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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!!

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                  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.