Sabina being replaced by Spice Monkey (downtown Oakland)
(Sabina is gone, yay!)
They are closed up, and signs read that Spice Monkey Restaurant or Spice Monkey Cafe is opening in that location. No further details except that it looks like they are hiring wait staff, cooks, etc, which probably means a long wait. From the name of it I would hope for something Caribbean, but that is pure speculation: google reveals nothing to me.
Had a great meal here last Thursday for dinner. My wife and I were craving Cheeseboard or Viks (are usual trek when we leave our City-centric lives to the East Bay), but both were closed by the time we left dropping off my brother-in-law to the Oakland Airport. We decided we would give Spice Monkey a shot based on all the positive Yelp reviews.
Ambience/Service: When you walk in you're ggreeted by a nice indoor waterfountain. The place has kind of a Latin American ambience to it. Despite some of the gripes by folks about the service, he had an awesome server who was both friendly and prompt (I guess they've fixed some of their growing pains).
Food: My wife ordered the veggie pot pie. I had a few bites and it was delicious. Very well seasoned and the sauce was very tasty. I ordered the bbq pork sandwich on an Acme torpedo roll. Also, very very tasty, nicely seasoned, and it came with this sweet red cabbage slaw and complemented the sandwich quite well. Our meal came out to under $20, so pretty good deal, especially for us City folk.
thanks for the report. At dinner, was it sit-down service, or order at the counter? (part of my issue with the service was the counter ordering system, so table service could make a difference). (and either way, knowing that neighborhood, I'd be surprised if it got very busy at dinner).
We were going to try this place for lunch yesterday, but when we walked in the door we were hit by such a strong, unappetizing smell that we walked right back out.
Didn't smell like food or garbage, more like solvents or glues or some sort of outgassing from the recent construction.
A co-worker and I went for lunch today…I’d say the world food description is probably apt, if by ‘world food’ one means a bit all over the place. Menu options include:
Small plates at around $5 each, including meatballs, empanadas, polenta pie, chicken fingers, “Spice Monkey Potatoes” (creamer potatoes with herb mix and choice of mayo, bbq sauce or tartar sauce).
Entrée salad (can be ordered plain or with grilled chicken or bbq tofu): Caesar; spring greens and jicama; Mediterranean; or a 'chop-chop' salad of romaine, tomatoes, cucumber, feta.
Sandwiches: grilled cheese, fish, wrap, bbq pork.
Pasta: manicotti, penne primavera, fettuccine alfredo.
Entrees: Snapper baked in paper, chicken or veggie pot pie, oaxacan pork with mole verde, chicken saltimbocca.
Soup of the day and a few side dishes.
Bottom line: lovely space, but I won’t be in any rush to go back, despite a dearth of good lunch places in the neighborhood.
First the good: The space has been really spiffed up, though the beautiful tile work is still there. Tables are comfortable, though very closely spaced. My side green salad was nice though underdressed, and a generous serving for $2.95.
Just ok: the meatballs, about five small meatballs in an order ($4.95): the tomato sauce they were in was sort of spicy and tasted fresh, but the meatballs themselves were mostly filler, none too flavorful, and served lukewarm. I’m a big meatball fan but these did nothing for me. The fish sandwich my co-worker ordered, when it finally came, was a generous size fried fillet on bread, with tartar sauce and a small salad like mine on the side, and red pickled cabbage (called ‘slaw’ on the menu) piled on the sandwich.
I had originally wanted to try the soup, but was told they don’t have soup on the menu yet.
The bad: We shared an order of the empanadas, which had a filling of spiced, shredded beef and onions. Three medium size empanadas for $6. The pastry crust wasn’t too bad, but the filling had an 'off' taste I couldn’t quite identify, but which we both could taste. Didn’t finish it.
The ugly: the service. Yes, I know they just opened, but if they hope to survive as a lunch place they will need to change their ordering procedure. We ordered at the counter and someone took down our order by hand. She then handed our written order to someone else, who copied it by hand onto another piece of paper (!), who then gave the original to the cook, and then gave the copy to the cashier to ring up (and of course the cashier wasn’t sure what the handwriting said and had to have it interpreted), then gave us a number for our table….It wasn’t too cumbersome, but only because we were the only patrons when we entered. I can’t imagine this working if they ever get busy….
Service went pretty much downhill from there, though they may be able to work out the other kinks over time. My order came, but no flatware, had to flag down the server to bring it…I didn’t want to eat before my co-worker, but since we realized the meatballs were already just lukewarm (I presume they were pre-made, which is why they came so fast, and not re-heated well enough), I started to eat…five or .ten minutes later the empanadas, which we had asked to have as an appetizer, came, and it took at least another ten minutes after that for the fish sandwich to show up (so my colleague didn’t have her lunch until about 20 minutes after mine). We had asked about the sandwich twice: the first time we were told it was coming in a ‘minute’…the second time (ten minutes later) we were told that it would be delayed because they hadn’t filleted the fish yet, and were reminded that ‘we just opened’. I appreciate that just opening can sometimes be a reason for service kinks, but I am not sure it is a good idea to use it as an excuse for something that could have been foreseen: it might get old quick.
Total for meatballs, green salad, empanadas, fish sandwich and two soft drinks was about $23 with tax but before tip.
Sigh….would have been sooo much happier to see a good Indian or Caribbean restaurant take the place of Sabina. Spice Monkey strikes me as trying too hard but unlikely to really be a hit. I can get a nice salad elsewhere…..
1628 Webster St, Oakland, CA
Spice Monkey just opened yesterday May 1st. It is beautiful inside and the food was great! The food is fusion with some comfort food as well. They will also have coffee and pastries in the morning. For lunch, I had the BBQ tofu salad and BBQ pork sandwich which I highly recommend. Check them out if you get a chance, I think you will be pleased with their food selection.