Have you been to what’s now called New Legend lately? I’ve been there 3 times in the last few weeks. Legend deteriorated for a while, but New Legend is delicious and far better than my local Sichuan standby in the East Village, Hot Kitchen (of course in the East Village, Szechuan Mountain House is excellent, but it’s way too crowded and also a bit too expensive to be a standby).
What dishes have you tried? Google mentions “happy hour specials” but I can’t find any more information.
Speaking of the East Village, I had a so-so bowl of mala noodles at Chong Qing Xiao Mian II on 2nd Av at 5th St. Both the noodles and the ground pork were stuck together in clumps, and the flavour wasn’t particularly complex. They seem to have a sushi menu also, oddly enough.
I think that when you see mala noodles and sushi on the same menu you should run away as fast as possible.
Last time, I had a beef aorta dish from their Weekly Specials (I hadn’t had aorta before - it was quite fibrous but the dish was delicious, sauteed with a very tasty sauce) and the “Mouth Watering [i.e., sliced dark meat] Chicken in Chili Sauce” cold dish. Other times, I had the Sauteed Chicken with Long Horn Pepper and something else that’s slipping my mind.
I had my first clinker at New Legend tonight - their version of the Ox Tongue and Tripe in Spicy Sauce cold dish had some overly fibrous pieces and some tripe that tasted off. (I still ate it, though; it was by no means awful.) However, the sliced fish special, which was made with sturgeon steamed with plenty of julienned ginger and long hot green pepper was delicious.
In general, you are definitely on the money. However, there are exceptions to every rule. In Legend’s case, an owner of several very nondescript “Chinese” (more like generic Asian) places around Manhattan hired a genuine Szechuan chef who had just arrived in NYC and put him in the kitchen of his mediocre Chelsea restaurant, adding some new dishes from home. Then he realized that this guy could cook and that folks were ordering the Szechuan dishes, so he created a full scale Szechuan menu (several pages long) and let the guy run the kitchen, hiring some other cooks around him. However, as this neighborhood also draws in lots of folks not so discerning, he kept the sushi, generic Chinese and even some Thai dishes on the menu. This was 10 or so years ago and I (& several friends) became regular customers, watching adjacent tables become full of young Asians eating great stuff unavailable elsewhere (like an eggplant/fish casserole & a duck soup (also listed as a casserole) that I couldn’t find in Flushing), while other tables remained full of others, eating everything from fried dumplings to sushi. Well, things were good but the owner tried to replicate his Szechuan success in other locations and failed miserably. It took its toll on this Chelsea location and the food definitely went downhill (although we had some good group dinners there even towards the end of the run). I’m not sure exactly what happened with the original chef but, now, years later, the owner reincorporated Legend as New Legend & the much smaller menu has (unfortunately) lost a lot of the more interesting menu items but seems to have regained basic integrity of the dishes more usually found on a Szechuan menu. I’ve been to the “new” place twice and its been very good once and mediocre the other time. I’ll probably go back, but there are other good places in Manhattan and this one isn’t the stand out it used to be. Just my 2 cents (well, more like 7.5 cents).
Yes, you’re right about this particular case. I remember reading your reviews (and those of others) back on Chowhound, and I ate there myself in those early days, concentrating on dishes that were recommended in those reviews. The dishes were indeed very good.
Oh, by the way, when I talked about running away from mala noodles and sushi on the same menu, I was not talking about Legend at all. Just responding to a post about another restaurant.
I know. You were responding to plragde’s post on the 2nd Ave place. By the way, the only other exception I’ve ever found was (probably still is, but I haven’t been in years) the Szechuan place in Bay Ridge (85th St off 4th Ave?). I remember when they set up a sushi counter in the back of their excellent Szechuan restaurant and explained that they needed the money that the sushi loving local business lunch crowd would generate.
Steve, I agree that there are better places than New Legend. I wouldn’t greatly inconvenience myself to go there. However, when I’m more or less in the area, it’s a good neighborhood choice and then some, unless the disappointing experience with the ox tongue and tripe repeats itself with other dishes.