Friday, 3 September 2010
Leung’s Legends, Chinatown, 4 Macclesfield Street,London, W1D 6AX
Our friends (MH & EK) were in London recently, and asked us out for dinner as it was MH’s birthday. As the bf wasn’t feeling too well, and my tummy was (and still is) behaving like a spoilt kid, we decided not to go with the Hunan option (think spice and all things painful – not nice) but to go with comforting, Taiwanese food instead.
We’ve been past this restaurant many, many times. Usually on the way to Rasa Sayang which is next to it, or to the bakery (port floss buns … yum. And yes, it is spelt port floss there) across from it. I’ve always wanted to try it out, but the faux little-street-in-a-chinese-town setting kinda put me off it a little, and the bf also had certain ideas about Taiwanese food being too spicy. I have now concluded that he might have mistook Szechuan food for Taiwanese food, but we’ll let it go.
I’ve also warmed to the whole faux street thing because it is quite quaint, and it somehow managed to make me feel like I wasn’t in a crowded Chinatown restaurant, but in a little cosy corner of a dimly lit, busy noodle shack.
Menu-wise – looking good and not at all intimidating. A few manageable pages, and lots of nice pictures to help the indecisive make their minds up. All eager to try something Taiwanese, we were given the task of choosing a dish each (and then it became 2 dishes each when we realised that the portion sizes weren’t exactly too generous). Thing is, most of the dishes on the menu seemed more like what we used to have at home, rather than something new and Taiwanese.
Does it mean that the home-cooking I’ve been having is Taiwanese?
Does it mean that this is actually a Malaysian restaurant?
Does it mean that Taiwanese food is very similar to Malaysian food?
Really, with these important questions, I’m surprised we even found the time to order anything at all.
But we managed. OK, to illustrate my point (about the similarities), this is the Taiwan Most Popular Omelette (£7). Does this or does this not remind you of the Oyster Omelette in Malaysian hawker stalls? Even the sweet chilli sauce on it is like something you’d find as a condiment at the hawker stall table.
But enough of trying to compare similarities. Let’s focus on the taste. For an omelette, this was surely the most gooey, sticky omelette of all time. Not gooey like in an uncooked-egg way, but more like they-might-have-added-too-much-starch-in-the-batter way. Lifting a piece up was like one of those pizza commercials where the cheese strings about in a tempting way, only this wasn’t cheese, but translucent starch.
It was kinda nice in a surprising way.
Eager to have something meaty, we ordered the Quick Fried Diced Beef with Garlic Slices (130g) (£9.80). The 130g reference was on the menu, and I’m not entirely sure why they put it there in the first place. 130g of beef is not an awful lot of beef between four people, and our first impression of the dish was ‘This little beef for a tenner?!?’.
OK we are cheapskates, but hey, for 10 squid, we expected a little more than that tiny portion of beef. Were they nice? Sure. Tender-ish, tasty, and easy to eat (diced), but it would have been a lot nicer with a lot more of it.
Stir-fried Green Beans with Minced Pork (£5) – on reflection, this was the best value for money. Crisp, crunchy and tender green beans with lots of ooompha (pronounced ooom-fa – a word I just made up), and for only a fiver. How excellent. Should have ordered three of this instead of the beef. It’s all about the quantity, me.
OK, this is virtually tau yew bak, isn’t it? (If you don’t know what that is, the question clearly wasn’t meant for you).
It’s in a claypot, it’s pork in a lot of soy sauce, it tastes fab, it’s comforting. Check on all the boxes!
Leung’s Braised Pork Belly (£6.50) – really, really nice. Tender, melt-in-the-mouth pieces of pork with a lovely sauce (which was a little too starchy, but it’s only a small point), absolutely fantastic with steaming, hot rice.
The Steamed Meat Balls with Salted Egg (£6.50) was another favourite. It’s kinda like a tardis in the form of a meatball. It may look small, but hey did it go on. Bite after bite, it went on. Not a bad thing as we all really liked it, and despite it looking like a plain, home-style dish, steamed meat is surprisingly difficult to get right, but they did it right here.
Now, not having much experience in Taiwanese food, we were recommended this Sticky Rice with Shredded Pork (£5.50). Presented beautifully, and cooked beautifully, the portion was generous and the rice was very tasty. Thing is, I don’t like this sort of rice so while I kept eating it (why let the fact that I don’t like it stop me), I didn’t enjoy it too much.
When my friend, who used to live in China, came to London to visit us a few weeks ago, she mentioned that one of the dishes she missed from there was a cold tofu and century egg dish. As I like both these ingredients, I kept wondering where I’d find something like this in London. To be fair, it didn’t sound too complicated to put together myself, but I prefer eating out.
How excited was I when I saw this on the menu – Bean Curd with ‘Thousand Years’ Egg (£3.80). I HAD to order it. And it certainly did what it said on the tin, with a bit more chilli oil on the side. Tasty? Uh huh. Exciting? A little. It’s amazing how putting 2 simple ingredients together makes a new, winning combination.
Would I recommend this cute little restaurant? This is so fabulous, I can’t believe we found this in Chinatown. Usually, when we want good Chinese food, we don’t go to Chinatown. Most of the restaurants here seem to be either buffet-type places, or so crowded that randoms sit with randoms and enjoy a nice meal with people they don’t know. So, it was really nice finding a place like Leung’s which serves food I’m accustomed to. Taiwanese or not, who knows.
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