The rustic northern-style dim sum at Asian Legend is a hearty alternative to the dainty small plates found at most Cantonese restaurants. Of all the tempting (if carb-heavy) bites, the soup dumplings shine ($7.25). The tender crab-and-pork meatballs, bathed in a rich, savoury broth, are a challenge to pick up due to their delicate translucent wrappers, but the umami-rich payoff is worth the work (technique: chopsticks around the ridged tip, soup spoon supporting the base). To prevent a soup explosion, nibble a small hole in the wrapper to suck up the piping hot consommé before tackling the dumpling itself (after a dip in the ginger-spiked black vinegar). We round out the meal with other Shanghai classics, like the glutinous rice roll ($3.95)—a reverse burrito with sticky rice wrapped around crisp fried dough and pork floss—and a bowl of seasoned soy bean soup ($2.95)—dried shrimp, diced green onions, chopped fried dough and chili sesame oil, all mingling in a wonderfully cloudy soy milk broth.
The cost: $18.50, with tax and tip. Tea is complimentary.
The time: A speedy 27 minutes, despite the packed house.
Asian Legend, 418 Dundas St. W., 416-977-3909, www.asianlegend.ca