88 Seventh Ave. (15th & 16th Sts.) 212-929-1778

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Walk into Legend and you’ll wonder if you’ve accidentally fallen down a rabbit hole into Chinatown. Everything about Legend says Mott Street—or Canal, Division, E. Broadway—but certainly not Seventh Avenue at 15th Street. Brisk service, half-slapdash decor, and fantastically searing Sichuan food are what it’s all about at Legend; no cushy Chelsea trappings. That’s all fine: You’re here to eat, and you’ll do so very well if you order right.  On a recent night, yours truly went a little overboard with the chili oil and Sichuan peppercorns and set everyone’s face on fire. But it was well worth it. The braised fish with Napa cabbage and roasted chili; the spicy Sichuan cold noodles; the shrimp dumplings with (yup) chili oil… all masterfully prepared, in generous and low-priced portions. It’s the stuff of Sichuan daydreams.

240 Ninth Ave. at 25th St.
(212) 242-4730 

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This narrow little dining room is on a less-than-exciting stretch of Ninth Ave., but there’s no NYC restaurant quite like Txikito. Ultra-talented chefs Alex Raij and Eder Montero turn out robust, fragrant Basque tapas—which range from little sandwiches of tuna and piquillo-infused oil, to lamb chops grilled a la plancha, to daily specials like a warm chickpea-and-squid stew with a potent anchovy broth—in a soothing, low-lit space engineered to take your stress level down a few notches, especially when you taste your way around the wine list’s Spanish vinos.

ABC Kitchen
35 E. 18th (Broadway & Park Ave.) 212-475-5829 

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At ABC Kitchen, you can’t help getting a this-is-gonna-be-good feeling as soon as you walk in. It’s something about those beautiful gnarled tree trunks, those roughed-up wood beams, stark white chairs, glam chandeliers, and soothing white-brick walls. You might feel an initial “damn this a short menu” worry, but that anxiety will soon be dashed. Every dish here earns its spot on the menu—the ingredients are exquisite, the flavors pop, and the combinations often surprise. Your eyes might glaze over at the bowtie pasta with kasha and veal meatballs, but you’d be missing out on an intensely delicious reimagining of kasha; and even simple whole-wheat-crust pizzas like one with mushrooms, egg, and oregano stand out. And then there’s the stated mission of the restaurant: not just organic and local ingredients whenever possible (yeah, yeah, nothing new here), but repurposed materials, eco-friendly design, and tableware and furniture by local or indigenous artisans. But that doesn’t count for much if the food and the feel of the place are lame. They’re not: thrills abound, from the plate to the gorgeous materials all over. If eating here gives you a furniture-shopping jones, there’s always the beautifully curated ABC Carpet and Home—the shop that houses the restaurant—for a post-priandal stroll.

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