I’ve been hearing about Legend of Taste since late last year when Jim Leff, the founder of Chowhound declared it “The Best Sichuan I’ve Ever Found in NYC.” I knew I’d eventually make it out to the restaurant, which is located rather incongruously in Whitestone, a neighborhood hardly known for regional Chinese cuisine. So when Rich Sanders of Ethnojunkie told me he was gathering a crew of a dozen like-minded eaters and writers, I immediately said yes.
I knew we were off to a good start when a dish of peanuts coated in a heady mixture of salt, sugar, ground chili pepper and Sichuan peppercorn was placed before us. It’s one of my favorite Sichuan snacks. Everything we tried was delicious, but there was one dish that stood out, Szechuan style crispy eggplant ($12.95).
Xiang la qie zhi translates roughly to “fragrant spicy eggplant.” It’s a heap of purple eggplant that’s been fried in a lovely orange batter and shot through with roasted peanuts and a type of fried chilies that I’ve seen only once before, at Hunan House. The broad red peppers are not so much spicy as they are crunchy. They make a great counterpoint to the soft eggplant encased in crunchy batter.
Incidentally, the restaurant’s Chinese name, Chuan Jing Dian, means The Legend of Sichuan. Come to think of it they’re becoming pretty legendary in Whitestone too.
Legend of Taste, 2002 Utopia Parkway, Whitestone, 718-423-4888