There are countless factors to consider when assessing what exactly happens to a neighborhood like Chelsea once gentrification has peaked and plateaued. Having said that, change is still taking place in the city’s artsy quarter.
The presence of a really good Sichuan kitchen is not the first thing that comes to mind when considering Chelsea. Along with the High Line, a premier retail and art scene, the lively enclave now lays claim to some of the best Sichuan eats in Manhattan. Occupying significant real estate on Seventh Avenue for a few years now, Legend Bar and Restaurant serves both Vietnamese and Sichuan fare. The latter, which is the more esteemed part of the menu, is cooked by Chef Ding Gen Weng, a Sichuan maestro, who is vetted and applauded by the significant number of Chinese patrons who frequent the space.
Part and parcel of the Sichuan package is the sting and dull burn that lingers even after you’ve consumed your meal. At Legend, although fiery, the dishes remain piquant and vibrant. The Ma Po Tofu is one of the finest exhibitions of this technique. Fragrant chili oil and broth are stewed with a salty bean curd with ingredients balanced by a bouquet of spices, anise and cinnamon being irrefutable contenders.
The cumin with lamb is another fine dish at Legend. It challenges Mission Chinese’s take on the recipe with much more finesse. It is served with celery and showered with diminutive, but powerfully spicy, red chillies.
88 7th Ave
(between 16th St & 15th St)
New York, NY 10011