I said at the start of last week’s Twin Cities Metro review that it was and was not my first review of Pho Tempo. Similarly, this is and is not my first review of Legendary Spice. In the case of Pho Tempo it was because the restaurant (attached to Saigon Market) had undergone a renovation, menu makeover and name change since my first review. The story with Legendary Spice is a bit more complicated. They opened in 2017 as a Minneapolis franchise of the Chicago-based Lao Sze Chuan group. It was in that avatar that I reviewed them in 2018. The next year they split from the Lao Sze Chuan group, changing the name to Legendary Spice, now with a link to a Chengdu-based restaurant. They remained in the same space and have many of the same dishes. Back in 2018, we liked our meal fine but, as I said at the end of that review, we didn’t think it was anything that warranted driving a further 20 minutes north past the exit for Grand Szechuan or, for that matter, picking them over Tea House, which is just a minute or so away. This meal, however, was a different story. We liked it a lot more.
I wasn’t sure if the restaurant had had a makeover to go with the name change. As it happens, it looks exactly the same on the inside as it had in 2018, even as they’ve redone the foyer area so it no longer sports Lao Sze Chuan’s memorabilia etc. from their other locations. By the way, complicating the story further, not long after the Lao Sze Chuan –> Legendary Spice transformation happened, a new incarnation of Lao Sze Chuan opened up by that name, not too far away. The menus have a lot of overlap, though Legendary Spice’s offerings seem more extensive—and, yes, their menu is even more extensive than Grand Szechuan’s. It also has a number of dishes not available at Grand Szechuan (though in fairness it also does not have a number of dishes available at Grand Szechuan). On the whole, it may be fair to say that their menu represents a newer school of Sichuan food in the US compared to Grand Szechuan. In addition to the large menu, they also do hot pot; and there’s also a list of daily specials.
What did we eat? We were a large group: five adults and four kids. The group was happy to cede the ordering to me and I placed the usual excessive order.
To begin we got their Sichuan wontons in chilli oil, their pork steam buns (soup dumplings by another name), and their dan dan noodles. (Well, I say we got these to begin but they actually arrived quite a bit after most of the bigger dishes.) To fill the soup category we got the sliced beef in golden soup (which also features glass noodles). To follow, a bunch of drier dishes: the salt and pepper short ribs, the Chengdu kung pao chicken, the beef with cauliflower dry pot, and the tea-smoked duck. And then a few richer dishes: sole with mapo tofu flavour, eggplant in garlic sauce, and the mao cai (all manner of morsels essentially suspended in chilli oil). Green beans sauteed with fresh garlic rounded out our order.
The wontons were fine, though not on par with Grand Szechuan’s. The soup dumplings were creditable but they’re never at their best at Sichuan restaurants. Pretty much everything else, however, was very good and some things were excellent. In that latter category I’d place the beef and cauliflower dry pot, the eggplant in garlic sauce and the sole with mapo tofu flavour. We had actually not been impressed by the regulation mapo tofu on our previous visit but this was excellent.
For a look at the restaurant, the large menu, and what we ate click on a picture below to launch a larger slideshow. Scroll down for thoughts on service and the experience as a whole and to see how much the meal cost.
A bunch of people drank a range of their milky tea and fruit drinks. The gallery only shows a few but you can see what the others were on the check. These drinks seem to be their own huge genre on the menu—this may be another way in which their menu appeals to a
Service was friendly and present when it needed to be. It was a bit annoying, however, that they pushed a couple of smaller tables together to seat our large group even though the room in which they usually seat large parties (where we’d sat in 2018) remained empty throughout the meal (the restaurant was not busy at lunch that Saturday). Our tables were narrow and very quickly overwhelmed by the amount of food—most of which was served in very large containers. It was very difficult to pass things. (And, yes, we had a reservation.) And though this is by no means an issue restricted to them, it was also a bit annoying to have things come out in fairly random order. Next time we’ll order in waves rather than all at once and that should help with both problems.
Cost? The total came to just about $320 with automatically applied tip. We were the equivalent of 7 hungry adults and looking at the leftovers we took home, this was enough food for at least 10 hungry adults (probably more). So effective per head cost would have been just over $30. We’d do it again. Though before doing it again we’ll probably go back to Tea House again and maybe give the new(er) Lao Sze Chuan a go as well.
(Oh, I forgot to note: they have free parking in the parking garage right next to the restaurant. It may seem closed when you approach but if you drive up to the gate, it will open.)
Coming up next: another Chinese restaurant report. This one will be from Southern California, however, and feature food from Shanghai. That’ll be on Thursday.
Happy to corroborate your positive review of Legendary Spice. We’ve been many times over the past four years and have always enjoyed good food and service. Their take-out has always been done right too. The boiled beef in Sichuan sauce is easily enough for four people and is delicious, we order it without fail.