Cafe Spice -- short report
- Dave Feldman
There were several reports about Cafe Spice *before*
it opened, but other than a reference to Robert
Sietsma's non-enthusiastic review in the Voice (the
URL expired, unfortunately), I don't think anyone has
posted about actually eating there.
I was very pleasantly surprised by Cafe Spice. I went
with two experienced Indian eaters (one Indian) and we
all enjoyed it tremendously, and agreed on the
strengths and weaknesses of particular meals.
Cafe Spice bills itself as an "Indian Bistro" and in
this case, the expression fits. It's a lively and
noisy scene, but it was an upbeat and non-uptight
crowd, and from my point of view, a more pleasant
experience than Dawat.
Each entree is accompanied with a mound of basamati
rice, naan (I've never seen "free" naan in any non-
buffet Indian restaurant), lentils, and a seasonal
vegetble -- last night a tremendous okra dish.
Average entree costs about $15 including all of the
above. Vegetarian entrees are a little less.
We ordered three appetizers: the jingha masaledar, a
disappointing dish with four smallish shrimp in a
ginger-flavored tomato sauce; delicate salmon tikkas;
and a lamb "dosa petite." I've never heard of
stuffing a dosai with minced lamb. As the name
implies, the "wrap" is much smaller than a traditional
dosa. But the filling was fabulous, sort of like a
fabulous samosa filling (although a little wetter).
The thin dosa couldn't contain the filling, but it
mattered not, because the meat was so tasty and it was
accompanied by an ineffectual coconut chutney and a
fabulous tomato-chili sauce that was fabulous.
For entrees, we had one vegetarian misfire (mustard
greens that were turned into generic mush; the
refreshing chicken w/fenugreek, spinach and coriander,
a felicitous combination, the most balanced, craftily
spiced dish we encountered; and another winner, the
barrah, lamb chops marinated in seasoned yogurt and
cooked in the tandoori oven. Like the lamb dosa,
flavor combinations exploded in the mouth. Subtle?
Maybe not. But addictive. I was thinking about this
dish all day.
Service was friendly. Most of the servers were not
Indian (extremely unusual) but much of the clientele
was. I really wanted to try the homemade mango ice
cream with mango slices, or the shahi tukda (a sort of
bread pudding with dried fruits) but portions were
generous and filling.
I'll be back.
re: R.L. Johnson
Got to stick by my guns--in a revisit just a few months ago I found the same things to object to: harsh spicing, but oversimplified as well. Instead of 20 flavors per dish, there were one or two. Some servings meager for the price. Over-reliance on bottled sauces, such as the green coriander that you can buy in any Indian grocery, used with almost everything. The identical raw vegetable salad on every plate, undressed, flavorless, just taking up room. Anyone who stuffs a dosa with meat should be shot! It's a betrayal of all that's good about South Indian cooking.
But if you guys like it so much, I think I better try it again.
re: Robert Sietsema
Maybe we were lucky and hit some of the highlights on
our trip to Cafe Spice, but enough was terrific to
make me think otherwise. In general, the food is
lusty (from your pov, harsh -- that's the one
criticism of yours about the food that I can
understand), but none of the food we had matched your
And I understand your incredulity about a dosa filled
with lamb. Just don't think of it as a dosa, but as a
wrap made with the same dough as a dosa. My short
review included several misfires, so maybe it's a
matter of you having particularly bad luck and me
having particularly good.
But I haven't found any Indian place downtown that
I've been that enthusiastic about since the Modern
Indian Restaurant (which was strong only a few dishes,
but luckily ones that I love) on 2nd Ave. closed many