Legend, part of a local chain of Asian restaurants, is a relatively new Szechuan style restaurant on the border of the Upper West Side and Morningside Heights. They serve a fair amount of American-Chinese dishes, but also some interesting items listed in the “New Style Szechuan Food” and “Traditional Szechuan Food” sections of the menu (see Beef Tendon With Spicy, Peppery Flavor; Braised Pork Intestines With Tofu Pudding; Braised Whole Fish With Pickles & Mustard Greens; Sautéed Homemade Bacon with green leeks).
The Dumplings Legend Upper West has a good number of dumpling offerings, we tried the Pork Dumplings in Chili Oil, Shrimp Wonton in Red Sesame Oil, Steamed Shrimp Sui Mai and Little Juicy Pork Buns.
Pork Dumplings in Chili Oil – The pork filling in these steamed dumplings was a little under seasoned, but the flavorful chili oil more than made up for it. The oil had a sweet, garlicky flavor with a mild heat that slowly built up until our lips were stinging. These were chunks of garlic, chopped scallions and sliced green chili peppers floating in the oil.
Shrimp Wontons in Red Sesame Oil – these shrimp wontons were delicious, they had a beautiful sweet flavor and tasted really fresh. The red sesame oil was sweet and spicy, spicier than the chili oil, with a stronger, cumulative heat. There was no garlic or sliced chili peppers in the sauce, the heat was all from the oil.
Juicy Little Pork Buns – The pork filling in these small soup dumplings was very finely minced and had a very smooth, silky mouth feel, but lacked the ginger that usually gives soup dumplings a slight spiciness. The soup was tasty but there was not a lot of it in the dumplings, also some of the dumpling wrappers were torn so the soup had escaped.
Steamed Shrimp Sui Mai – the sui mai comprised a shrimp ball nestled in the sui mai wrapper cup, with a small, whole shrimp perched on top. These dumplings were pretty disappointing – they had an odd fishy flavor and I suspect they were a frozen, commercial brand of sui mai.
The Dipping Sauce. The Steamed Shrimp Sui Mai and the Juicy Little Pork Buns came with the same sauce, which was a hybrid of a typical soy based dipping sauce and the black vinegar sauce you usually see served with soup dumplings. It seemed to be made of soy, sesame oil and black vinegar, but lacked the slivered ginger you usually see in the vinegar served with soup dumplings.
The Location. Legend Upper West is located on 109th street just East of Broadway, which is basically the border between the Upper West Side and Columbia University’s Morningside Heights neighborhood.