Restaurant Review: LeJends Restaurant (2 Stars)

LeJends in Yonkers shows off its hip vibe.



A Legend in the Making?

 

A new Caribbean-Southern eatery in Yonkers has some clunkers, but there’s no denying its hip downtown vibe, finger-lickin’-good fried chicken, and over-the-top bread pudding.

 

 

 

We walked into great-looking Lejends on Warburton Avenue, and immediately exchanged meaningful glances. “Nice,” our silent looks said. “Maybe this will be good.”

 

We’re ever hopeful.

 

Lejends, a primarily Caribbean-Southern eatery, exudes a warm, hip, downtown vibe. Brick walls sport stylized posters of jazz legends, while a back wall of cascading water lends an earthy touch. Seated in the burnt orange-and-taupe banquettes that run the length of the restaurant, we studied the menu, when the bread basket arrived. And what a basket it was! Light, fluffy biscuits were a real homey treat, but oh, that cornbread! Sweet, moist, rich, and redolent with actual corn flavor, this is among the best we’ve had. The waitress readily told us the secret ingredient: fresh puréed pineapple.

 

It wasn’t such a bad thing that we ate a good bit of that bread. The wait between courses—on both visits—was long. On our second visit, it took 30 minutes to get our appetizers and 45 until our dinners came. It was clearly not the fault of the wait staff: our servers were friendly and eager to please, and available when we needed them. It was our food that was missing, even when only a handful of tables were occupied.

 

After all that waiting, it was a good thing the portion sizes were generous. We were relieved when a heaping plate of fried chicken arrived, though it was not the batter-coated classic we expected. But the chicken had a savory, crisp crust and was moist and finger-lickin’ tender. Best of all, collards that had been cooked far beyond the dictates of current culinary fashion were a reminder of just how good for us greens can be. Must be all that good pork fat.

 

Jerk chicken was not for the reticent palate: assertive spice and a healthy dose of heat could bring tears to the eyes of the uninitiated. On one occasion the chicken was moist and more aggressively seasoned; on another it was still flavorful, but somewhat dry. In both cases, the sweet fried plantains on the plate made a perfect counterpoint.

 

A very different rub—coffee and black peppercorn—gave a sophisticated, bitter edge to a flavorful, though somewhat chewy, rib eye. The sweet potatoes might have served the same balancing role as plantains did with the jerk chicken, but the unevenly cooked (some were still crisp in the center) potatoes doused with maple butter and garlic were too cloyingly sweet. One of the few dishes in which the sweet note was not overplayed was grouper steamed in a banana leaf and  immersed in a rich aromatic coconut broth.

 

We were disappointed by a dish we expected to love: three-cheese mac ‘n cheese. The dense square was gummy and somewhat flat-tasting, somehow more heavy than rich. We had high hopes for the gumbo as well, but the pasty, overly thick texture kept us from appreciating the decent flavor.  Two far better starters to try: the “stamp and go fritters” made of salt cod, which were light with a crispy coating and accompanied by a key lime mayonnaise that made a perfect creamy-tart counterpoint, and the  golden fried “crabby cake” made with shredded crab and a minimal amount of filler.

 

Several non-alcoholic drinks—piquant ginger beer, sweet iced tea, and sorrel tea—were best enjoyed in the first few sips; after that, the heavy-handed sweetness was overwhelming. Better to save the sugar rush for dessert—but as with much of our meal, we found we had to choose carefully. A red-velvet cake was dense and had an unpleasant edge to it, and a warm chocolate sundae was bitter. But the warm bananas Foster bread pudding was an over-the-top, gooey delight—a sugar high worth the inevitable crash. Another great choice is the carrot cake with lemon frosting: sweet enough, certainly, but not as flashy and outrageous as the bread pudding.

 

LeJends Restaurant

★★

22 Warburton Ave

Yonkers

(914) 709-9840; www.lejendsrestaurant.com

 

Hours:

Lunch Tues to Fri 11 am-4 pm; dinner Tues and Wed 5-10 pm, Thurs 5-11 pm, Fri and Sat 5-12 pm; brunch Sun 11 am-3 pm.

 

Prices:

Appetizers: $6-$12; entrées: $14-$27; desserts: $7-$8.

   ★★★★—Outstanding      ★★★—Very Good 
   ★★—Good                       ★—Fair

 

 

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