When I told a couple of people in Paris that I was going to London to eat, the first thing they said was something criticizing British food. Well, the London I’m talking about mostly involves Chinese food.

So I come from a family that doesn’t tolerate mediocre Cantonese food. That sounds very spoiled but I grew up in the San Gabriel Valley and spent a lot of time in Richmond, British Columbia — two places that are known to have some of the best Chinese food in the Sino-diaspora and where talking about restaurants is sport. In Paris, I’m a bit resigned to pared down flavors and boring Chinese food that just adequately satisfies a craving, sometimes making me even more homesick.

And while I’ve eaten some of the best canard in France, roasted duck over rice in the 13eme is never as good as this:

And this was just at some hole in the wall off Oxford Street or something.

One night we had dinner at Yauatcha, one of those trendy dim sum places that seem to be all the rage in London these days.

The dim sum litmus test. There are a billion things on the menu or in the push carts (though they seem to be looked down upon as gauche these days) but, according to my dad, the one obligatory item one MUST order is the shui mai.  No one in our family even particularly even cares for it so much, but we will always order it. The taste, the ratio of pork to shrimp and especially the texture will tell you everything you need to know about a dim sum chef’s skills.

While the shrimp toast was the favorite of the evening, my personal litmus test is the daikon cake. I think they are doing some very similar things back in SoCal by getting kind of experimental. So this turnip cake was dipped in egg and chives and fried. I would say this place passed rather easily.

Its sizable Hong Kong population makes London’s Cantonese food top rate. I read that they’re only starting to explore more regional cuisines. Leong’s Legends is a relatively new Taiwanese eatery in Soho that combines dark, Scandinavian minimalist furniture with kung fu fighting spears. Xiao long bao, something very delicious that’s been missing in my life these days:

Next installment: Traditional British fare…