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Aug 16, 2014 07:41 AM

Spicy Legend, new Sichuanese on Clement -- anybody tried it? [San Francisco]

You can't be too thin, too rich, or have too many Sichuanese restaurants.

Spicy Legend replaced Pho Garden (it of the tacky "Pho Challenge") recently. The early Yelp notices are inconclusive, but suggest it has a pretty standard Sichuan menu with a few takeout sops like Mongolian beef and walnut prawns.

Has anyone checked it out?

Spicy Legend
2109 Clement (22nd-23rd)

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  1. Tried it today.

    Lackluster pickled cabbage and excellent sweet peanuts with dried anchovies came with the table.

    Dan dan noodles (special order without meat). Chewy noodles, tasty sauce. Quite good, and would get again if I was in the neighborhood and looking for noodles (photo shows them half eaten, btw).

    Braised fish filet with tofu was a big miss, though. Watery and tasteless sauce, tasteless fish, topped with a heap of ginger and a layer of a mixture of chilis and tomato, which was just weird.

    I was told that the chef is from Henan province and was formerly at Chilli House on Clement (the Richmond outpost of Z&Y).

    9 Replies
    1. re: davidg1

      Thanks for the report. I've been contemplating heading there for the dad dan noodles myself (fodder for my noodle blog). Do you have any idea if the noodles are house made (even if not hand-pulled)?

      I wonder if there's any Henan touches to the menu. I've been longing for some Henan-style lamb noodles.

      That makes at least 5 Sichuanese restaurants spawned directly or indirectly by Z&Y.

      1. re: soupçon

        Peanuts with anchovies sounds like a nice and way to start the meal. Does any other place do that?

        Soupçon, are you referring to Chili House and that chain that includes the Pot Sticker or are there others?

        1. re: hyperbowler

          Yes. Pot Sticker was taken over by a Z&Y defector who subsequently took over Uncles and established at least one out-of-town outlet (Newark?).

          Z&Y spawned Chili House and a Chili House defector is Chef at Spicy Legend.

          1. re: soupçon

            Here's the biz card I picked up from Newark Cafe in January that showed part of the count related to Pot Sticker at that time. Don't forget Grand Hot Pot Lounge in SF.

            1. re: Melanie Wong

              I forgot about the San Mateo place, so that makes at least 6.

              I believe Grand Hot Pot Lounge is owned by the Man Kee people.

              1. re: soupçon

                The manager (owner?) at Grand Hot Pot Lounge is the one who told me about his other place, Newark Cafe. He said GHPL's chef worked at Z&Y.

                1. re: Melanie Wong

                  The name on the Grand Hot Pot Lounge liquor license is Louis Kuang, who also is the principal for Man Kee Cafe (文記茶餐廳)(now called Finn's Cafe) on Broadway in SF Chinatown.


                  Newark Cafe has, or at least had, the same name (文記茶餐廳) in Chinese.

                  D&A Cafe on Clement, Washington Cafe on Washington St (SF Chinatown), Skyline Cafe (Daly City) and 8th Street Cafe in Oakland Chinatown are all 文記茶餐廳 in Chinese. They have similar signage and menus, so I assume they are all connected.

                  Washington Cafe now has hotpot on the second floor. I don't know about any of the others having hotpot.

                  [Edited to add:

                  Looking through the Yelp reviews of Newark Cafe chronologically I gather there was a remodel and a menu switch from a Cantonese menu likened to Oakland's 8th Street Cafe to a Sichuan menu in midsummer 2013. Maybe there's some kind of alliance between the Man Kee group and the Pot Sticker group now.]

                  1. re: soupçon

                    And the connection to Pot Sticker which is also printed on the same business card?

                    Newark had been a Hong Kong cafe similar to those you list for the Man Kee group previously, then it turned Sichuan.

                    1. re: soupçon

                      Yes, the owner at GHPL told me she (or her family) owns D&A.

      2. The menu doesn't have the same layout as at Z & Y / Chili House, but there's a ton of content overlap. The only major absence I noticed was the lack of fish with housemade noodles. I wouldn't know a Henan dish if it kicked me, but no dishes out of the ordinary Sichuan et al. caught my eye.

        Couple's delight

        Fresh fish fillet boiled in house spicy sauce (AKA water boiled fish) : excellent. Fresh tasting fish and lots of green Sichuan peppercorns in the liquid.

        Lamb chops with house special spicy sauce: This is like a lamb version of Chongqing style chicken--- fatty and crisp lamb pieces the size of chicken wings with the flavor of lightly charred red chilies. I'm more keen on pork fat, but if you like lamb fat or lamb bacon, you should seek this out.

        House special boiled cabbage: The server was pushing me towards another cabbage dish, but I got this one because she looked dreamy eyed when I asked her about it. This kind of beige gravy'd dish turned out not to be my kind of comfort food, but it was a contrast to all the bold Sichuan flavors.

        Bitter melon with honey (not pictured) : another table was kind enough to offer me some of this-- it's not on the menu. The bitterness was tamed, leaving a cool and crunchy melon for the light coating of honey to sweeten up. Yi Yuan does this dish too--- the one time I tried in November was so bitter I couldn't stomach it.

        1 Reply
        1. re: hyperbowler

          I've had the cold raw bitter melon with honey at Grand Hot Pot Lounge.

        2. I gave it a try two weeks ago. The complimentary peanuts tinged with star anise and brown sugar are wonderful, the pao cai, not so much.

          Starting with the cold dish, mouthwatering chicken (not sure how its listed on the menu), $8.95. I had wondered why it was pricier than the other cold appetizers, and soon found out that its a half-chicken. Poached to tenderness and still red at the bone, the chicken bathed in garlicky and mala spicy sauce was as salivating as any.

          House cold noodles, $6.95, was presented attractively on a red glass plate. When asked how spicy I wanted this, I requested just a little. This went way beyond that to incendiary. Noodles had nice chew but I couldn't eat much of it.

          Final dish was cumin lamb, $11.95, and a quite different version than I've had elsewhere. This had no chiles and the cumin seed was whole rather than ground. I liked the lack of grit. Whole seed made for some intense bites of cumin flavor and extra fragrance amplified by the aromatic cilantro leaves. The lamb was shaved thin and tender, but lacking the searing I would prefer. The dish had a minimum of "filler". The onions were cooked on point to bring out their natural sweetness yet retain juicy crunch. This was a terrific stir-fry.

          At 7pm, there was only one other party in the place.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Melanie Wong

            Windy, Melanie and I ended up at Spicy Legend tonight. I'd been craving wontons in chile oil so while we were waiting for Melanie, Windy and I ordered that, the numbing tendon and to complete the spicey trifecta, the Chongquing chicken. This was a strategic error, since we didn't have anything to cool down the seriously hot, not at all shy on the "ma la" dishes (my tongue started tingling immediately).

            Fortunately Melanie arrived and chose some less firey fare: the fish fillets with tofu and pickled vegetables and the beef pancake. Both were delicious, but I particulary enjoyed the sourness of the soup and the coolness of the tofu. Despite initially being overwhelmed by the hot dishes, we kept nibbling as we talked and actually finished them. Sometimes it hurts good.

              1. re: soupçon

                I didn't see any beer. In fact we weren't sure they had a license but they happily produced wine glasses when we asked if we could open a bottle of wine. So maybe they have it somewhere. The riesling did help to put out some of the chile fire.

                I just remembered we also had A choi with garlic, a nicely done version. One of the few times I've actually seen it on a printed menu.

          2. To add a few comments on last night's dinner with Ruth and Windy, first off, I confess to not being so into the choice of Spicy Legend for our dinner. But I have to say that the food was quite fine.

            Chongqing chicken was made with boneless thigh meat, well-marinated, thin-battered, and compelling seasoning that was a touch sweet. Beef tendon was much too hot for me to eat more than a sliver at a time, overwhelming with the citrusy essence of Sichuan peppercorns. Spicy wontons did not appeal that much, as the seasoning not as distinct as some other versions and the wontons were folded oddly.

            For the second round, sole fillet with Sichuan pickled mustard greens and tofu as a soupy clay pot also had mushrooms and glass noodles and a slight piquancy to highlight the tartness of the fermented greens. This was a quite stellar version and it got hotter (spicier) as it sat and the chile pods continued to macerate.

            A-choy were cut into longer lengths and cooked a little more than most would, but it brought out more natural sweetness in a trade-off with crunch. Really nice job on this.

            Pancake with beef is a dish that I've tried many times and never really understood why it's so popular. After ordering it here, now I get it. Our was freshly made with a very flaky pancake and a scant amount of hoisin sauce. The anise beef was tender and not dried out at all. And even higher marks for the knife work on cutting cucumber into matchsticks with similarly sized scallion threads that matched the dimensions of the cilantro stems in the center of the roll.

            I grabbed a take-out menu on the way out. Spicy dishes are denoted with one, two or three chile peppers. However, they are not calibrated to what I tasted. One-chile dishes can be hotter than three-chile dishes.