice and large, providing plenty of room for the dishes we ordered.

First to arrive was the xiao long bao, those famous Shanghainese soup-filled meat dumplings. Bizarrely, the bottoms were too thin while the tops were thicker which meant that we lost almost all the soup while trying to pick up the xiao long bao as the thin bottoms stuck to the steamer, tearing holes in the dumpling skins. A shame it was as the flavour of the dumplings was fantastic.

Xiao Long Bao

Next was a Shanghai style fried pork chop with noodle soup. I was so happy when I tasted this as it had the same flavour as my beloved Taiwanese fried pork chop! The coating wasn’t as crispy as it could have been but the flavour made up for it.

Shanghai Style Fried Pork Chop

Soup Noodles

As a small dish on the side, we had a braised pork belly bun, something I’d never seen in London. Though the slice of pork belly was not as melt-in-your-mouth as that I’d had at Momofuku Ssam Bar in New York, it was still tender and paired well with the crushed peanuts, pickled vegetables and soft white steamed bread.

Braised Pork Belly Bun

Braised Pork Belly Bun

I had ordered one portion of dim sum just to see how it would be and the little dish of my choice was one of my favourites, fried turnip paste. It’s not really turnip but daikon radish shredded and steamed with rice flour into a cake that’s then sliced and panfried. Quite good but from other reviews I see that I should perhaps have tried the shredded turnip roll – next time!

Fried Turnip Paste

All this food plus a large glass of fresh soy bean milk came to about £20 for the two of us. Service wasn’t terrific, which sadly I’ve come to expect of all Chinese restaurants in London’s Chinatown. Just after I’d put my last bite in my mouth and placed down my chopsticks, the waitress swooped onto our table and cleared everything from it, including my napkin. I couldn’t even wipe my mouth! That’s just ridiculous and it definitely needs improving – and I hope it does improve before my next visit for the excellent food.

Leong’s Legends
4 Macclesfield St
London W1D 6AX

Leong’s Legends on Urbanspoon

I returned to Min Jiang in Kensington for dinner the other week, this time by invitation to try their Beijing duck and to learn about Chinese dining etiquette along with a few other bloggers. This was a first for Min Jiang – they’d not performed any blogger outreach previously, mainly depending on word of mouth. I did ask why they’d suddenly chosen to do this and they replied that they just wanted to remind everyone that they were still there and doing quite well. Indeed, the restaurant was packed on the Tuesday night that we dined.

We started at the bar with drinks (I went with a refreshing nonalcoholic cocktail of jasmine tea, lychee juice and soda called a Jasmine Sling) and appetisers. In the distance, we could see fireworks

A Jasmine Sling

The Bi Feng Tang Soft Shell Crab with Garlic and Chili was fabulously fried soft shell crab with a sticky glaze and plenty of fried garlic and chili on top. It’s dangerously moreish and quite nice with drinks.

Bi Feng Tang Soft Shell Crab with Garlic and Chili

A Steamed Dim Sum Platter was also brought over – their green vegetable dumpling was, I thought, better than the gloopier version at Pearl Liang. I still feel funny eating dim sum in the evening though!

Steamed Dim Sum Platter

We then moved into the dining area for their Beijing Duck (legendary and wood-fired according to their menu). As soon as we sat down, a chef immediately brought over the duck on a trolley and started carving it up.

Carving Up the Duck

While that was going on, we were distracted a bit by the appearance of moutai, an extremely strong Chinese liquor that… well, I don’t like it. We each had a bit of a taste and were warmed from head to toe (shh…I broke the rules and only had a sip… I’m not good with alcohol).

Deadly Moutai

I was more focused on the duck. Slices of the just the duck skin was first presented to us and just like in Beijing, we dipped this crispy skin into fine granulated sugar.

Beijing Duck Skin

The chef continued slicing the rest of the duck skin and meat and incredibly thin homemade pancakes were brought out to wrap these up. The condiments available were traditional (sweet sauce with shredded leek and cucumber) and the modern Min Jiang style (garlic paste with radish and tientsin cabbage). No photos of my wrapped pancakes as I was too busy eating them! The duck was excellent.

Beijing Duck

After the duck was cleared, two duck dishes made their way to our table – these were made with the rest of the meat picked off our duck carcasses and one is included in the price of each half or whole duck. Spicy Minced Duck with a Lettuce Wrap made good use of the leftover meat.

Spicy Minced Duck with a Lettuce Wrap

Individual servings of Fried Rice with Diced Duck (the second leftover duck dish) were also placed in front of us. I thought this was a bit bland though it went well with the main courses that were to follow.

Fried Rice with Diced Duck

Those main courses were placed all together on the lazy susan in the middle of our table and were shared family style. Alaskan Black Cod Fillet Roasted in Sha Cha Sauce was beautifully flakey with the savoury sauce served on the side. I’ve never really figured out what’s in sha cha sauce as every version I’ve tried seems to be very different – still, this was pleasant enough.

Alaskan Black Cod Fillet Roasted in Sha Cha Sauce

Clay Pot Sanpei with Corn fed Chicken was Min Jiang’s version of the Taiwanese three cup chicken. I was impressed by the balanced flavours in this and loved the hint of heat imparted by the dried chillies.

Clay Pot Sanpei, Corn fed Chicken

Diced Rib Eye of Beef with Black Pepper Sauce was punchy with its pepper heat but the dish didn’t stand out for me.

Diced Rib Eye of Beef with Black Pepper Sauce

A vegetable is always included in a proper formal Chinese meal. This time, it was tender Baby Pak Choi Stir Fried in a Garlic Sauce.

Baby Pak Choi Stir Fried - Garlic Sauce

Two desserts were brought out though I’ll admit that most of us just managed to pick at them. Their Black Sesame Paste Dumpling coated in Peanut Crumbs was a dessert I had tried previously and it remained excellent.

Black Sesame Paste Dumpling coated in Peanut Crumbs

Unfortunately, I wasn’t particularly taken by the Min Jiang Sichuan Pancake with Cornish Vanilla Ice Cream, a slightly hard pancake filled with red bean paste.

Min Jiang Sichuan Pancake with Cornish Vanilla Ice Cream

Of course, all this would come at a pretty penny if dining on your dime. From my calculations, I think the meal that night would have cost each of us £35-45 per head for just the food – of course, if you’re looking for a place to treat yourself, you can’t go wrong here. Of everything I’ve already tried, I’d probably recommend going for lunch for duck and dim sum and perhaps some noodles too; it’s also the best time to get a great view over Kensington Gardens.

As for the Chinese dining etiquette, it was interesting to learn how to dine at a business dinner, how to toast with moutai, even how a woman should drink (though I’m ignoring all that I heard of that). And if you order the duck there (ordering in advance is recommended), a lesson in how to wrap duck pancakes is included.

Thank you very much to Min Jiang, the Royal Garden Hotel and Sauce Communications for the invitation. I’ve also previously blogged about Min Jiang here.

Min Jiang
Royal Garden Hotel
2-24 Kensington High Street
London W8 4PT

Min Jiang on Urbanspoon

The final Beijing post! It’s going to be a little haphazard but I just wanted to remember the best of the rest of the meals I ate there. Not every meal was spectacular but every meal was at least good. However, some of the good meals had spectacular dishes as part of it. Nothing was bad (except for the smell of stinky tofu which I just couldn’t get over – someone, please teach me how to eat it!).

On Ghost Street

After a day in the calming environments of the Lama Temple and the Confucian Temple, Blai and I headed to Ghost Street, a street full of restaurants that open long and late hours. We stopped into one (I forgot to note down its name) and picked pretty randomly from the long picture menu. The fried mantou, here in a basket with steamed ones, were just… well, let’s just say it’s hard to fault deep fried things.

Steamed and Fried Mantou

The restaurant also specialised in grilled skewers and the best we tried was skewers of mushrooms, here shiitake mushrooms. When grilled, they were incredibly juicy and even better when sprinkled with a tongue-tingling chilli and cumin mixture.

Grilled Mushroom Skewers

At a random restaurant near our second hotel

We went to this restaurant the night we moved hotels. While all the other dishes were average (but still very good when compared to most of London’s restaurants), this aubergine dish was quite the stand-out. The silky vegetable melted in the mouth.


A dinner at Guolin Jiachangcai

A terrible downpour one night forced us to stick to restaurants near our hotel again. We entered one very crowded place which turned out to be Guolin Jiachangcai, a popular restaurant serving homestyle food from all over China.

The star of that meal was this Hakka meicai kourou, steamed pork belly with preserved mustard greens. I nestled slices of the rich pork belly and the vegetable into the accompanying steamed buns and thereby ate some of the finest sandwiches known to man.

Meicai Kourou

From Sichuan province, we had this excellent mapo tofu, cooked with a firmer tofu than usual but I quite liked it that way!

Mapo Tofu

At a Chinese fast food restaurant

After watching the crowds at Hou Hai on the night of the mid-autumn (moon) festival, we trawled the area looking for a restaurant that could accommodate us so late at night. We stopped into one place on the street leading down from the Drum Tower that turned out to be a noodles and food on skewers fast food restaurant. Apart from a few skewers and a plate of dumplings, we also ordered minced pork noodles. A deep bowl full of hand pulled noodles sitting in a savoury broth studded with minced pork, diced potato, chives, carrots, tofu, tofu skin, and pressed tofu was brought to us. It really hit the spot that night!

Minced Pork Noodles

We also had the opportunity to see the all the staff at the restaurant (along with the owners and their families) sit down together to share an extravagant mid-autumn festival meal!

A work dinner

All of us from our group who travelled to Beijing were gathered together one night for a group dinner at a restaurant whose name I forgot to note down but I did hastily scribble down what I think is its web address. It was a seriously extravagant meal with our boss taking care of the ordering and well, over-ordering.

The restaurant was quite unique, consisting of just private rooms, each equipped with a wide screen tv with karaoke capability (we opted out this time). During ordering, we were even offered a fresh fruit platter with these fresh dates. I’d never had them before and was surprised by their crunchy, apple-like texture and not very sweet flavour.

Fresh Dates

The roasted pigeons were just finger licking good. There was a fantastic skin to meat ratio on these birds and they were just so juicy and tender.

Roasted Pigeons

I had too much of this – braised beef slices with mung bean noodles. The mung bean noodles had been wrapped into little bite-sized bundles. I helped myself to at least three bowlfuls of this – it was just all gorgeous in its beefy broth.

Braised Beef with Mung Bean Noodles

This Shanghainese dish is steamed red dates stuffed with glutinous rice, not something I would order if I saw it on a menu but they really are fantastic. They’re sweet as you’d expect dates to be but they’re less sweet than the brown dried kinds you find here and they’re not served as a dessert. The glutinous rice stuffing has the texture of mochi. When steamed together, they meld together into quite the succulent mouthful.

Red Dates Stuffed with Glutinous Rice

These radish puffs might look familiar – they are available in a certain Taiwanese restaurant in London. However, these in Beijing were just amazing – so light, so greaseless, so flaky. I somehow managed to fit in two of them.

Radish Puffs

It was also quite interesting to see how, in such a large meal as this (there were at least 20 different dishes), to see the progression from cold dishes to hot dishes to the pastries and breads and finally, dessert (a fruit platter).

Lunch across from the Pearl Market

OK, I didn’t have the name nor the address of this place and so rather than have a post to itself, this, our last lunch in Beijing, got stuck here. After a quick visit to the Pearl Market, we needed an equally quick bite before heading back to the hotel and leaving for the airport. We came across this little place across the street from the north side of the Pearl Market – that’s the best description of the location I can give you!

There’s one picture in the window and that’s of the one thing they sell there – flatbreads filled with meat. You can see them being made fresh in the front of the shop.

Brushing with Oil

We split one made with pork (beef was also available), dipping them into our own made dipping sauces of black vinegar and chilli oil. So delicious, I loved the huge variety of breads I encountered in Beijing.

Pork Stuffed Flatbread

As everybody else was having it too, we asked for the accompanying soup. This soup turned out to be an extremely bland and thick cornmeal “soup”. I have no idea what the appeal is but it was quite novel!

Our Lunch

And that completes my final Beijing post. If you need more, all of my Beijing photos can be found in this Flickr photoset (two trips to the Great Wall, anyone?!).

I was quite excited to finally try the Taiwanese food offered at Formosa, located across the street from Fulham Broadway tube station. The cuisine is under represented in London, with a Google search resulting in Leong’s Legends, Taiwan Village (which I’ve not tried), Keelung (which was in Chinatown but has now closed) and finally, Formosa. Last Friday, a group of us gathered there to celebrate Kevin’s birthday – he’s one of my colleagues and is quite the foodie himself. I do believe he’d told me about this restaurant in the past but I just never found myself in the area and so I was really looking forward to this meal which he’d organised and I know that if Kevin’s involved, it’s gonna be good!

Turns out the restaurant is quite tiny and yet there was just enough space for us all plus a few other non-partygoers. As there were over 20 of us, we were divided up onto a few large tables and served one of each dish to every four people. The meal felt like wave upon wave of dishes arriving at the table – there was a lot of food and I’d be really surprised if anybody left hungry!

First to arrive was this braised pork knuckle. The meat was so tender and falling off the bone and I detected some five-spice (or some of the spices in five-spice!) in the braising liquid. Bottomless bowls of white rice accompanied this and all the other dishes and was an absolute must!

Braised Pork Knuckle

Plates of lightly cooked pickled vegetables came soon after and were lovely refreshing bites to contrast the rich meaty pork knuckle. I never knew the Taiwanese loved to cook with so much chili but in all the dishes that day, it was mainly for flavour rather than heat. That said, there was a fresh chili sauce available that would knock your socks off.

Pickled Vegetables

More pork arrived in the form of this white pork with garlic sauce. The meat was indeed tender but wow, that innocent-looking sauce really did pack a punch with its unexpected amount of chopped raw garlic.

White Pork with Garlic Sauce

Big bowls of Taiwanese beef noodle soup were brought out at this time. The owner of the restaurant was hilarious in her instructions: “One of you will have to play auntie or big sister and serve the others!” One of the guys made his opinion about her choice of gender known, to which she replied, “Oh! Or big brother!” She’s quite chatty and extremely friendly and was happy to answer our questions.

This was the first beef noodle soup I’ve eaten in this country and I was pleased to find it was delicious – the soup good and beefy, the beef tender, the noodles with a good chew. I’d love to recreate this at home.

Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup

Was this next dish the infamous Taiwanese stinky tofu? Well, I detected no stink but crispy fried tofu is always a winner in my books.

Fried Tofu

This Sichuan-style chicken lacked the chili heat I expected but it was still tasty. I suspect the chicken had been velveted giving it an incredibly soft and moist texture.

Sichuan-Style Chicken

More pork (Yes!) – now it was the turn of one of my favourite Taiwanese dishes: fried pork chops. These moist inside, lightly crisp outside chops were delicious and I could have downed the whole plate myself.

Fried Pork Chops

The famous Taiwanese three cup chicken (cooked with equal parts of soy sauce, rice wine and sesame oil) also made an appearance and again the meat was supremely tender and so moist (also velveted). I’ve been sitting on a recipe for ages and really must cook it at home.

Three Cup Chicken

I was surprised to see a Taiwanese interpretation of the Sichuan dish of ants climbing a tree (minced pork on mung bean vermicelli) – there was no chili here but still tasty nonetheless.

Ants Climbing a Tree

The final savoury dish got some mixed reactions at the tables. Cooked oysters aren’t very common in European cooking, I gather, and so many people did balk at the strong flavours within. I loved this as it reminded me very much of the oyster omelettes we ate in Singapore, only this one came with a not unpleasant sweet sauce on top. I particularly love that tender yet crispy eggy and starchy edges to it. However, as this came right at the end, we were all struggling to fit it into our already distended stomachs.

Taiwanese Oyster Omelette

What’s a birthday without a birthday cake? Well, for Kevin, it was a big birthday platter of toffee bananas and apples. A piece each was enough for dessert – tummies were being rubbed by this stage.

Toffee Bananas and Apples

Now, some important points to note if you’re planning on visiting to try these Taiwanese dishes. Kevin had preselected the menu from Formosa’s Chinese language menu (I don’t like the fact that this special menu isn’t translated), which lists their Taiwanese specialities. I did speak to the owner about the dishes and she suggested that if you’re planning on ordering them, but can’t read Chinese like me, you can to try to describe the dishes or use their English names (i.e. ants climbing a tree). As well, one or two of these dishes may not be on the menu so if you’re very keen on any of these you see above, it’s probably best to call ahead and ask. I thought this place was a gem and we hope to return soon.

And if anyone’s interested, Kevin had managed to organise this whole menu at a cost of £16 per head.

Thanks for the invite, Kevin – the party was great with both good food and good company – and happy birthday again!

1 Walham Green Court
London SW6 2DH

Formosa on Urbanspoon

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Adams Cafe
Addie’s Thai
L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon
Ba Shan
Baozi Inn
Bonda Cafe
The Botanist
The Brass Rail – Salt Beef Bar (in Selfridges)
El Burrito
Cafe Gallipoli Bazaar
Cafe Garcia
Cafe Luc
Casa Brindisa
Chaam Thai Eatery
Charlotte’s Bistro
Charlotte’s Place
Chennai Dosa
Costa Azul
Czechoslovak Restaurant
Dean Street Townhouse
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal
Dosa n Chutny
Dragon Palace
The Duke of Sussex
Empório São Paulo
Evin Cafe
Faanoos Restaurant
Fish Hook
Flash (pop up restaurant)
Franco Manca
Galvin Bistrot de Luxe
The Glasshouse
Gifto’s Lahore Karahi
Gold Mine
Gordon Ramsay Plane Food
Gourmet Garden
Hawksmoor – Seven Dials
The Heron
HK Diner
Indian Zing
Jaffna House
Jen Cafe
Kalinka Restaurant
The Kati Roll Company
Kerbisher & Malt
Kew Greenhouse Cafe
Launceston Place
The Ledbury
Leong’s Legends
Little Lamb
Ma Goa
Maison Bertaux
La Maison du Chocolat
Malaysia Kopi Tiam
The Mall Tavern
Maltings Cafe
Maoz Falafel
Masters Super Fish
Minamoto Kitchoan
Moti Mahal
Mr Falafel
Number 10
Old Tree Bakery
Oriental City Food Court
The Original Shahanshah Vegetarian Restaurant
Pacific Plaza Food Court
Pearl Liang (2) (3)
Ping Pong
Pinto Thai Kitchen
Pitt Cue Co
Pollen Street Social
Postcard Teas
Princess Garden of Mayfair
Raison d’Être
Rasa Sayang
The Red Lion and Sun
Red Sea Restaurant
The Riding House Cafe
Rita’s Samosa House
St John Restaurant
Santa Maria Pizzeria
Seoul Bakery
Sichuan Restaurant(2)(3)(4)
Song Que
Su La
Sushi Hiro
Taiwan Village
Tate Modern Restaurant
Ten Ten Tei
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La Trompette
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Wild Honey
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The Sportsman, Seasalter

Cafe Central, Innsbruck
Gasthof Weisses Rössl, Innsbruck

Alt Wiener Beisl “zu den 2 Lieserln”
Demel, Vienna
Gasthaus Nestroy
Trzesniewski, Vienna

Les Brassins
Viva M’Boma

Baker’s Bar and Restaurant, Helsinki
Cafe Kappeli, Cafe Strindberg & Karl Fazer Cafe, Helsinki
Kauppatori, Helsinki

Bar Brasserie Le Bellechasse, Paris
Man’Ouche, Paris
Mon Vieil Ami, Paris
Le Petit Saint Benoit, Paris
Pierre Hermé, Paris

Da Augusto, Rome
Forno Campo de’ Fiori, Rome
Giggetto Al Portico D’Ottavia, Rome
‘Gusto, Rome
La Matricianella, Rome
La Matriciana, Rome
La Montecarlo, Rome
Il Gelato di San Crispino, Rome

Cacao Sampaka, Barcelona
Can Kenji, Barcelona
Cerveseria Catalana, Barcelona
Granja La Pallaresa, Barcelona
Granja M. Viader, Barcelona
Gresca, Barcelona
La Pubilla, Barcelona
El Celler de Can Roca, Girona
Chiringuito, Sitges
Restaurant La Marinada, Sitges

Pensionat Styrsö Skäret, Styrsö (Gothenburg)
Restaurang Familjen, Gothenburg

Zeughauskeller, Zürich

Acadia, Toronto
The Black Hoof, Toronto
F’Amelia, Toronto
Gilead Cafe, Toronto

Fatburger, Vancouver
Jang Mo Jib, Vancouver
Jonker Street, Vancouver
Kam Gok Yuen, Vancouver
Kintaro Ramen, Vancouver
Kisha Poppo, Vancouver
Market by Jean-Georges, Vancouver
Phnom Penh, Vancouver (2)
Sun Sui Wah, Vancouver
Vij’s, Vancouver
Wang’s Beef Noodle House, Vancouver

Araxi, Whistler

Babbo, New York
Di Fara Pizza, Brooklyn
Momofuku Ssam Bar, New York
RUB BBQ, New York
Shake Shack, New York
Sushi Yasuda, New York
Charley’s Steakhouse, Orlando
Havana’s Cafe, Orlando
Landry’s Seafood, Orlando
Sunset Sam’s, Orlando

Beijing Da Dong Roast Duck Restaurant, Beijing
Bellagio, Beijing
Confucian Teahouse, Beijing
The Muslim Restaurant, Beijing
Najia Xiaoguan
Noodle Loft, Beijing
Shun Yi Fu, Beijing

Australia Dairy Company, Hong Kong
Biu Kee Lok Yeun Chiu Chau Restaurant, Hong Kong
China Cafe, Hong Kong
City Hall Maxim’s Palace, Hong Kong
Din Tai Fung, Hong Kong
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Tim Ho Wan, Hong Kong
Tsim Chai Kee Noodle, Hong Kong

Afonso III, Macau
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Boon Tong Kee
Jane Thai
Killiney Kopitiam
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True Blue Cuisine
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Anusarn Night Market, Chiang Mai
Aroon Rai, Chiang Mai
The Good View, Chiang Mai
Lamduan Kaosoi, Chiang Mai
Old Chiangmai Cultural Center, Chiang Mai

Ahmet’s Turkish Restaurant, Brisbane
Jade Buddha, Brisbane
Toby’s Estate, Sydney
Viet De Lites, Brisbane
Viet Rose, Melbourne

Londonist Shoot and Eat Posts

September 2009 – Annie’s
August 2009 – Racine
July 2009 – Fish Hook
June 2009 – Dim Sum at Pearl Liang
May 2009 – Taqueria
April 2009 – Fino
March 2009 – Rasa Sayang
February 2009 – Casa Brindisa
January 2009 – Abeno Too
December 2008 – Sichuan Restaurant
November 2008 – Barrafina
October 2008 – Sufi
September 2008 – Viet
August 2008 – Oddono’s
July 2008 – Hamgipak
June 2008 – Mirch Masala
May 2008 – Ten Ten Tei
April 2008 – Canteen
March 2008 – Café Ciao
February 2008 – Oriental City


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