Full disclosure: when we visited Legacy Records, my wife Jun and I received an entree dish and two desserts for free after Jun complained about the said entree. It was a nice gesture from the restaurant, but I couldn’t help but wonder if this place belonged to the same restaurant group that brought hits like Charlie Bird and Pasquale Jones to the New York dining scene. The new Hudson Yards project behind the Delicious Hospitality Group received a lot of hype thanks not only to the popularity of the existing restaurants but also because of the gorgeous space designed by a San Francisco star architect Ken Fulk. Well, let me say for now that Legacy Records resembles nothing like its predecessors Charlie Bird and Pasquale Jones, which were both loved by New Yorkers for their fairly minimalist settings with quintessential New York neighborhood vibes with the kitchen aiming to please the diners with the consistent and thoughtful execution of otherwise straightforward looking dishes. Yes, the space at Legacy Records has a certain luxurious charm to it, especially appealing in the summer season, but it was shocking to find out that the food was just off overall.
After our meal at Legacy Records, Jun wondered aloud, “Is the chef here just infatuated with sour flavor or has his sense of flavor completely disappeared so he can’t distinguish what sourness tastes like?” In fact, in all my years of culinary journey since I arrived in New York City in 2011, I can confidently declare that Legacy Records is the sourest restaurant. Let’s start with Montauk tuna belly crudo. The fish had a nice melting texture to it, but why cover it up with salted Japanese lemon and colatura (an anchovy sauce) so the moment we put a piece of crudo into our mouth, all we can sense is this overwhelming sourness, not the smooth texture of the tuna? Squid ink spaghetti is always done best when its flavor is kept at a modest level to create a rustic taste. The kitchen at Legacy Records somehow decided to juice up a lot of sour flavor (I couldn’t tell what ingredients were going into the pasta) that after a couple of scoops, Jun was utterly puzzled.
Dry aged beef ribeye was quite capably prepared medium rare, but the surrounding vegetables of spigarello, chanterelle mushrooms and garlic had so much sourness that it became almost impossible to eat them alongside the meat. Finally, Jun had it enough and asked one of the managers why the kitchen decided to ruin an otherwise nice meat dish like this. The manager apologized and later comped our ribeye, as well as the two desserts that came later. Compared to the savory dishes, the desserts fared much better and helped alleviate the intolerably sour sensation in our taste bud. Spring strawberries with cherry blossom and goat’s milk fior di latte had a very refreshing flavor that would make it an ideal spring/summer time dessert, while I was pleasantly surprised with the clever use of spice in the dark chocolate meringata with Venezuelan rum cake and Indonesian long pepper.
Despite all the flaws in its food, Legacy Records is one of the hottest tickets in town and it took me a while to book a table exactly one month in advance. There is full bar (restaurants from the Delicious Hospitality Group have always been well-known for their wine lists but nowadays Jun and I don’t really drink wines at restaurants after finding out how much mark-ups they charge from retail prices) and the cocktails were competently made but very expensive. There were other issues at the restaurant, such as service (we were perplexed when our server brought out a water bottle but didn’t bother to pour on our glasses, and somehow no one asked how we wanted the temperature for our ribeye so we had to tell our server we want it medium rare) or unreasonable price (yes, the bread with cultured butter and rosemary lardo was nice but how can you charge $7 for it?), that made our dining experience less than ideal. For now, I will say Legacy Records is probably worth a quick stop for a cocktail with maybe one or two bites at the bar before heading to a better (and less pricier) restaurant for a full meal. It was rather shocking that the Delicious Hospitality Group decided not to replicate the same formula that have made their two previous restaurants so successful even to this day and instead decided to go all glitzy with atmosphere without the food to back up the hype.
- Creativity: 7.5/10
- Execution: 6.5/10
- Ingredients: 8.0/10
- Flavor: 5.0/10
- Texture: 8.0/10
- Value: 6.5/10
Address: 517 West 38th Street, New York, NY 100018