This week, Jonathan Gold kicks off the new year with a review of Legendary, a SGV Sichuan restaurant that the critic describes as “mannerist,” where “the ideal of well-executed classical cuisine has begun to be supplemented by dishes of exaggerated heat, size and form.”
That means you aren’t here to eat Sichuan classics, rather Legendary’s “showstoppers, traditional dishes inflected in either flavor or form.” That translates into some pretty outrageous dishes with varying levels of success:
Does Meizhou Dongpo serve its la zi ji — peppery chicken — on a big platter? The Legendary Restaurant serves it on a bigger platter, nearly a foot and a half across, with the chunks of crisp fried chicken all but hidden under a vast sea of fried dry peppers, so that for the next 10 minutes you are engaged in a treasure hunt, skittering your chopsticks through the scarlet debris.
Do you fancy a pyramid of raw salmon served in a lantern? Probably not — the fish is supermarket quality, and it is seasoned with what literally tastes like bottled Chinese chile sauce. (I still haven’t been able to bring myself to order what is pictured on the menu as a layered green salad in a jar.) [LAT]
However, the star of the show seems to be the garlic shredded pork:
Are you going to order the garlic shredded pork the first time you visit the Legendary Restaurant? You are probably going to order the garlic shredded pork. You may be expecting a stir-fry, but what is brought to the table looks like a tie rack you might find in a Hammacher Schlemmer catalog tucked into a first-class seat back, thick slices of cured pork belly draped across the dowel at the top like so many silk cravats.
A transparent curl of cucumber arcs over each slice of pork. At the rack’s base is a Chinese inkstone holding a shallow puddle of dark, spicy sauce. And if you are more graceful than I am with chopsticks, you will be able to pluck the meat and cucumber from the rack, form it into a tight coil and plunge it into the chile in a quick, easy motion. [LAT]
J. Gold also recommends the smoked lamb chops, pork with salted vegetables, griddle-cooked cauliflower, and fried rice cakes with black sugar.