Chowhounds have long dismissed Chinese food on the Upper West Side as gloppy Americanized grub short on authentic regional character (though redeemed, for some locals, by speedy, dependable delivery). So the arrival in December of an uptown outpost of Legend, a hound-endorsed Sichuan restaurant in Chelsea, was good news for a spice-starved neighborhood.
Chowhound strangemd says Legend's ma po dofu, Chongqing diced chicken, and braised fish with peppers are on target. Steve R likes the bacon with leeks; crispy dry-fried chicken with ginger and peanuts; and Chengdu duck in tasty broth with tree ears, sprouts, and lettuce. Others praise Sichuan pickled vegetables and a delicious, unctuous eggplant-fish casserole. "For the neighborhood," strangemd says, "it's clearly the best we have, by far."
But several hounds warn of inconsistency and dumbed-down seasoning. "From the first bite," burton complains, "it was evident the preparation had been sanitized." You'll get far better Sichuan, burton adds, if you venture a few blocks outside the neighborhood to the nearest branch of hound favorite Szechuan Gourmet.
Others recommend the uptown location of the Grand Sichuan chain, though hounds are divided: knucklesandwich considers it "really lame" in ingredient quality and seasoning. But swannee insists there's deliciousness to be found there; he goes for bitter melon with fluffy scrambled egg, studded with bits of pickled chile. "It is not a dish one finds often," he adds. "They do it well."
Legend Upper West [Upper West Side]
258 W. 109th Street (between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue), Manhattan
Szechuan Gourmet [Midtown West]
242 W. 56th Street (between Eighth Avenue and Broadway), Manhattan
Grand Sichuan 74 [Upper West Side]
307 Amsterdam Avenue (between W. 74th and 75th streets), Manhattan
Photo from Legend