Legend Bar and Restaurant
Despite the cheesy decor, the unfriendly and hurried service, the long and repetitive menu where the same dishes appear over and over in various forms of English translations, the A.D.D. nature of the menu (offerings jumped from Shanghai to Hong Kong to Chengdu to Vietnam to… you get the point), the odd presence of a karaoke stage and the rather weak drink selection (Tsingtao!), Legend is freakin’ LEGIT and definitely worth the visit. This is unadulterated, fiery, authentic Sichuan food. It’ll light a fire in your mouth that trails down deep into your belly, but boy does it feel good. Equip yourself with water and beer and go all out!
Shrimp wontons in a hot red sesame oil. The wonton skins were dense, almost rubbery, which threw us off at first. The shrimp were ground up and scarce. But somehow this grew on us. The sweet heat of the sesame oil on these chewy little wontons was strangely addictive.
Little juicy pork buns, aka xiǎo lóng bāo, aka my favorite type of dumpling by far. These were not good. But I take full responsibility for that. I had a craving and tested fate and ordered Shanghai cuisine at a Sichuan restaurant, and this is what I got. Thick, unpleasant skin, little to no soup. Bleh.
ATO loves a good plain and simple chicken with broccoli. We ordered “Chef Wang’s signature” version. And I have to say, it was pretty dang good for chicken with broccoli. No trace of MSG, not drowned in unidentifiable brownish gravy sauce and clumps - it actually reminded me of my mom’s home cooking - and there really is nothing better than that.
Cheng Du style stir-fried eggplant. Best dish of the night. So much better than your typical Chinese-style eggplant, either sauteed or braised in a hot casserole dish. Ridiculously hot and crisp, bursting with flavor, but soft and stewed inside….. this eggplant is out of this world. The peanuts bring a nice crunch and nuttiness against the overall burn and mouth-numbing qualities of the other ingredients. It’s like Pringles: once you pop, you just can’t stop.
Finally, another winner. The “house stir-fried hand rolling noodle”. The name was not a good description of the dish. Cellophane noodles are covered by a light but flavorful ground pork, fresh chive and plump chopped shrimp mixture. Sriracha sauce decorates the edges of the plate, and a bowl of sweet ginger sauce is offered on the side and poured over the noodles to taste. Served room temperature/on the cold side. The mixture of ingredients and flavors is totally bizzare, and I know it looks off-putting. But it was marvelous. You’ll just have to try it for yourselves.
Mmmmm, probably the best Sichuan cuisine I’ve had in this city (although I know we didn’t entirely order Sichuan food). Definitely added to my list of go-to Chinese places from now on!
Hill Country with Michael White
Sometimes you just crave greasy BBQ. To satisfy that craving, we often head to Hill Country, a joint that, as declared on its website, takes its “‘cue’ from the legendary meat-markets-turned-barbecue-joints of Central Texas.” We like the super casual feel, the minimal service, the meat and side stations, the order-as-you-go attitude and the dim-sum style invoicing. It’s all part of the interactive, eat-until-you-wanna-die appeal of this place. So when RL made us a reservation to go when the legendary Michael White (of the Altamarea Group, which owns, among others, Marea, Ai Fiori, and Osteria Morini) would personally cook and kick off the restaurant’s “Guest Pitmaster Series”, we were super psyched. As a bonus, all proceeds went to the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City!
Do you see Michael White, above? Hint: he’s the large man in the black top at the center of the picture!
Unfortunately, we were more impressed with Mr. White’s stature than we were with his food. Above is the pickled cauliflower. Too tart and too pickled (and we usually have such a penchant for pickled veggies!).
The normal Hill Country sides were also still available that night, so we also ordered a side of the baked beans (above; too sweet) and mac and cheese (below; really, can mac and cheese ever be bad, especially when crisp and burnt on one side? We think not.).
And for the main dish: slow cooked rosemary brisket and parmesan focaccia. The flavors were great. The meat, however, was a bit dry in bites, although perfect in others. The nice charred edges were delightful (altho ATO’s portion sadly didn’t include any such edges!).
For desserts, we opted for the classic Hill Country offerings: banana pudding, below. Tasty, but not nearly as good as Magnolia Bakery’s version!
And the PB&J cupcake. I might have blown this up in my head as something that was tastier than it is…. I have grand memories of this cupcake, and the actual cupcake I received that day paled in comparison. The cake was dry and the icing too fudgy and thick. It was like trying to eat a semi-wet bag of chalk.
While our meal was definitely not unenjoyable, I think it might be time for us to up our BBQ standards and start looking for a new BBQ joint. Or maybe Hill Country should never invite Michael White back into their kitchen. All I know is, food-quality wise, this place has got to step up its game!
There’s only one thing to get at Rocket Pig: the Rocket Pig Sandwich. And I don’t mean that in a “it’s the best thing on the menu” type way; I mean that in a “it’s actually the only real thing on the menu” type way. It’s the star of the show; the rest is just sides, packaged desserts and drinks. And believe me, we’re not complaining. That sandwich alone is enough to bring anyone back in. We’ll certainly visit again and again. And again.
The Rocket Pig sandwich: layers and layers of tender, juicy smoked spice-rubbed pork, which has been brined for three days in spices and molasses and smoked for three hours, served on a gigantic chewy ciabatta roll, smothered (in a good way, like the way you’d feel if Brad Pitt or Jessica Alba, take your pick, smothered you) with a sweet and thick onion jam which might have been too sweet if not perfectly countered by a creamy mustard sauce with a bite. A container of Rocket Pig hot sauce is served on the side - definitely apply generously (it makes the sandwich that much better) - along with a crisp house-made pickle. At $14, this piggy don’t come cheap, but it’s worth the price.
Brought to you by the peeps from Trestle on Tenth. It’s a small and unassuming standing-room-only joint in a former carriage house, set back a bit from the sidewalk, tucked in right next to its big sister restaurant. It’s easy to walk right by, but you should definitely make it a point to stop in!
PS - you can pick up a “Pignic Box” and take your meal to go! Each box comes with a sandwich, a pickle, cole sale and your choice of chips, dessert and a soda. I’m already dreaming of busting one of these gigantic mouth-watering sandwiches out in a few months at the Highline (if I make it that far) or a random sidewalk (if I don’t).
If you’re looking for some good old American soul food, search no further than Tipsy Parson. Not only does it hit that soul food sweet spot, it’s also just really surprisingly good and refined! Where you expect it to be heavy-handed, it’s deliberate and measured. It’s not just heavy fried food that will sit like a brick in your stomach and it’s not all overly-dressed salads and overly-flavored dishes that overwhelm your taste buds. This place actually serves up some high quality tasty comfort food. SS and JM - good find!!
Above is the complimentary corn bread. I actually wasn’t going to blog this place (yes, there actually is a standard for the restaurants that I’ll blog) but after one bite of this cornbread, the iPhone came out and the pictures commenced. Spicy, sweet and satisfying.
There’s a “snack” menu - a collection of small shared plates - so of course we had to try a few! Above is the seasonal pickle plate.
The fried green tomatoes with tomato vinaigrette. After watching the movie “Fried Green Tomatoes”, I always expect these things to be insanely good, and am disappointed time and again. Well, not this time. While not my favorite dish of the night, at least now I get the appeal.
More fried food: the hush puppies with warm pimento cheese. That cheese was ridiculous! I decided to dip everything into it: my corn bread, my fried green tomato, a pickle, some toast (below)… I held onto it long after the hush puppies were gone, just in case I found another vehicle for dipping. Which I did: my finger.
One last add-on: the bourbon chicken liver mousse with green tomato marmalade and grilled potato bread. Chicken liver mousse and pates in general are some of my favorite eats, and I don’t know many people who can consume more of this stuff than I can. Except JM. Once, at my apartment, he took pate and spread it all over a Papa John’s pizza. Insane. I’ve also seem him take down close to 3 jars of that stuff from BLT Prime. That’s crazy devotion. Needless to say, with the two of us present, the chicken liver mousse was not going unordered. And it was delicious! Not a trace of that iron-y taste; so smooth and decadent and flavorful.
On to the salads! Top left is the heirloom tomato salad with grilled corn, kirby cucumbers, avocado, pickled baby fennel, purple haze goat cheese and toasted panko crumbs. Top right is the buttermilk-fried calamari, chopped cherry peppers, tomato vinaigrette, pickled cucumbers and baby lettuce with whole grain mustard dressing. And below is the fresh fig salad with arugula, grape tomatoes, cashews, smoked ricotta, mint and chili flakes with tupelo honey vinaigrette. All were fresh and tasty in their own right.
And the winner is….. the mushroom spoonbread with zucchini noodles, roasted mushrooms and herb ricotta. Wow, this was good. Rich and savory but moist and light as air.
And now for our least favorite: the spinach pappardelle with house-made bacon, roasted mushrooms, tomatoes, smoked cipollini onions, crispy garlic chips and pecorino di fossa. Neither JA or SS were impressed with this dish.
So I had been on a crab cake craze. Like especially so. I think I had like 5 crabcakes in the course of 8 days. This is the baked crab cake with chow chow relish and old bay aioli; standard fare. Pleasing but not great.
We ended with the dessert for which this restaurant is named. The Tipsy Parson: brandy-soaked almond cake, vanilla custard, brandied blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries and toasted almonds. I gotta say, this dessert does the name no justice. Super boring and kinda weird. A failed effort. Change the name and move on! Stick to the frying!
PS - I especially liked the host/owner/worker (?) who encouraged me and cheered me on as I took pics! I’ve never had such great crowd support. He kept shouting “yeahhhhh…..foodspotting! whooohoooo!!” Even better, you’re on Photo Hungry!