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Revelatory new Sichuan restaurant--Legend on 7th Avenue at 15th

So what used to be a fusion Vietnamese restaurant, Safran, and seems also to have gone by the name of Jasmine (still the name on the awning), is now an astonishingly good SIchuan restaurant apparently called Legend (the name on the menu), which still serves a full Vietnamese menu and also has a full bar with a bigtime happy hour scene going...so you can get an inexpensive mojito with your dinner, if you like...

I'm a huge fan of Grand Sichuan International on lower 7th, also of Lan Sheng and Szechuan Gourmet, but I have to say there are some dishes at Legend that I have never tried before, and the kitchen in general seems very very promising. If you go, you might want to try dishes from the "New Style Sichuan Food" section of the enormous menu (there is also a "Traditional Sichuan Food" section, a "Pickled Peppers" section, a "Griddled" section, a "Cool Pot" section...I'm serious, this is a large and very intriguing menu, worthy of devoted study!)

So far, for appetizers, I have liked the Shrimp Wonton in Red Sesame Oil, a dumpling treatment I had never had before, the cold dish of Bean Curd Mixed w/ Chopped Green Onion, and I am looking forward to trying the Tears in Eyes (Very Spicy Mung Bean Noodle). Also fascinating were the Sour and Hot Sweet Potato Noodles (made of sweet potato starch perhaps?)

For main courses, I am looking for help and guidance in exploring this menu, but I would strongly recommend the Dry Spicy Diced Chicken w/Ginger and Peanut; this is an enormous plate of what may be one of the absolute BEST fried chicken dishes in the city of New York, and, from the "Casseroles" section of the menu, the Braised Eggplant and Diced Fish w/Black Bean Sauce, a dish I have never had elsewhere, spicy and fascinating, and, from "Traditional Sichuan Food," the Double Cooked Fresh Bacon w/Spicy Bean Sauce, and the Sichuan Spicy Noodle w/Minced Pork, both state of the art renditions. Also Sliced Pork with Garlic Stems: one member of our party declares this one to be his favorite. . .

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Szechuan Gourmet
21 W 39th St, New York, NY 10018

Lan Sheng
60 W 39th St, New York, NY 10018

Legend
88 7th Ave, New York, NY 10011

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  1. I was a big fan of Chef Laura, formerly of Monsoon and then Safran. I wonder where she is these days. Regardless, Legend sounds great. Will give this a try. Somehow I can't locate a listing of this place anywhere.

    14 Replies
    1. re: nativeNYer

      Maybe it's the multiple names--and maybe I should have specified in my post, given the issue with all the names--I am looking at a take-out menu, recent, up-to-date, with all those dishes on it, and the name is Legend Bar & Restaurant, the address is 88 7th Avenue, between 15th and 16th, and the telephone number is 212-929-1778...BUT, as I said, the name on the awning is still Jasmine, and you can find it under that name (Jasmine FKA Safran--same address, same phone number) with online reviews--but those still seem to be from the old menu. You can also find Safran (same address, etc) online--but only one review I saw anywhere of the new menu--and that was under the new name. So maybe someone more skilled with language or Szechuan chef geneology can help me understand how the place has evolved--but in the meantime, all I can say is, when the chicken and the ginger are hitting the wok, you want to be there!

      1. re: nativeNYer

        Another fan of Chef Laura Lam - too bad Monsoon closed, it was one of our favorite restaurants in UWS. We did follow her to Safran but have not been recently - the OP does mention Vietnamese dishes on the menu, perhaps she's still there? I was disappointed at the change but it seems like the new place is worth a try. Thanks for the post!

        1. re: uwsister

          I suspect she's moved on. Jasmine's Web site is still up at http://www.jasmine-88.com (warning to office workers: it comes with cheery music) and it refers to "new chef Fu Wang." A two-week-old Yelp page for Legend mentions the Sichuan news. There's also a Seamless Web page under the name Legend, but it's otherwise out of date; its menu doesn't include the Sichuan dishes, and its photos and "About Us" section still refer to Safran.

          1. re: squid kun

            That makes sense--though I do have to say that I see people in there eating Vietnamese food and lunch specials with clear enjoyment, and when we asked, they said that the Vietnamese chef was still there, but there was a Szechuanese chef now as well--but it wasn't very clear.

            1. re: squid kun

              how did you find the yelp page? can you post the link. this is all i see:

              http://www.yelp.com/search?find_desc=...

              i found the legend seamless link which refers to chef laura but, as you stated, the specifics relate to jasmine/safran despite the legend title. one great mystery.

              pearlie, your post was crystal clear and i understood what you meant when you stated legend was the name on the menu. with all the recent name changes, it was not surprising to learn they have not yet changed the awning.

              safran was good when it first opened. after i expressed my sadness about monsoon (i am still in mourning over monsoon) on this board, one wonderful CHer told me the scoop on laura so i rushed right over. when i told them i was a monsoon customer, laura came upstairs with a big smile on her face and sat at our table to chat. i've seen her do this with many other customers.

              never been to jasmine and something tells me laura wasn't the chef there. i'm looking forward to trying legend. laura or not, legend sounds great. http://www.safran88.com/our-chef.php

              1. re: nativeNYer

                Join me in mourning for Monsoon - every time I walk by the old site (still empty, WTH?) I feel sad! We also mentioned Monsoon when we visited Safran for the first time and she came up to greet and check on us.

                I think the change to Jasmine was fairly recent - perhaps they finally settled as Legend.

                1. re: uwsister

                  I know! it's still empty. i was gonna state that above but i stopped myself. i curse the landlord every time i walk by. i remember telling laura that it was still empty and begging her to consider re-opening on the UWS. i was bummed when their columbia location closed on broadway nearly 10 years ago. here's the menu so you can cry: http://nymag.com/listings/restaurant/...

                  yes, the change to jasmine occurred within the year, perhaps within the past 4 months.

                  1. re: nativeNYer

                    Since this thread came up again and it's been a while - any trace of chef Laura Lam?

                    1. re: uwsister

                      oh thank you for asking that question, uwsister!!! i was the lunatic frantically attempting to search Chef Laura down for years until someone came through for me right here on CH when they hooked me up with safran. i was so happy to see laua that we nearly hugged. she's now MIA again. :(

                      1. re: nativeNYer

                        Maybe someone will come through again! I regret not visiting Safran as often as I should have while Chef Lam was there :(

                        1. re: uwsister

                          I agree but Safran never rose to the same heights as Monsoon. I am still in mourning with cravings. Chef Laura is such a sweetheart with a huge talent. ;(

                          1. re: nativeNYer

                            Yeah, that is very true that Monsoon was better than Safran. My husband and I both miss it dearly. Let's keep our fingers crossed!

          2. That Dry Spicy Diced Chicken w/Ginger and Peanut has replaced the Gui Zhou chicken at Grand Sichuan on 34th st as my favorite Chinese chicken dish in New York. And the Sliced Pork with Garlic Stems is absolutely amazing. The pork is cooked like crispy bacon and the garlic stems seemed to be pickled somehow. The Lo Mein with Ginger and Scallion also had more ginger and scallion in it than any rendition I have had before. The Tears in Eyes had about two solid inches of chili pepper heaped onto mung bean noodles swimming in chili oil. It's not as well balanced as their other Sichuan appetizers, but it's a definite contender for people who really crave some burn. Finally, the Ma Po Tofu was just as I like it: medium sized chunks of tofu, finely ground pork, lots of Sichuan peppercorn, and a sauce that manages to be both oily and light at the same time. None of this nonsense with cornstarch and greenpeas.

            The happy hour Manhattans are also dangerously tasty.

            On the downside, the Griddled Cooked Duck managed to be less than the sum of it's somewhat elaborate components. A fancy chafing dish does not make up for too many random veggies and a bland sauce.

            I think that Legend will definitely be one of my top choices for Sichuan food once I learn a little more about which of their unique dishes are delicious and which are disappointing.

            4 Replies
            1. re: bworm42

              Thanks, bworm42. I am heading over there tonight.

              1. re: nativeNYer

                this is potentially exciting. thanks!

              2. re: bworm42

                What is their happy hour special? Legend was already on my list of places to visit, but a good happy hour might speed up my time frame.

                1. re: JungMann

                  I believe the happy hour lasts from 4-9, but it might start even earlier. It includes 2 for 1 beers (American, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Thai options), and about a dozen different 5 dollar cocktails. I don't remember all the cocktails, but there were a few kinds of flavored "martini," a very large and pleasant mojito, and an extremely drinkable manhattan. With those hours it's closer to a dinner deal than a happy hour. And I was surprised by how well bourbon goes with spicy food.

              3. I haven't yet tried the Sichuan dishes since I have to stay off spicy food for a few weeks. But I have noticed a little bit of slippage with the Vietnamese side of the menu. When it was Safran and Jasmine, the pho broth was good. It isn't, anymore. On the upside, the bo luc lac and lemongrass chicken are still good. Drinks are really cheap during their long happy hour, but make sure you order one that has enough flavors added to cover up the low quality alcohols they use to mix.

                1. Special thanks to Pearlie! I tried Legend tonight and liked it a lot. The place looks nearly identical to Safran but the menu is completely different, obviously with the focus on Sichuan food. I did not bother with the Vietnamese menu but, instead, tried the Spicy Sichuan Noodle (toss off between that and the Mung Bean Noodle) and the Chicken with Ginger and Peanut. Lots of great items are listed on the Sichuan menu.

                  Everyone is very, very nice. More noise at the bar than usual (although less than 5 patrons were seated there). Seemed to be a mid-twenties crowd but somehow different from the slightly older, more professional group that typically hung out there before. There were only three other tables taken when I walked in but it was after 9:30pm.

                  As soon as they served the noodle dish, I noticed a particular scent that I usually find unappealing. Not sure how to explain this scent/taste but it tasted/smelled like there was too much vinegar in the noodles. I'm sure it's not vinegar but perhaps someone can identify the flavor. The noodles were wonderfully firm and they looked beautiful but the taste, for me, was not as appealing as I had hoped. This could very well be me as I seem to be hesitant about some of the Sichuan flavors. I look forward to hearing from others who have tried this dish. Are the flavors balanced as they should be or is there an overriding flavor that someone can identify?

                  The chicken with ginger and peanut is served in a huge plate, beautifully presented, piping hot and very tasty. When I asked for hot oil, they were very excited to bring some over to me. The accompanying white rice serving is very small but this is one dish that does not seem to need the rice. Good quality chicken, nice crunch to the breading and the peanuts were actually grilled and flavorful. Not as spicy as I would have liked (despite my efforts to appease any concerns upon placing my ordering) but the dish was great and definitely something that I'd order again.

                  Towards the end of the meal, a really nice guy (who appeared to be the manager) approached me to ask how everything was. He was the same person who brought me the oil. I asked him about the flavor differences in the hot oil which I have grown to love,particularly the hot oil served in the Indian-Chinese restaurants. I held back on asking him about Chef Laura as I was really there to sample their menu and not to acquire information from them.

                  Prices were extremely reasonable, menu is extensive (Sichuan apps and entrees along with the usual Chinese selections and a separate Vietnamese menu). This place seems like a great kept secret but they really need to spread the word or else they will cease to exist pretty quickly unless the bar keeps them going. Wonder if they will change the awning, not only to Legend but with an accompanying title of Sichaun food.

                  Thanks, Pearlie, for alerting us. Sorry if I don't sound super-enthused. I've just been on an extended Indian-Chinese fusion spell lately that no other cuisine seems to excite me. Wish more of these would spring up to match the rapidly increasing quantity of new Sichuan places. But Legend seems to rival Wu Liang Ye, Lan Sheng, Grand Sichuan, Szechuan Gourmet, Wa Jeal, all I which I've tried. Wu Liang Ye (48th bet. 5th and 6th) still remains my favorite - best dan dan noodles by far!!

                  -----
                  Wu Liang Ye
                  36 W 48th St, New York, NY 10036

                  Szechuan Gourmet
                  21 W 39th St, New York, NY 10018

                  Wa Jeal
                  1588 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10028

                  Lan Sheng
                  60 W 39th St, New York, NY 10018

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: nativeNYer

                    I agree with nativeNYer about the great service, much nicer than in any restaurant I've been in recently. The Sichuan and Chendu dishes we tried were authentic and harder to find in NYC. Sichuan dishes had real ma la flavor. Salting was off from dish to dish, though. Some dishes like the Beef Tendon with Spicy and Peppery Flavor were really salty and others like the Tears in Eyes (Very Spicy Mung Bean Noodle) were undersalted.

                    The Vietnamese foods on the menu are now terrible and I won't be going to this restaurant for it.

                  2. sounds good, everyone; I'll check it out since it seems quite promising.

                    1. I just went back for lunch, and a few impressive and unusual dishes. The Leaf-wrapped Glutinous Rice Cake was great and unlike anything I have had before. A thin layer of the glutinous rice paste often found in Japanese pastries (but not sweet) was wrapped around a small amount of delicious spiced meat. A very good variation on dumplings. The Slice Pork with Rice Crust was a sizzling platter of crispy rice cakes brought to the table with pan of sauce poured over them. The sauce was not spicy at all, but had an addictive gravy quality, strong ginger and garlic notes, and was chock full of well cooked Chinese vegetables.

                      "Cheng Du" Hot and Spicy Fish Filet was the real star of the meal. It reminded me of the fish cooked in ma po tofu that I've enjoyed so much at Spicy & Tasty, but reversed. This was a giant quantity of firm tofu swimming in a bowl of chili oil crammed with fish filets and cabbage and a few other veggies. For $21 it was almost certainly enough food for 3-4 people, especially with rice. It also had an unusual addition to the standard pantheon of Sichuan spices. Something like cinnamon or nutmeg. One of my dining partners commented that this was the kind of dish you see at some other table and wish you knew what it was called so you could order it.

                      We also had a very well rendered Fried Lamb w/ Cumin. Giant chunks of meat with a much more pronounced lamb-y flavor than any I have had before.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: bworm42

                        the first dish sounds like a variation on zhong that I really like; savory sticky rice stuff with savory filling, that's a very traditional style. was it lotus leaf or bamboo like zhong-zhi? they come in large and small sizes too and are quite delicious, see them a lot in hakka-style cooking in taiwan.

                        1. re: bigjeff

                          Sorry to cut in. My friends and I had it to, so maybe I can answer your question, though you asked it of bworm42. It was made with glutinous rice flour, not glutinous rice grains. The steamed dough was green. I am not an expert at this, but I do not think it was lotus leaf or bamboo. The inside was filled with sweet ground pork and some liquid lard. Ours were not spicy. They were small, about the size and a little smaller than a Swiss Roll.

                          1. re: duckie

                            sorry, when I said stuff, I meant flour, yes, completely smooth. if it had a wrapping (and was not green) then it is a variation on zhong (that usually has individual grains of rice) but I really like this version that is made with the rice flour, very traditional.

                            but if it is green, it should have a slight herbal flavor, and the color and flavor comes from mugwort, and these are often called "nie-ban" in Hakkanese and actually, have no wrapper at all and are steamed on individual cutouts of leaves, and not wrapped. the shape is usually scalloped or slightly oblong and decorative. check the picture of the red and green round things arranged on a leaf:
                            http://www.gio.gov.tw/taiwan-website/...

                            these are pretty hard to find in a restaurant and I've only had them in taiwan or from relatives or homemade. sounds like this place got a lot of crazy dishes from all over the place.

                            1. re: bigjeff

                              referring not to the nie-ban mugwort green stuff, but to the hakka-style zhong made with glutinous rice flour instead of glutinous rice (sorry for hijacking this btw), check this:
                              http://wendyinkk.blogspot.com/2010/06...

                              as for the mugwort green stuff, should look like this (the first two pictures
                              )http://pandabites.blogspot.com/2010/0...

                              1. re: bigjeff

                                The mugwort looks like the right color, but the shape is more like a half a cigar. It is not round. On the menu, it said this is a Chengdu specialty.

                                Looks like you will have to go and try this. Ha.

                      2. i went early sunday night and it was empty except for 3 people drinking at the bar. they were so loud i could barely hear my dining partners so the acoustics are not very good. we had the diced rabbit to start. not on par with spicy and tasty but excellent. our first dish was chicken with peanut. very much like the cumin lamb, it is dry with lots of salt and sichuan pepper. very tasty. we also had a crispy whole fish which came with a sweet/sour sauce. the bass was perfectly cooked but i didn't care for the sauce. i was expecting a spicy sauce. we also had the pork with rice cake. again, very good but no spice at all. the menu was enormous but they need to let diners know which dishes are spicy and which are not. in most sichuan restaurants, the dishes are swimming in oil. off putting to many americans but this is true sichuan cuisine. this place tones that down which is good and bad at the same time. maybe a little pricier than others, but if it's convenient, well worth it. i think i'll still go to szechuan gourmet though.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: dock

                          I agree that the wait staff doesn't seem to really know this new menu yet, but then, on the other hand, as someone pointed out above, service is generally very friendly and accommodating. And yes, the Cheng Du Hot and Spicy Fish Filets were just amazing--I wasn't expecting the tofu, and the combination of fish texture and tofu texture and all that heat was really great. It feels like some kind of soul food--a great big white bowl of heat and goodness!

                        2. Just heard form a friend who was a Safran devotee that he tried the latest incarnation of the restaurant that now occupies this space and that his food was "inedible." His word.

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: ttoommyy

                            Did your friend try the new Sichuan dishes or stick to holdover dishes from the old menu?

                            -----
                            Legend
                            88 7th Ave, New York, NY 10011

                            1. re: squid kun

                              Not sure squid kun. Is there that much of a difference? Is one menu better than the other? Thanks.

                              1. re: ttoommyy

                                Since the kitchen and menu have changed, I'm thinking the newly added Sichuan dishes might be the way to go. The Vietnamese dishes that people have liked here were developed by a chef who's since left.

                                1. re: squid kun

                                  i strongly concur with squid kun. while i have not tried the Vietnamese dishes there, i can vouch for the relative high quality of Sichuan dishes. this seems to be the consensus based on what i've been reading/hearing.

                                  1. re: nativeNYer

                                    I keep going back--I just think this is some of the best Szechuan cooking going on in Manhattan. Tried the grilled lamb chops, the other night, got a big platter of juicy spicy lamb chops. Also the cumin lamb is great, also that dry spicy diced chicken with ginger and peanut and the cheng du spicy fish filet keep calling out to me again and again. I would definitely go for the various Szechuan sections of the menu (though the lamb chops are in the grilled food section).

                                    -----
                                    Legend
                                    88 7th Ave, New York, NY 10011

                          2. I've been taking out their Szechuan wontons in red oil. They are very good, maybe better than Grand Szechuan on 7th Ave or St Mark's. I was a bit shocked at the pricing of the entrees. Lau, have you tried it yet? I have a hard time gathering a large party who will be able to take food as hot as they have here, though I like it as hot as they can make it. I could sell it more easily if the entree prices weren't so high. I find the staff to be extremely helpful and good-natured. A few times they had really awful music playing, and most of my friends are in the music business, be they players or in the record end, so that could be a deal breaker. Last time it sounded as if they had THE BEST OF QUEEN on.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: sing me a bar

                              hey sorry just saw this, i have not tried it, but its on my list

                              1. re: Lau

                                Wishing all the best of good luck and good fortune in 2011. I am determined to get a huge party of subjects who can take the heat to this restaurant. The Legend staff is so nice when I pick up my steamed dumplings, I HAVE to go and have the entrees.

                            2. So finally tried this place last night and I really liked it. It's a funny scene, but that kind of thing just adds to my enjoyment of places.

                              thought the food was really good. had the ginger peanut chicken (yum! lots of mala flavor) and the mapo dofu, both of which were v good and huge--two dishes were easily enough for 4. also had the very spicy mung bean noodle appetizer, and while the sauce was excellent, i did not care for the noodles--too thick and too cold. will probably be better today when i dig into the leftovers i have in my fridge.
                              we also wanted a vegetable but didn't want to order another entree-sized plate, so ordered the green bean salad from the vietnamese side of the menu. not sure what was vietnamese about this dish, but i enjoyed it--wok-fried green beans and mushroom drizzled with some sort of creamy dressing. an enormous portion of it for $6.95.
                              We also had mojitos since it was happy hour--they were huge, very potent, and not bad. In fact, if you want a night of eating and drinking and you have at least 4 people, legends could be quite a bargain. 1 drink apiece and 2 entrees would be like ordering 2 drinks and 4 entrees anywhere else, so it would come out cheap.
                              for dessert the waitress brought us some green tea ice cream on the house which was very good--dark dark green with real tea flavor and a tannic, slightly bitter finish. not like any other green tea ice cream i have ever had.
                              if i lived in the hood, i would be going there a lot. as it is, it will make my short list for the nights i need something to eat and drink in manhattan.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: missmasala

                                I agree that their ice cream is more interesting than most comparable Asian restaurants. I recently went with a large group and they brought us a plate with scoops of green tea, red bean, vanilla, and banana. All of them were more flavorful and less sugary than I expected, including the vanilla which was of really surprisingly high quality.

                              2. Also, I have become addicted to something on the menu as "braised soft tofu" which is all tofu and mushrooms...but I have never had anything quite like it anywhere else.

                                1. Ordered from this joint this afternoon -- pan fried pork dumplings were quite good, Kung Pao chicken was unremarkable and leaning toward the bland side. I'll be trying other dishes in the future.

                                  5 Replies
                                  1. re: bux

                                    yea if you want the good food from an authentic chinese restaurant you should avoid the american stuff

                                    1. re: AubWah

                                      But Kung Bao is legitimately a Sichuan-style dish. I can get very good Kung Bao Chicken from Grand Sichuan St Marks if I ask them to make it very spicy and crispy. That seems to be the code for them to make it really Sichuan-style - it comes mala, not just peppery.

                                      1. re: Pan

                                        I saw there are two Kung Pao Chicken on Legend's menu, one is under Tranditional Sichuan Food and another American Chinese Food. I guess you have to specify which one when you order, otherwise they will just assume you are an American and give you the non-spicy one.

                                          1. re: Pan

                                            pan is correct that kung pao chicken is in fact a real sichuan dish, however it is spicier and not as sweet as its americanized version

                                            its called gong bao ji ding in chinese

                                  2. My brother and I had a late dinner at Legend last night. We arrived no earlier than 10:45, and the restaurant was scheduled to close at 11, yet we received gracious, helpful service. Our waitress told us to take our time in choosing what to order. Here's what we had:

                                    Sichuan Pickled Vegetables

                                    Tofu with spicy peppery flavor

                                    Chengdu Braised Duck

                                    The short version is that this was the best Sichuan meal I've had in quite a long time, better than my memory of the last 3 or so meals I've had at Spicy and Tasty, and blew Szechuan Gourmet away (there are some delicious dishes at Szechuan Gourmet, but I find some of their food too one-note spicy/oily). The quality was also on a par with the delicious Hunanese meals my girlfriend and I had in London's Chinatown last summer.

                                    The pickled vegetables were primarily some kind of small radish, plus some celery. They had some delicious hot oil on them. They were spicy but definitely edible for us. The dish was a bit salty but very tasty.

                                    The tofu was excellent silken tofu, and the sauce was not merely hot oil but may have had some kind of finely ground meat floss or something in it; we couldn't really isolate all the tastes.

                                    The duck came in a really big bowl and was soupy. The soup was strikingly unfatty for a duck dish. It had a taste I've never quite experienced before and won't be able to do justice to. The duck itself was delicious, and the dish included: lovely pickled fresh hot red pepper slices, which weren't that spicy but had a strong salty and sour taste; leeks; tree ears; bamboo shoot slices; and undoubtedly other elements that are slipping my mind right now. There was also quite a lot of Sichuan pepper in it.

                                    Anyway, I totally look forward to going many times and trying all kinds of dishes on the menu.

                                    The cost was about $40, including tip, and there were quite a lot of leftovers.

                                    12 Replies
                                    1. re: Pan

                                      Slightly different experience for a friend and myself.

                                      Is it worth going back to again? Certainly!

                                      Is it the best Sichuan in NYC - better than Szechuan Gourmet or Little Pepper? Not yet. My main issue is that they lack the sheer breadth of Sichuan dishes available elsewhere. Most of their menu is not Sichuanese at all. Service was mostly attentive although we did have to ask for Chinese tea twice.

                                      All of the round tables are in the basement. That is where the kitchen is too. On the main floor are all rectangular shaped two and four-tops. Perhaps in a nod to the Asian fusion or Vietnamese restaurant that was there before Legend, it seems half of the menu is Vietnamese (Vietnamese Spring Rolls), “Asian” (Miso Soup, Pad Thai), “Fusion?” (Lemongrass Chicken Cutlet Sandwich), Cantonese (Roast Pork, Roast Duck), or American-Chinese classics like General Tso’s, Beef with Broccoli and Grand Mariner Walnut Prawns.

                                      Regarding Sichuanese they have divided the menu into three sections: “36 New Style Sichuan” Dishes, 14 “Traditional Sichuan” dishes and 11 Chengdu Appetizers. Kung Pao Chicken is offered in both an American-Chinese version and a Traditional Sichuan style.

                                      They had a decent version of Dan Dan Noodles – better than I’ve had recently. Slightly undersalted (I never say that!) but better than Lan Sheng. Their Traditional Kung Pao Chicken was acceptable but short on both the ma and la. A plus was no odd items like celery or bell peppers were thrown in. Double Cooked Pork was OK but was not served piping hot. One issue is that the kitchen is downstairs, I am not sure if they cover the dishes on the trip upstairs. Off of the New Sichuan menu we had Longhorn Green Peppers and Corn. Well done. The corn kernals were lightly battered and fried and mixed with the hot pepper slices. (A similar dish without the hot peppers is served at Golden Palace in Flushing – they add pine nuts.)

                                      1. re: scoopG

                                        chengdu appetizers sounds like my kind of menu.

                                        scoopG, what is your favorite manhattan sichuan and favorite queens/outer boroughs sichuan?

                                        1. re: bigjeff

                                          Hi bigjeff! Spelled "CHEN-DU" on their menu. I forgot to mention that under "New Style Sichuan Food" they list some old standards like Chongqing Diced Chicken w/Chili Peppercorns as well as Cumin Lamb and Beef with Cumin. Some dishes of interest here include Bandit Chicken, Braised Pork Intestines with Tofu Pudding, a Seething Hot and Spicy Peppery Fish Filet and Beef with Pumpkin.

                                          I've not been to every Sichuan spot in Manhattan but my favorite so far is Szechuan Gourmet. I rank Lan Sheng well below SG and Mapo Dofu below Lan Sheng. In Flushing I put Little Pepper numero uno followed by Spicy and Tasty.

                                          1. re: scoopG

                                            The Chongqing Diced Chicken with Chili Peppercorns is great. I didn't enjoy the Cumin Lamb as much as the version at Szechuan Gourmet, but I wonder if the Beef with Cumin is worth ordering. What is Bandit Chicken?

                                            -----
                                            Szechuan Gourmet
                                            21 W 39th St, New York, NY 10018

                                        2. re: scoopG

                                          For the record, we were on the ground floor.

                                          It's certainly true that their Sichuan menu is limited, but if all their dishes are of comparable quality to the meal I had, it's great! I'll see what more of the menu is like when I go back and try other dishes.

                                          1. re: scoopG

                                            made it back here again tonight. still love this place. the drinks are potent and the food is good. also, for those of you who care, v kid-friendly and great service. free ice cream for the kids and lots of attention paid.

                                            we had:

                                            mapo dofu
                                            fried lamb with cumin
                                            dan dan noodles
                                            spicy dumplings
                                            sauteed chinese broccoli
                                            green bean salad
                                            chengdu fish with pickled vegetable--the one from the front of the menu.
                                            sichuan fried rice

                                            the fish dish was a revelation. more of a soup, really, sliced pieces of fish swimming in a milky broth with a few cellophane noodles, some pickled greens (mustard?) and tons of chopped fresh red chili peppers. delicious, and there was about a gallon of it, loaded with fish. easily enough for 8 people.

                                            lamb with cumin was good, but not better than renditions elsewhere. still love the mapo dofu--worth ordering, tho very oily--best eaten with a lot of rice

                                            dan dan noodles were more peanutty than usual, but the dan dan loving kids at the table pronounced them great. spicy dumplings were okay, but this dish doesn't excite me anywhere.

                                            sichuan fried rice was excellent--rice with egg and bits of pickled veg. very plain, but tasty and a great counterpoint to the rest of the food. also, it's vegetarian, which is a plus for the veggie kid.

                                            they fell down on the veggies, tho. sauteed chinese broccoli merely okay, and green bean salad, which i enjoyed last time, had too much dressing this time.

                                            the free green tea ice cream is still excellent, tho.

                                            what i like about this place is:

                                            1) i can get there by subway easily, unlike flushing or bay ridge or bensonhurst

                                            2) it has the complete package with the full bar, so it can be more like a night out than just a meal.

                                            3) they are really, really friendly there.

                                            I definitely think this is my fave sichuan in manhattan, tho haven't tried the new one in chinatown yet.

                                            1. re: missmasala

                                              forgot to add that when we packed up our food to take home (and there was tons left over--portions are very large here) the waitress threw in some extra hot fresh rice for us. Just lots of nice small touches like that.

                                              1. re: missmasala

                                                What's the new sichuan in chinatown?

                                                1. re: rschwim

                                                  well there are actually two, one is called old sichuan and the other is called famous sichuan. i think the one you are referring to is old sichuan

                                                  here's my review of old sichuan:
                                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/753976
                                                  http://www.lauhound.com/2010/12/old-s...

                                                  1. re: Lau

                                                    yes, that's the one. read your review and bigjeff's and am curious about it. the one place where i think legend is weaker than, say, spicy and tasty or probably old sichuan is in the cold apps dept--but that somehow bothers me less when there's 2 feet of snow on the ground.
                                                    Also, the crowd i dine with isn't adventurous enough for some of the meats/parts in many of the cold dishes.

                                                2. re: missmasala

                                                  Wow. Great review. What was your old #1 favorite Sichuan in Manhattan?

                                                  1. re: kathryn

                                                    Of the ones I've tried, Szechuan Gourmet. But as I posted above, I'm looking forward to trying the ones in chinatown.

                                                    -----
                                                    Szechuan Gourmet
                                                    21 W 39th St, New York, NY 10018

                                            2. I had been following this thread and getting very tempted, and tonight my partner and I finally tried Legend. Being only a few blocks from home is a great plus, but I would go out of my way if I had to. The food was superb. I followed some of the recs above, and put together a wonderful meal. We started with shrimp wontons and pork dumplings, then had the spicy diced chicken and pork with garlic stems. Loved the shrimp wontons. The dumplings were not as good (a bit stingy on the pork filling, but delicious sauce) but still very tasty. The chicken was great, and well-spiced, but we especially loved the pork. I thought the portions were generous and the prices very reasonable. Very nice service. We will definitely be back to try more dishes.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: rrems

                                                Went there again last night. We had the shrimp wontons again, they are SO good, tried the glutinous rice cake, which was delicious but next time I will ask for some hot oil to spice it up a bit, then for mains we had the cumin lamb and the cheng-du duck. The lamb was tasty and nicely spiced but a bit overcooked. The duck was phenomenal, with great vegetables and delicious broth, a huge portion. I see they have a couple of rabbit dishes, which I plan to try next time. If anyone else has had them I would appreciate a report.

                                              2. It sounds like a sports bar, doesn’t it? Surprise. It’s a restaurant specializing in Szechuan cuisine.

                                                The restaurant is bigger than I thought it would be. There’s a bar in front that looks like it would be serviceable in a pinch but not the type of place I’d choose to while away a couple of hours. It would certainly work if you were meeting people for dinner.

                                                The main dining room, which seats about 50, has surprisingly high ceilings that give it an airy quality. There’s a wide circular staircase that descends to a second dining room that’s set up to handle larger parties. I saw 3 or 4 tables that could each seat 8 to 12 people.

                                                The ambiance is pleasant enough in a neighborhood Chinese type of way, above average for it’s type. If you’ve been to Szechuan Gourmet you know what I mean.

                                                The menu is vast. At one time this place had specialized in Vietnamese cuisine and there is still a prominent section of the menu devoted to it. There is also is an extensive selection of Cantonese dishes. At some point in the last year there was a change and Legend took a left turn on the road to Szechuan.

                                                We ordered some classics.

                                                Dan Dan Noodles Chen-Du Style – Very much above average. Aside from the familiar buzz of Szechuan pepper corns there was a subtle blend of spices that put this into the first rank.

                                                Pork Dumplings in Chili Oil (Chen-Du) – We probably should have ordered something else. There was nothing wrong with them – in fact they were quite good. It’s just that you can get equally good dumplings at all of the other top Szechuan restaurants around the city. A wasted opportunity.

                                                Double-Cooked Fresh Bacon with Spicy Bean Sauce – Now we’re talking. It was wonderfully crispy with enough heat to make it interesting but not enough to overwhelm the overall balance. The accompanying leeks and scallions had plenty of flavor and were a nice counterpoint.

                                                Dry Spicy, Tasty Diced Chicken with Ginger and Peanut – This reminded me a bit of the Guizhou Spicy Chicken at Grand Sichuan House in Bay Ridge. The surface of the chicken is a bit dry, almost as if it had been dusted in rice flour. The inside was plenty juicy and the overall spicing level was suitably complex without being overwhelming. We liked this subtle dish more and more as the meal went on.

                                                Sichuan Spicy Ma Po Tofu with Ground Pork – People have raved about this and I could see why. It had plenty of Szechuan peppercorn flavor but ultimately there’s only so much of this I can eat. The tofu itself is appropriately soft but I like to do a bit more chewing. Every rendition of this dish reminds me of soupy mashed potatoes. This was the best version I’ve ever had but ultimately, I think it works best when shared among a larger group.

                                                While some of the entrée prices are more expensive than comparable restaurants (some break the $20 level and seafood entrees run even higher) the portion sizes are correspondingly large. If you’ve eaten lunch, the entrees can be split. We had fasted that day and even then we took a lot of food away with us.

                                                The wine list is limited. You have been warned. Stick with beer or call them to see if they offer corkage.

                                                Service started out a bit brusque but became warmer as the meal went on. It was attentive from start to finish.

                                                The noise level was quite moderate, possibly due to the high ceiling which helped absorb sounds.

                                                For a restaurant that has largely flown under the radar based on previous posts it was pretty busy. A couple of large groups were occupying most of the downstairs banquet space and the upper level was about 95% full at 7:00PM on a Saturday night. We didn’t have a reservation but next time we’ll make one.

                                                The crowd was predominantly Asian at around the 70% level, young, well dressed and attractive. For them, this is a destination place. It might be for me as well – I’ll let you know. It’s a deep menu and I suspect it will be worthwhile to explore it.

                                                Bonus points – The menu is fun reading.

                                                Griddled, Cooked Pork Intestines with Two King of Peppers.

                                                Numbing Spicy Pork Kidney.

                                                And my favorite, Seething Hot and Spicy Peppery Fish Filet.

                                                Not just hot. Seething hot.

                                                Menu:
                                                http://www.seamlessweb.com/food-deliv...

                                                Legend Bar & Restaurant
                                                88 7th Avenue (15th & 7th

                                                )

                                                -----
                                                Szechuan Gourmet
                                                21 W 39th St, New York, NY 10018

                                                 
                                                 
                                                 
                                                 
                                                 
                                                 
                                                 
                                                6 Replies
                                                1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                  sounds good, i need to hit this place soon

                                                  btw there is a sports bar called legend close to ktown maybe thats why it sounds like a sports bar? haha

                                                  1. re: Lau

                                                    There's a sports bar out in Queens called Legends too. And the Yankees spring training ballpark was known as Legends Field until recently. Somehow I don't think that the restaurant owners were thinking of that.

                                                  2. re: Bob Martinez

                                                    Did you think the mapo tofu is better at Legend than at Szechuan Gourmet? I love it at SG, don't really like it at the GS branches. Last time, the SG version was wonderful -- very silky, but wasn't falling apart too much, just the right texture. That's one of my favorite parts of the dish!

                                                    -----
                                                    Szechuan Gourmet
                                                    21 W 39th St, New York, NY 10018

                                                    1. re: kathryn

                                                      I think you'll like the one at Legend very much. The tofu certainly held together very well and the overall flavor was excellent. I just wished they also offered a dish where the tofu was fried a bit to firm up the texture.

                                                      That bacon dish was really good.

                                                    2. re: Bob Martinez

                                                      Nice report.

                                                      About the portion sizes: Yeah, they're really humongous!! I actually think that's a problem, because if they were a little less huge, I could order more dishes and have a larger variety of tastes.

                                                      1. re: Pan

                                                        You're right there regarding the portion sizes. Vast menu to be sure but quite limited on the overall number of Sichuan dishes. The Twice-Cooked Pork at Famous Sichuan blows Legend away.

                                                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/753398

                                                    3. Thanks to Bob Martinez and Deb Van D., my wife and I finally made it to Legend tonite. Gotta say that this is now right up there with my other Manhattan favorites. Dan Dan Noodles, Cucumbers & steamed veggie dumplings (hey, my wife wanted them and this place is "eclectic" enought to have them so what the hell) were all very good as starters. The ma po tofu was excellent, with firm(ish) tofu in a sauce that had heat but didnt rely on it for the deep flavors. The Dry Spicy Diced Chicken w/Ginger and Peanut that Deb ordered was even better & the string beans as strong a version as anywhere. The beef w/cumin I ordered was tender (not the crispy version served in several other places, and yes we got the beef, not the lamb) and not overwhelmingly cumin-y. Didnt try Bob's bacon dish, but he seemed to enjoy it enough to not leave any (well, maybe some leeks). This is a very nice looking, friendly and solid place.... one of the best in what's becoming a tight Manhattan field. Lots of reasons to return.

                                                      6 Replies
                                                      1. re: Steve R

                                                        "Didnt try Bob's bacon dish, but he seemed to enjoy it enough to not leave any (well, maybe some leeks). "

                                                        Steve, I was doing you a favor - you can thank me later. The pork belly dish was merely good, not great like it was on my previous visit. It wasn't as crispy and there were one or two tough pieces. (Most were fine.) I'd order the dish again but before that I'll try some other things. All the other dishes we ordered were very good although I'd skip the vegetable dumplings in the future. They were good but everything else was better.

                                                        That dry spicy chicken dish was absolutely outstanding.

                                                        1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                          haven't been there since last fall but also didn't feel the need to return. i think there are some really good dishes - like the chicken, shrimp wonton in red sesame oil, bean curd with chopped greens, double cooked bacon w/ spicy bean sauce but there were a lot of misfires too and i'd rather just go to szech gourmet or lan sheng. it seems to be hit or miss. maybe it's worth a try again - due for a hit.

                                                          but we were really fascinated by being seated on the ground floor with barely another table or two filled and never finding any waitstaff only to discover where the real scene was by looking for a restroom. downstairs was packed and with all chinese patrons. and all the waiters/waitresses too!

                                                          1. re: djk

                                                            We've only been there 2 times but both times we've been seated on the ground floor. The room was 90% full - there was only one other table with Caucasian patrons - the rest were all Asian. The lower level as completely full with Asian patrons. (The downstairs has tables for large groups.) Both visits were on Saturday nights.

                                                            Let me stipulate that just because the patrons are almost all Asian doesn't mean it's good. It's just one piece of information. Ultimately it's what's on the plate that counts.

                                                            1. re: djk

                                                              despite the fact that you don't want to return, your description of good dishes is enticing, especially given that i'm always on the look out for dishes that might appeal to my vegetarian partner. looking at the menupages menu, do you remember if the bean curd with chopped greens you described is:
                                                              Country Style Bean Curd
                                                              Braised Soft Bean Curd
                                                              Kung Paoi Tofu*
                                                              General Tso's Tofu*
                                                              http://www.menupages.com/restaurants/...

                                                              and is it vegetarian? thanks!

                                                              1. re: rose water

                                                                it was def vegetarian and it's #54 - listed as an appetizer. the mung bean noodles were vege as well and were pretty good. i'll go back, it was my third time there and it just seemed to flip flop a lot so i lost interest.

                                                                as for whether or not an all asian clientele means good food - i get that it doesn't! hardly my first time at the rodeo. but as i've only been on weeknights and the ground floor has been fairly empty with the downstairs crowded - i found it interesting.

                                                                1. re: djk

                                                                  Of course, in the interest of research, I figure that I'll need to go back as well. So, it might be a good place to get a group dinner going? I think Little Pepper was the last one we had together and, as I remember it, you like that place quite a bit more than I ever have. At any rate, we all seem to agree on the chicken and, for me, that's the crucial piece.

                                                        2. I'm so glad to see all the love for Legend going on! I still go there at least once a week, almost completely replacing all my other Manhattan Sichuan needs. I want to report on two dishes that I don't see much chatter about.
                                                          One is the Fish Fillet with Pickled Vegetables. This is a giant bowl of soup full of fish, nicely cooked through and plenty flaky, and vegetables, mostly cabbage, lightly pickled. There is also a pile of glass vermicelli noodles at the bottom. The flavors of the dish, mingled perfectly in the light but creamy broth, include heat from fresh chilis, savor from the fish, a little sour from the vegetables...who knows what else. At long last I think I have discovered my ultimate comfort soup from Chinese cuisine, easily rivaling matzoh ball from Jewish, and pho from the Vietnamese corner.
                                                          The second dish I want to talk about is the Hot and Spicy (or possible Sichuan) Style Pig's Hock. This was a huge platter of the most perfectly fried cubes of fatty pork I have ever tasted. I think David Chang would sell both pinkies to be able to cook pork like this. The closest thing I can compare it to is the crispy pork in the pork and watermelon salad at Fatty Crab. But way better.
                                                          Both these dishes are amazing and I have not seen their like anywhere else in the city.

                                                          -----
                                                          Legend
                                                          88 7th Ave, New York, NY 10011

                                                          2 Replies
                                                          1. re: bworm42

                                                            Thank you, bworm42, for the suggestions! Had dinner at Legend last night and ordered the Fish Fillet soup. It did not come with Chilis, but that was a welcome change from all the spice from our other dishes! The soup was indeed warm and comforting and hit all the right spots.

                                                            I am excited to dine here again!

                                                            1. re: bworm42

                                                              I think that fish soup is the one I mention above. It's great!!! I agree, total delicious comfort food.

                                                            2. I'm planning on eating at Legend on Wednesday, and wonder if anyone knows whether the hot pot is available for one (it isn't at a few other Sichuan restaurants I've read about). Hot pot isn't on any of the menus for Legend I've seen online, but I walked by the place yesterday, and there was a sign in the window offering hot pot. Upon reflection, I really should've just walked in and asked, but I didn't.

                                                              7 Replies
                                                              1. re: small h

                                                                When we last did the hot pot there they told us it was for a minimum of four. Never hurts to ask though...

                                                                1. re: small h

                                                                  No, at least four people are required for Legend's hotpot. Szechuan Gourmet requires at least two people and theirs is available only from 4-8 pm.

                                                                  -----
                                                                  Szechuan Gourmet
                                                                  21 W 39th St, New York, NY 10018

                                                                  1. re: scoopG

                                                                    Damn, damn, damn. Thanks to you both for the info. I'll ask anyway, but I'm not hopeful.

                                                                    1. re: small h

                                                                      Tonight the hotpot on the menu said $39.95 for two people, perhaps they have changed their minimum.

                                                                      1. re: kathryn

                                                                        Huzzah! Thanks for the update. Now I only have to find one other person to eat hotpot with.

                                                                        1. re: kathryn

                                                                          What was the quality of their hot pot? Can you please compare to Sichuan Gourmet? Let's say, we ignore price differences for the time being.

                                                                          1. re: diprey11

                                                                            We didn't order it so I can't say.

                                                                  2. Had a great meal there recently.

                                                                    Conch with peppery sauce -- a cold dish of conch bathed in a green sauce. Not really spicy but a lot of Szechuan peppercorns. I didn't feel it as much until I ate about 5 pieces. Then the numbness really hit me. Usually I get numbness just on my lips and mouth. But this one was really intense where I started feeling it in my throat. Pretty neat sensation.

                                                                    Dried chicken with ginger and peanuts -- very good. A bit salty for my taste but very tasty. When I ate the cold leftovers the next morning, I realized it would make an excellent bar snack.

                                                                    Spicy fish filet with tofu -- I don't think this is the same dish bworm42 had as it was less than $20. But it was indeed a huge amount. Came in three levels of spiciness, of which, I ordered the spiciest one. It was spicy, but not overtly so. I only ate two of the chili peppers. So if I wanted more burn, I guess I could have eaten more peppers. But I thought I'd play it safe as I had a long subway ride home. Great amount of roasted whole Szechuan peppercorns in this dish. My mouth was happily buzzing during the meal.

                                                                    Menu is huge. Portions are huge. A wonderful addition to the Szechuan scene in Manhattan.

                                                                    13 Replies
                                                                    1. re: Miss Needle

                                                                      I stopped in this evening for that conch, which is very interesting. It had no burn at all, but it was anesthetizing, like novocaine. I liked it a lot, and it reminded me a bit of the sichuan buttons I sampled at an event near Battery Park a while back. I also had shrimp wontons in light soup (or "light soups," as the menu has it, although there was only one soup). It was nothing to write home about. And I did ask about getting hotpot for one. No dice. Oh, well. I also learned what a loach is, and now I'm hopped up to try loach at some point in the future.

                                                                      1. re: small h

                                                                        That tingle is quite interesting. Much more than other dishes I've had in the past. I actually got freaked out for a moment as I have a serious allergy to something that starts out with my mouth going numb. I was waiting for my throat to close up but it didn't. In a strange twisted way, it kind of felt like I cheated death.

                                                                        Yeah, I saw that they had loach on the menu. Curious how they prepare it. There's a Korean dish where they puree the entire loach in a soup. But I've never had it whole.

                                                                        1. re: Miss Needle

                                                                          i find loach so weird b/c i had them in my fish tank, ive had the korean loch soup before its not bad...they're pretty small fish, they look like little eels

                                                                          1. re: Lau

                                                                            I remember you telling me that you kept them as pets. So I guess you won't be in a hurry to order them any time soon. ; )

                                                                            I'm thinking that the loach is meant to be eaten whole. I've seen loach for sale in Flushing but never purchased them because they looked a little scary.

                                                                            1. re: Miss Needle

                                                                              haha i guess i dont care if you told me hey look this loch soup is amazing id go eat it, but i dont think im running around looking for loch soup

                                                                      2. re: Miss Needle

                                                                        The bar snack thing is so right on. While I agree completely with "not as good as Gui Zhou spicy chicken at Grand Sichuan" (below), but I this would make just about the greatest bar snack ever - especially the fried peppers.

                                                                        We went this weekend and hardly anything we had was spicy (the dried spicy chicken definitely was not). The ma po tofu had some good mouth numbing peppercorn going on, but nothing as fiery hot as we'd have liked.

                                                                        1. re: _emilie_

                                                                          I tried Legend several times, and was both perplexed by the food, and irked by the hounds that "revelled" it. Definitely a case of irresponsible exuberance.

                                                                          1. re: knucklesandwich

                                                                            It's inconsistent - you can go on the chef's day off, for example. But you can also have very good food there.

                                                                            1. re: Pan

                                                                              Buncombe. It's a lame restaurant with a an impossible, ponderous menu. Everything I've tried there, from the dandan noodles to the spicy diced chicken with peanuts was disappointing. If you like Grand Sichuan, or Szechuan Gourmet, or Lan Sheng, or Old Szechuan, don't waste your time at Legend.

                                                                              1. re: Pan

                                                                                I haven't had that problem with consistency that other people mention. The dishes that we've really enjoyed on earlier visits are still great on subsequent occasions. I *have* noticed that there are occasional duds on the menu. They stand out because the rest of the stuff is so good. (To be clear, I'm talking about the Sichuan selections.)

                                                                                We were there last Saturday.

                                                                                Pork wonton in red sesame oil - first rate.
                                                                                http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8005/74...

                                                                                Tears In Eyes (Very Spicy Mung Bean Noodle) - If there were tears in our eyes there were only a few. This was very flavorful but we didn't find it wildly spicy. (Our tolerance is high.
                                                                                )http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7264/74...

                                                                                Chongqing Diced Chicken With Chili Peppercorn - this was excellent. Plenty of heat but it didn't overwhelm the overall balance of the dish. An absolute winner.
                                                                                http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7248/74...

                                                                                Sichuan cellophane noodles with minced pork - I actually liked this a lot but it was really a side dish masquerading as an entree.
                                                                                http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7109/74...

                                                                                Lots of noodles, only a bit of pork. The overall spicing level was suitably high. Since the chicken dish was so generously portioned things worked out fine.

                                                                                I continue to like Legend a lot. It's Sichuan selections are limited when compared to the "pure Sichuan" places throughout the city but if you order right they do a fine job.

                                                                                The atmosphere remains way above average and our waiter on Saturday was an absolute pro. The large table of 12 next to us needed some help figuring out their order and he did an excellent job helping them to choose hot and mild dishes to suit everybody's tastes.

                                                                                1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                                                  The inconsistency is not great, in my experience. I've had excellent meals at least 4/5 of the time, and the other 5th of the time has never been bad, just less good.

                                                                                  1. re: Pan

                                                                                    Agreed. We've eaten many a meal there and found it to be reliably solid.

                                                                        2. Any one gone back in the last 1-2 months?

                                                                          I did see this and was wondering if there were more recent experiences.
                                                                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/796784

                                                                          Possibly going with a group this Thursday.

                                                                          4 Replies
                                                                            1. re: kathryn

                                                                              We must have been to legend 6 or 7 times by now. Over time we've branched out in our ordering.

                                                                              Sichuan Cucumbers were quite good.

                                                                              Sautéed Homemade Bacon with Green Leeks was just terrific. The bacon was a little less fatty than competing versions and it made for a nice change.

                                                                              The Dry Sauteed String Beans were as good as any we've had anywhere. A lordly portion.

                                                                              I like to branch out at any restaurant I visit regularly. It keeps things from getting stale and helps me to discover things I would have missed. Occasionally it doesn't work out. That happened on our last visit.

                                                                              Fried lamb with cumin - We've had a similar dish at Grand Sichuan House in Bay Ridge and wanted to see how Legend's version would compare. In short, not well. The dish was depressingly one note - all you could taste was the cumin. At GSH their version has a blend of spices that work in harmony. This one was severely out of balance - it needed salt too.

                                                                              Chengdu style pork shoulder - This looked really appealing on the menu but proved a disappointment on the plate. Unlike the cumin lamb, this was underspiced, as if the chef had left out two or three ingredients. What was there was fine but somewhat boring. Like the cumin lamb, it needed salt.

                                                                              On a thread on another site I said that Bruni would have given this place 2 stars. Steve R. disagreed, saying that the long menu, which lists many mediocre non Szechuan dishes, works against it. I'm not sure I agree with that (NYT reviewers have been known to award stars based on a subset of a restaurant's menu) but those two lackluster dishes took some of the shine off the place for me.

                                                                              The next time I go I'm going to revisit some of my previous favorites. That bacon dish in particular is calling to me on my cell phone. In time I'll branch out again after I've forgiven them.

                                                                              I'm also hoping that they'll drop some of the pan Asian dishes from the menu and add more Szechuan selections. On the times we've been there nobody seems to order that stuff anyway and I'd be interested in trying more Szechuan dishes.

                                                                              -----
                                                                              Legend
                                                                              88 7th Ave, New York, NY 10011

                                                                               
                                                                               
                                                                               
                                                                               
                                                                               
                                                                              1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                                                i've stopped going entirely because the inconsistency was just too great depending on which chef was working -- some variation is fine, but it was literally the difference between getting some of the best Sichuan in town or getting dishes that were truly inedible...i'd love to hear more reports and would love it to hear that the consistency was improving...

                                                                                1. re: Simon

                                                                                  At least in my case I'm not sure whether there was a consistency problem so much as some dishes were poorly executed. There were some dishes that I've ordered multiple times that were good every time I tried them. The lamb and pork dishes that I didn't like were only tried once, I don't know if they vary for the better.

                                                                                  Since 6 out of 7 meals were very good and the starters I ordered on the Unlucky Seventh were first rate I'm going to keep returning. So far the odds aren't bad. I'll report back.

                                                                            2. I had a good but not amazing meal here with friends tonight.

                                                                              Pork wontons in red sesame oil (#24) were awesome! Tender skins. Meaty insides, with a little bit of sweetness. That sweetness slowly gave way to a slow heat. Really excellent and more complex than the ones I just had at Grand Sichuan this past weekend. Note that this is different from #16 Pork Dumplings in Chili Oil.

                                                                              Dan dan noodles were solid. I noticed they cut the noodles much shorter than other places, so it's easier to spread the sauce around and get an equal distribution. And they didn't get too salty after sitting around a bit. Tasty but good, not amazing. And not all that spicy.

                                                                              Tears in Eyes (Very Spicy Mung Bean Noodle) was fun to eat, and a bit messy. But like some of the other dishes, was a bit one-note after a while and hard to eat due to size of the noodles. Our party of 4 didn't finish it as some didn't like the texture.

                                                                              Mapo tofu was good but not as good as Szechuan Gourmet's. A bit too heavy on the Sichuan peppercorn for me, needed more red/hot/spicy oil and flavor. Overall, this was not spicy enough for me. Nicely cooked tofu and not too heavy, but not my favorite version of it. Generous portion size.

                                                                              Dry Spicy Diced Chicken w/Ginger and Peanut was good but a bit one-note. I felt like the ginger and peanut never really gelled with the chicken. Just seemed kind of randomly there. The chicken was tasty and well-fried, but I didn't really get any interesting or spicy or complex flavors there. My husband pronounced it "OK" and "not as good as Gui Zhou spicy chicken at Grand Sichuan."

                                                                              Our server also recommended sauteed pea shoots with garlic, which were very tasty. Well cooked, tender, and a nice contrast to the other dishes. Very fresh. I liked this.

                                                                              I'd definitely come back for the wontons, and would love to try the Spicy Sichuan Cold Noodle and “Chengdu” Braised Duck, but overall maybe think Legend a bit over-hyped on this thread. It didn't seem spicy enough to me, either. Szechuan Gourmet is still my favorite Manhattan Sichuan though I've not tried the Chinatown joints in quite a while.

                                                                              But I did have a good time. Certainly the room is a bit more upscale than others, the service was very sweet and attentive, and they have beer and liquor, and a good happy hour deal. And apparently karaoke in the basement. It was about 80% full when we left on the ground floor, with 3-4 tables occupied in the basement level.

                                                                              -----
                                                                              Szechuan Gourmet
                                                                              21 W 39th St, New York, NY 10018

                                                                              Legend
                                                                              88 7th Ave, New York, NY 10011

                                                                              29 Replies
                                                                              1. re: kathryn

                                                                                kathryn,

                                                                                You should definitely try the braised duck. It's not very spicy but has a lot of Sichuan peppercorns, and the mushrooms and vegetables are great, all in a flavorful broth. Have you had the sauteed pork with garlic stems? That is my favorite. And the shrimp wontons in red sesame, which were very spicy when I had them last night, are great.

                                                                                1. re: rrems

                                                                                  Thanks for the recommendations! It was my first visit last night, so I've not tried many items.

                                                                                  1. re: kathryn

                                                                                    If you like the taste of lamb, may I suggest their paper lamb too. It rivals that of Little Pepper in Queens and is well beyond of what you can get elsewhere in NYC.

                                                                                    1. re: diprey11

                                                                                      Diprey, what is paper lamb? Will try it next time at both little pepper and legend.

                                                                                      Kathryn, had a meal here in early september that was good but I also felt it was not as spicy as the food here used to be. However, I still feel this place does the best sichuan fish soup (can never remember what it's called, but it's the one with the clearish broth, the pickled greens, and the cellophane noodles) of any sichuan place i've tried in the five boroughs.
                                                                                      Also I would agree with your husband's assesment of the dry spicy chicken, based on our last visit. This dish used to be better.
                                                                                      While I would never say that Legend has the best sichuan food in manhattan (I think it's gone a little downhill since it opened), if I'm looking for a place for 12 people to eat and drink in a convenient, subway-friendly location (as I was in september), I do still think it's a great choice and I'll continue to go back.
                                                                                      On the other hand, if you're looking for really authentic sichuan with lots of cold apps and organ meats, then this should not be your first choice.

                                                                                      1. re: missmasala

                                                                                        MM--
                                                                                        This is a common Chinese name of a standalone Sichuan lamb dish, I am very sorry I am not sure of an appropriate English name. No paper is served of course.
                                                                                        If using Chinese, please ask for Zhi Bao Yang Rou.

                                                                                        It's on the wall @TLP, it's their chef's signature dish :-)))) It can be so good that, once I impulsively stood up from the dinner table to personally thank the chef (who was reading a newspaper nearby).

                                                                                        It should be on a regular (not Chinese) menu @Legend: I am so sorry I asked in Chinese without even looking (oh well, this was back in July.) Enjoy!

                                                                                        1. re: diprey11

                                                                                          In Chinese the paper lamb dish is written as 紙包羊肉.

                                                                                          Looking on the Legend online menu, it doesn't appear to be there. But I assume it's a common enough dish that they could just make it anyway there.

                                                                                          http://legendrestaurant88.com/menu.pdf

                                                                                      2. re: diprey11

                                                                                        Thanks for the recommendation! We love the cumin lamb at Szechuan Gourmet and the cumin lamb at Grand Sichuan.

                                                                                        -----
                                                                                        Szechuan Gourmet
                                                                                        21 W 39th St, New York, NY 10018

                                                                                        1. re: kathryn

                                                                                          Is paper lamb the same as cumin lamb? because I don't like the cumin lamb at legend, though I do like it at little pepper. Was hoping this was a different lamb dish that I could order at legend.

                                                                                  2. re: kathryn

                                                                                    Thanks much kathryn. Your review only reinforces my initial impression from ten months ago. I agree with you about SG - the breadth of their Sichuan menu offerings alone puts them in the top tier.

                                                                                    1. re: scoopG

                                                                                      Oddly enough, we were at Szechuan Gourmet tonight and while we had a good meal, we both felt the dan dan noodles and spicy wontons at Legend were better than the dan dan noodles and spicy chili-soy dumplings at SG. The dumplings were a little too sweet tonight. The cumin lamb was also a little undersalted, but still tasty.

                                                                                      -----
                                                                                      Szechuan Gourmet
                                                                                      21 W 39th St, New York, NY 10018

                                                                                      1. re: kathryn

                                                                                        I thought the Dan Dan Noodles at Legend were better than SG when I was there 10 months ago. I make this fairly often so I am pretty fussy! If only Legend would drop the pan-Asian menu noise and zero in on the Sichuan basics. And SG is still the only place in town serving up the 1000 Year Old Eggs in a Spicy Sauce.

                                                                                        1. re: scoopG

                                                                                          Actually, ate at Lan Sheng last night for the first time in a while, since I tend to go to Legend, and I was thinking about how we shouldn't treat a cuisine as complex and important as this one as something which we can reduce to a "best Szechuan restaurant in NYC" contest--by which I mean, I was feeling grateful to be here at a moment when there are several great Szechuan chefs cooking their different dishes...I would totally agree with the post above about the Legend fish soup (it's on the menu as the cheng du fish with pickled vegetables, I believe, one of several similarly named dishes, and NOT to be confused with the cheng du spicy fish filets, also great, but not a soup) and in general with the surpassing excellence of the fish dishes at Legend--I have taken to asking for my dry spicy chicken to be with lots of chili and ginger, because I think that dish is so popular there that it sometimes comes in a muted version especially for non-Chinese customers--and I can't wait to ask about paper lamb! Also, I want to say a word for their cold dishes, not as extensive a list as at some places, but the spicy cucumbers, tofu with chopped green onions, tears in the eyes (mung bean noodles) and cold chicken with spicy and peppery flavor are all really good...Meanwhile, Lan Sheng offered that phenomenal cold chicken in chili garlic soy peanut sauce dish, a totally different and spectacular dish, and the spicy fish cubes dish that came was also great, though somehow not the one I had been picturing (I was picturing one that comes in a wok, this was in a ceramic dish, and the sauce was slightly sweeter and more vinegary)--the braised beef with red peppers and tofu was also good, but the sauce was a little thicker and less vivid. Anyway, reminded me that there is really good stuff happening several places in Manhattan right now, and it's really helpful to hear what each chef does most brilliantly....okay, maybe now I need my cheng du fish with pickled vegetables....

                                                                                          -----
                                                                                          Lan Sheng
                                                                                          60 W 39th St, New York, NY 10018

                                                                                          1. re: Pearlie

                                                                                            I agree with this—different places often excel at different things and it's nice to have so many choices and be able to pick based on what you might be in the mood for on any given night.

                                                                                            1. re: Pearlie

                                                                                              That's why I called SG my favorite, not objectively "the best" Sichuan in Manhattan as there were things I loved and things I didn't love so much at Legend. And I personally am not a huge fan of the braised with napa and chili dishes that others love at SG so much.

                                                                                              I've eaten at SG enough times to order only things I know to be hits, and, of course, this was only my first visit to Legend.... I'll definitely go back to try more!

                                                                                              We go to Szechuan Gourmet for mapo tofu and cumin lamb. We go to Grand Sichuan for gui zhou spicy chicken and cucumbers in scallion oil. We'll go to Legend for dan dan noodles and wontons in red oil. Etc.

                                                                                              > Meanwhile, Lan Sheng offered that phenomenal cold chicken in chili garlic soy peanut sauce dish, a totally different and spectacular dish

                                                                                              Was the texture of the chicken shredded? If so, that's one of my favorites at Szechuan Gourmet!

                                                                                              11. Hand Shredded Chicken with chili sesame vinaigrette

                                                                                              -----
                                                                                              Szechuan Gourmet
                                                                                              21 W 39th St, New York, NY 10018

                                                                                              Lan Sheng
                                                                                              60 W 39th St, New York, NY 10018

                                                                                              1. re: kathryn

                                                                                                The chicken was not quite what I would think of as shredded--more like what sometimes used to be called "hacked," I think--and I can't remember if I've had this at Szechuan Gourmet, though I've definitely had nice versions elsewhere in Manhattan--so I can't compare directly--but the Lan Sheng version was extremely complex, heavy on the chopped peanuts, and so good that you kept finding microscopic bits of peanut left on the plate as an excuse to eat more of the sauce...

                                                                                                -----
                                                                                                Szechuan Gourmet
                                                                                                21 W 39th St, New York, NY 10018

                                                                                                Lan Sheng
                                                                                                60 W 39th St, New York, NY 10018

                                                                                              2. re: Pearlie

                                                                                                I agree completely with your point about not crowning any single restaurant "the best." I said something similar about Lan Sheng last year -
                                                                                                -----------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                                Around the table I heard the phrase “best I’ve ever had” more than once. A few people even said that Lan Sheng might be the best Szechuan restaurant in the city.

                                                                                                Me? I won’t play that game because I don’t think it’s fair to the high level of Szechuan cooking going on around the city. Yesterday’s prince didn’t suddenly turn into a frog just because someone new walked in the room.
                                                                                                -----------------------------------------------------------------

                                                                                                This is the best time ever to eat Sichuan in New York.

                                                                                                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6737...

                                                                                                -----
                                                                                                Lan Sheng
                                                                                                60 W 39th St, New York, NY 10018

                                                                                                1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                                                                  <This is the best time ever to eat Sichuan in New York.>

                                                                                                  Well, since the mid-1970's anyway, for those of us who remember when it was first introduced and before it was ruined by the likes of Empire, and the good places disappeared. It really does feel like a renaissance.

                                                                                                  1. re: rrems

                                                                                                    I was around in the mid 70s. It's better now.

                                                                                                    1. re: rrems

                                                                                                      What places in the 70s are you thinking of? Not many, surely.

                                                                                                      1. re: Pan

                                                                                                        I can't remember all of them, but two that I liked were Szechuan Gourmet (not related to the current one) and Szechuan d'Or. Both were around Third Ave. and 40th.

                                                                                                        Not many, perhaps, but how many are there in Manhattan today, aside from Legend, that are really good and authentic?

                                                                                                        1. re: rrems

                                                                                                          Gael Greene and Ed Schoenfeld write and talk about the emergence of some great Chinese restaurants in NYC in the early 1970's, spawned by waves of new immigrants from Asia after passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 (when the US stopped using an immigration quota system that had been in place since 1924).

                                                                                                          Some recent CH reviews of Legend are less glowing and Legend's Sichuan menu is far too limited to place it in the top tier of destination Manhattan hot spots. Szechuan
                                                                                                          Gourmet in midtown is still the gold standard. Then there is Old Sichuan and Famous Sichuan in Chinatown as well as the latest newcomer on the scene, China Cafe perhaps.

                                                                                                          -----
                                                                                                          Szechuan Gourmet
                                                                                                          21 W 39th St, New York, NY 10018

                                                                                                          Famous Sichuan
                                                                                                          10 Pell St, New York, NY 10013

                                                                                                          Old Sichuan
                                                                                                          65 Bayard St, New York, NY 10013

                                                                                                          Cafe China
                                                                                                          13 E 37th St, New York, NY 10016

                                                                                                          1. re: scoopG

                                                                                                            There is also still worthwhile food to be had at Grand Sichuan St. Marks, if you know what to order. I didn't know the 70s restaurants in east Midtown - I was going to Empire Szechuan on 97th and Broadway then. But I would say that, especially if you include Brooklyn and Queens, there are probably something like 10 or more Sichuan-style restaurants where it's possible to get a spicy, good meal.

                                                                                                            1. re: Pan

                                                                                                              "But I would say that, especially if you include Brooklyn and Queens, there are probably something like 10 or more Sichuan-style restaurants where it's possible to get a spicy, good meal."

                                                                                                              I agree completely.

                                                                                                              The 70s and 80s were a golden age of Sichuan cooking only when compared to the 60s.

                                                                                                              My mainstays in the late 70s and 1980s were Hwa Yuan (Flushing and Manhattan) and House of Taiwan in Chinatown. They were quite good and blew most other restaurants away. I've got lots of fond memories of them but I've got to tell the truth. If you resurrected all three of those places they'd be considered good, not great when compared to contemporary standard bearers.

                                                                                                              The other nice thing about the current Sichuan dining scene is that there are good to great outposts scattered throughout Manhattan. You don't have to trek out to Flushing any more. (And I say that as an Outer Boroughs guy and somebody who regularly ate in Flushing on my way to see the Mets at Shea.)

                                                                                                              There has never been a better time to eat Sichuan in New York than right now.

                                                                                                    2. re: Bob Martinez

                                                                                                      Agreed, especially when you just consider Manhattan. When you think about the number of Sichuan options that existed outside Chinatown 10-15 years ago, the change is remarkable, IMO.

                                                                                            2. re: kathryn

                                                                                              Have any of you been recently? We are taking a mixed group of locals and out-of-towners with mixed tastes in Chinese food. The menu is appealing for the few of my party who aren't well versed in Sichuan food, while for the rest of us the menu is very inviting. Because there are 16 of us, Legend's size and liquor license are also appealing. But I'd like to know if the quality is still as generally good as you have all described.

                                                                                              To add my 2 cents: I LOVE that you can all compare authentic Sichuan dishes at MULTIPLE restaurants. Before I moved south in the early 80s there were better Szechuan (back then!) restaurants in New Jersey (The Happy Buddha in Hightstown was worth the drive for dumplings, ma po tofu, hot and sour soup that has never been realized since, chicken with peppercorns, and a spicy version of zha jiang mian (they called it Char Jang Mein) that was spiced with sichuan peppercorns and chili oil. My dad even drove us to Philadelphia to the lone "Szechuan" restaurant in Chinatown to get his spice fix.

                                                                                              Now living in Virginia 30 years later, even the Washington DC area (which has great Cantonese kitchens) is still woefully lacking in Sichuan cooking.

                                                                                              Still, I am excited for a new sampling of one of my all time favorite cuisines. Ya'll are LUCKY!!

                                                                                              1. re: chefsalad

                                                                                                I've been within the past few weeks, and it's the same. Unless you go on the chef's day off (and unfortunately, I don't remember which day that is), you can rest assured that the Sichuan dishes will be very good.

                                                                                                1. re: chefsalad

                                                                                                  DC area lacking Sichuan? Have you been to Rockville?

                                                                                                    1. re: Chandavkl

                                                                                                      Hong Kong Palace is good. Mala Tang is a bit much...I like hot pot, but not with that much fuss and fanfare. I am more interested in the composed dishes and the chef's control of spice, heat, and that numbing condition that i LOVE!

                                                                                                      And I don't travel to Rockville from Richmond, sorry. Give some names and maybe I could actually try something?

                                                                                              2. We went last night again. I love this place. We started with the northern style Sichuan bean jelly, which was a disappointment. Definitely had better in Flushing. Next we had cold cucumber in garlic. Perfectly executed. Finally we had the hot and crispy prawns. They were pan fried with Sichuan peppers atop an outrageously good salad of toasted peanuts, peppers and sliced cabbage. It was spicy as insert expletive here and absolutely delicious.

                                                                                                1. Wow, inconsistency here seems to have hit a new low: went there tonight, and while the cold cucumbers were yummy, the mapotofu and the Sichuan prawns were simply awful: like sweet gloppy junk you'd get any random Chinese takeout place in any city in any state...they really really need to fire the assistant/substitute chefs, and decide if they are going to be a real restaurant or not...

                                                                                                  i will never eat there (other than cucumbers!) again until i hear that they've drastically improved...such a waste, as it's been fantastic (as good as any Sichuan place in Manhattan) once in a while...but i just refuse to waste any more meals there til they figure out how to run the place right...

                                                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                                                  1. re: Simon

                                                                                                    Have you been to Hot Kitchen lately? They're putting out some very good food. Their portions are just ridiculously humongous, so it's best to go with at least one other person. Szechuan Gourmet (the 39th St. and 56th St. locations; not sure if there's another one now) is still my favorite Sichuan restaurant in New York, though, of the ones I've tried.

                                                                                                    1. re: Pan

                                                                                                      hi Pan...i've only been to Hot Kitchen once, back in July w/ a Malaysian/Taiwanese friend, and we ordered quite bit and it wasn't so great...i've been meaning to give it another try though, so maybe i'll go there later this week...

                                                                                                      My current Sichuan fav is Wu Liang Ye -- i walked up there three times during the recent blackout and every meal was excellent.

                                                                                                    2. re: Simon

                                                                                                      Legend is a few blocks from my office, but hadn't gone there in a while. Earlier this week, I grabbed a takeout lunch and went out to dinner with a friend.

                                                                                                      I got mapo tofu for lunch on a Monday - more Sichuan dishes on the lunch menu, please! - and I thought it was a good rendition, though the tofu could have been a touch firmer and there could have been more fermented black beans. But it definitely wasn't sweet.

                                                                                                      Dinner was on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and everything my friend and I ordered was a hit. While the tears in eyes noodles didn't bring tears to my eyes, they certainly cleared out my sinuses; they actually made the dan dan noodles seem a little tame by comparison. The cold cucumbers were terrific and both main dishes we ordered were great. I got the sauteed bacon with leeks: supremely smoky and delicious. My friend got the dry chicken with peppers and peanuts, and it was dynamite. Every ingredient was fried perfectly - crunchy, but light, not greasy.

                                                                                                      I guess I don't go often enough to determine if it's inconsistent. All I know is that the handful times I have eaten there, I haven't been disappointed.

                                                                                                    3. t took us awhile to get back to Legend. That was partly due to some uneven meals we had there a few years back. At restaurants that I like I have a tendency to order around the menu searching for undiscovered gems. At places like Lan Sheng this works really well. At places like Legend it sometimes backfires. After a couple of mixed meals (some great dishes, some mediocre) I lost patience with them. The other reason is that with so many first rate Sichuan places around Legend is competing against a strong field.

                                                                                                      After a break of about 10 months I went back twice last year and again a few weeks ago. On my recent visits I stuck with proven winners from the past. Guess what. They're just as good as ever.

                                                                                                      Pork Wonton in Red Sesame Oil

                                                                                                      http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8525/86...

                                                                                                      The won tons in mediocre versions of this dish are overcooked and tend to disintegrate. These were nicely firm and the spicing in the oil was robust. Very good.

                                                                                                      http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8123/86...

                                                                                                      The dan dan noodles were also very good, maybe not the best in the city but certainly worth ordering.

                                                                                                      The Chongqing Diced Chicken w/ Chili Peppercorns was terrific. The chicken pieces were dry on the surface but juicy on the inside. There was plenty of heat but if you're an experienced Sichuan diner it's not overwhelming.

                                                                                                      http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8256/86...

                                                                                                      Sliced Pork Sautéed w/ Garlic Stems

                                                                                                      http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8381/86...

                                                                                                      I had forgotten just how much I like this dish. Nobody does a better version in NY and few equal it.

                                                                                                      Legend has a quirk - their entrees tend to be priced $4 to $5 more than similar restaurants but the portion size is correspondingly larger. In the past we've wound up taking away lots of food. I finally realized that the best way to handle this is to split an entree and order more starters or sides. It makes for a less meat heavy meal and you get more variety.

                                                                                                      It only took me 4 years to figure this out.