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Spice Route--feedback?

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Headed to Spice Route on King West tomorrow based on glowing previews and hype . . . now hearing rumours that we may be in for disappointment. Has anyone been? Any tips on what to order/expect?

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  1. Hi Nelson, what have you heard? I assumed that it would be essentially a place the hordes of 905ers would come to on weekends before heading to the clubs (Brant House-esque), if this is the case I wouldn't expect much, all sizzle, no steak, + not my scene...have I got it wrong?

    7 Replies
    1. re: Recyclor

      That it will be a very cool space for innovative Asian flavours--that from a couple of TO chefs. Depends if small-plate tapas-style Asian food is your cup of tea . . .

      From Martini Boys: "Spice Route's lure, however, will be Executive Chef Winlai Wong’s ambitious roll call of homeland northern heat and southern sweet treats. . . her culinary skills shine with a standout talent for combining strong and subtle flavours."
      (http://www.martiniboys.com/Toronto/Sp...)

      1. re: Nelson

        No offence, but when do the Martini Boys ever say anything negative about a place? Lobby, Ki, Ultra....it doesnt matter the locale, if it has hype they will cover it positively.

      2. re: Recyclor

        But it is also a club with its own House DJ brought over from London.. so it is a place where tehy want the 905s to stay after dinner...

        Has this concept ever worked?

        1. re: OnDaGo

          Ultra seems to do OK.

          1. re: Herb

            I went to the opening, but alas no food to try. This kind of venue looks more like a club than a restaurant, its pretty big and open. The chef came from Monsoon, which was only so-so.

          2. re: OnDaGo

            The concept works big time for the clientele (same crowd as Ultra).

            I've been to spice route for drinks (after 10pm) and it is insanely busy. We're talking huge lineups at the door and the bouncers not really having any idea what to do with the crowd.
            One bouncer even stated that spice route is not a club, and therefore doesn't have a guestlist (unless bottle service), so everyone has to wait about 20-30 minutes before getting in. There's also no cover, so the appeal is high.

            Inside, at around midnight, its next to impossible to move, get a drink, go to the bathroom, or go outside on the patio for a smoke. There are lineups everywhere. This is pretty typical for a hot spot. No complaints so far, but the staff do seem to be a bit inexperienced.

            Going to try the food soon.

          3. re: Recyclor

            i went for dinner last night and you hit the nail on the head with all sizzle no steak, really not a great experience. the room is beautiful, very impressive in a design sense but the food and service was very mediocre. i sat at the bar while waiting for my friends to arrive and had to fight to get noticed by the barmaid, she was busy flirting with two guys , when i managed to get her attention she wasnt friendly or helpful at all, maybe because she presumed i didnt have any money being just in jeans and tshirt when most of the clientele was in business suits. then onto dinner, our server could not answer any questions and obviously had zero knowledge of the menu and getting his attention was a mission impossible. when the food arrived verything was okay, but just okay, nothing was bad enough to send back but nothing was great either, just like the kind of food you get in any average asian style restaurant. all in all a big disappointment, they put all this money into creating such a beautiful impressive space but they havent nailed the basics like good food and service

          4. I went for a quick tour today and the interior is beautiful. The washrooms are very unique (probably some of the neatest in the city) and the decor is top-notch.

            It is definitely more restaurant than nightclub. It looks to be closer to the resto-lounge type of atmosphere vs. some of the other mentions in this thread (This is London, Brant House, etc.). I would not categorize it with those venues.

            I'm excited to try it out a few times - the patio looks great and will be awesome for post-work drinks.

            1. Does anyone know if they are open now (or will be open) for lunch?

              1 Reply
              1. re: FrenchSoda

                Hours: 11.30-0.100 Mon-Wed & 02.00 Thu-Sat

                See website:
                http://www.spiceroute.ca/index2.html

              2. Went to Spice Route on Thursday. It's definitely more of a restaurant although the configuration of the space looks like it can easily turn into a night club.

                Appetizer 1:
                Had the chicken and duck lettuce wrap ($12). Portions were big. It's listed under appetizers but it's definitely a sharing app. It could easily fill up four people. Pass us a bowl of rice each and we could've made it a meal.

                This dish was surprisingly authentic and could hold its own to any fine Chinese dining establishment. A twist on traditional hoisin sauce by adding brandy was also a very nice touch.

                App 2:
                Kobe beef carpaccio ($15?). Great presentation. Great price point. Another dish that has to be shared.

                Entree 1:
                Miso-glazed black cod ($23) on udon noodles. Fish was nicely charred outside, and succulent with the appropriate sweetness of the miso coming through inside. The last time I had this dish was at Nobu in Tribeca. I didn't use the Nobu version as a benchmark simply because both have very different price points for this dish.

                Entree 2:
                Rack of Lamb ($25). The approach to this is more Vietnamese. I can't remember the dip or marinade/description, but I think I detected lime, sambal, ginger and lemongrass.

                BBQ Pork Fried Rice (i forget the price). Classic Cantonese style.

                The surprise favourite of the night. A beautifully cooked order of baby bok choy ($7). No charring. Lots of fresh garlic, and no grittiness in between the stems. Not oily.

                Desserts:
                - Fried bananas - perfectly fried. Just the right amount of batter. I normally find this dish over-battered in most places. Highly recommend it.
                - Cheesecake lollipop - a must try. It was heavenly.
                - creme brulee

                I loved how the food was kept simple and close to its roots. It doesn't try to be something else other than what it is. Asian food. Everything (except the carpaccio, of course) came out nice and hot.

                1 Reply
                1. re: ensaymada

                  2 of us went there for lunch 2 weeks ago. The interior was very nicely decorated & comfortable. e.g. There's a private room with a large glass table filled with rose petals.
                  We ordered the following:
                  app. wasabi crusted shrimp ($11)
                  Kobe carpaccio ($15)
                  entree: Indian spiced roast chicken ($20)
                  Miso glazed black cod ($23)

                  Overall, very nice presentation, hugh portion to share (we could not finish all the food & no more room for dessert), servers were attentive although some lack knowledge of the menu, some dishes were too salty but still tolerable.

                  I really enjoy the interior setting & will go back either for a drink or a meal.

                2. Went to Spice Route last night with friends. The hostess was a little flustered and seemed a little out of her element. The place was near empty when we arrived and she seemed to be a little scared to seat us. She finally let us know that the place was fully booked and we could only have the table for two hours. (???) Needless to say we stayed for over 3 hours and everything was okay.

                  The place is gorgeous - very large and open. The service was casual but efficient. The food - some dishes like the lettuce wraps and the tempura shrimp and calamari were amazing, some dishes were mediocre like the vegetable pakoras. The presentation in all was very pretty if not large. We only went the small dishes route and most were quite plentiful.

                  Bathrooms - very lovely and private. The patios will be amazing once the weather warms up.

                  My main complaint about the place is the noise level. Unfortunately it is not the type of place i would go with family - even though I know the parents would like the food. It's simply too club/lounge to be taken seriously on that level for me. Unlike Spice Market in NYC, which I adore, it's just a little too hip for a mellow dinner. Perhaps that will change over time.

                  Anyways - I'm recommending the place for a fun evening out and some tasty dishes. For a more formal affair, I definitely would recommend going elsewhere.

                  1. I've eaten there twice and the food is mediocre at best. You can get better Thai/Chinese/Sushi at your local take out. The place is gorgeous, but this place is all about the trendy scene and not about food.

                    1. Agree with everyone that the place looks nice, food is mediocre and service is poor. Though if you enjoy standing around with your drink in hand, you'll love it.

                      1. Wow ......what an unfortunately challenging name to give yourself to live up to.

                        Not sure where I should start to try and provide what might be deemed a sufficiently balanced review of my experience without seeming as bitter as Hilary; however its difficult to be balanced with execution and service as deeply flawed as this.

                        They not only missed the Route but in particular completely avoided the Spices.
                        Its a cavernous room, that from a clinical aesthetic is pleasing. The whole bar area reminds me of Ki actually.
                        Great furniture near the front entrance to look at; but less comfortable as everything is wide and low and again the aesthetic seems more important than comfort.

                        The bathrooms are also interesting if you don't mind taking a pee while looking out a large window with a view to what I suspect is meant to be a Zen type enclosed space outside the widows with wooden fountains piping water and lots of green grass to look at. I kept wondering if someone was going to walk by any minute and wave.

                        Ok back to the food and service.

                        There were 5 of us on a walk-in basis last evening. Three disinterested young gals at the front desk who did not look old enough to be out of grade school greeted us and I suspect that none had any previous experience and if they did they hid it well.

                        We didn't get a table but we were placed in the lounge area so ordered from there. We ordered 6 dishes to start
                        The first dish that arrived was the lettuce cups/wraps, the fact that we then had to request plates, napkins etc was the obvious first indication of what was to come. It was very average; but both the fillings (ground duck & ground chicken) were lacking in any spicing and can only be described as bland and so was the rest of the meal to follow.

                        It was the very last dish that we ordered after consuming 4 bottles of a reasonably priced Albarino,that had any flavour and that was the spicy shrimp and calamari plate. Unfortunately the batter on both deep fried items was totally lacking in any seasoning. Its only redemption being dusting of red chilli powder on the calamari.

                        I have seen this food executed substantially better in many places and I am deeply disappointed if the Chef is in fact Wai-Lei Wong once of Monsoon.

                        How best to convey this......ATROCIOUS FOOD.....BAD SERVICE (though I must say it was first night for our waitress and she did well all things considered)......interesting space though nothing I haven't seen before.

                        COLD would be highly appropriate.

                        I will give this place 15 months before its on it knees. In the meantime if you are interested in people watching then the lounge area near the entrance is where you should park yourself as this is obviously the "it" spot for young larger breasted women to show their wares. I must admit that I wondered if it had anything to do with the proximity of the local strip club. My female colleagues also made the same observation, so it wasn't just my wondering eye looking for alternative pleasure to the rather tediously unspiced food we were presented with over the course of the couple of hours we spent there.

                        I will not be going back unless its strictly for drinks. The place makes the food at KI shine and seem as though it might be of true gourmet quality.

                        1. Just been there this weekend on Saturday. It felt more like a club than a restaurant for me. The food was ok, but nothing mind blowing. I would suggest only going to this place for drinks (order the bottle, service is slow).

                          We waited for over an hour for our food. They served us sweet buns to help with the slow wait (offered 2 to begin with then 4...). I wouldn't go back.

                          1. Hi,

                            I went there for drinks and dinner last Thursday.

                            THE GOOD:
                            Gorgeous space-- especially the patio with the covered chaise lounge area. Very hip and cool.
                            Interior decor is also very nice.
                            Great location for afterwork drinks or a meal.
                            Food is actually pretty good, but nothing spectacular. Peking duck is nice, with great presentation.

                            AND THEN THE BAD:
                            Service ranged from incompetent to callous and rude. For your consideration:
                            -- the server on the patio forgot to bring our drinks out 2x
                            -- Dinner reservation was for 8:30. Showed up at hostess' desk at 8:30. Was given one of those remote buzzer things. Never went off. Kept checking back. We didn't get seated until 9:20. And that's after we spent a good 15 minutes hovering by the desk. No apologies provided.
                            -- Everything took a looong time even after seated-- about 10 minutes to get menus, another 10 to order, etc.
                            -- We ordered a bottle of white wine. It arrived warm and uncorked. Waiter took off, so we had to bring the bottle to the bar to get a new cold bottle of wine, opened.
                            -- So-called manager came by to the table, but that didn't improve the service
                            -- The line up for the washroom for the men was so long, it snaked past our table. Gross.
                            -- We didn't get our mains until 11pm.

                            Not really worth a return visit.

                            1. So I went there for a freinds Birthday Party with a group of 20. Birthday girls know the manager who told the wiater to take care of us...

                              Arrived 8:00 on Thursday.. without reservations the wait was till 11:30 for a table! The place was loud inside but we were sat outside... in a cabana..

                              Place is crazy.. they had two waiters for the whole patio. I would say there were 300 outside. At one point it was so packed that they were not letting people out on the patio until others left... which caused an issue when you went to the bathroom because even though the stamped your hand (to go to the bathroom!!!) you still had to wait in line to get back outside... Had to call manager over to get the birthday girl back into her own party!...

                              We ordered all the sharing apps on the menu.. shrimp was good, beef salad good.. everything else not great... would not go back EVER... they need 30 more staff and need to get rid of the cigar smokers... there were 12 of them in the cabana besdie ours being served by the bottle service girl whose outfit belonged better at the strip club down the block.. "she likes Short Shorts"..

                              1. My boyfriend and I went to Spice Route last Sat, June 28th. It was my 20th birthday and he is 22, and we had an 8pm reservation. I have to admit, I frequent Chowhound regularly for tips and advice on where to eat and what to eat, and was compltely, pleasantly surprised with my experience at Spice Route after reading the reviews on this board.

                                Overall, we had an outstanding experience and would not hesitate to go back. The service was great- there when you need them, not when you don't, prompt with delivering food and taking away empty dishes, as well as filling empty wine glasses. I don't recall our server's name, but I noticed he was serving at least 6 other tables, with a party of at least 10, so the service wasn't a function of the restaurant being empty.

                                We ordered 6 sharing plates between 2 of us, plus a bottle of white wine. We noticed, however, that this is not the norm- even the waiter alluded to that: most people do not come for a full meal out of the sharing plates, rather they come for after dinner drinks and snacks (or really light dinners?). We ordered the following: dynamite sushi roll (note: this is essentially a tuna roll, deep fried, with wasabi mayo on the side), wasabi crusted shrimp (4 large shrimp- good, but without the spicy kick we anticipated from the name), chicken and peking duck lettuce wraps (excellent, good for sharing too), tempura calamari/rock shrimps (excellent!, 4 large shrimp, roughly 8-10 inch long pieces of calamari with a spicy tempure breading), dim sum platter (4 pieces beef, 4 pieces shrimp- not unlike authentic dimsum, however I didn't like the dipping sauce for these, a semi sweet and sour sauce with spice?- nothing unbelievable, but good for sharing I suppose), and the Kobe beef platter (raw thinly sliced Kobe beef- beautiful cut of meat- with a hot rock presentation to cook the beef on, with cok salt beneath the hot rock and a spicy/soya sauce type dipping sauce- the bf's favourite, for obvious reasons, but had this not been our last dish to order, he could've eaten this himself- not great for sharing amongst males!)

                                The atmosphere was beautiful. We sat inside, near the bar but also near the door to the exit to the patio. Not a prime table- our experience may have changed had we been towards the back of the place, near the washrooms, where there seemed to be a number of tables crowded together and the volume went up a notch. Next time I would request the patio- beautiful. The crowd is the 25-35 yr olds, lots of singles or younger couples on dates- however we didnt feel out of place, the age group definitely varies. There was a private party room filled with girls who appeared to be very young (in looks)- not that we arent young!- but it they seemed pushing the legal age limit. The only complaint made by the bf was that the table was too small for a menu designed as it was- with 3 sharing plates on it, plus plates to eat off of, plus a bottle of wine plus two glasses, it was difficult to manoeuvre around it all gracefully- i didnt mind, but for a guy, I could see the issue.

                                I would go again in a second, next time with a bigger group and not for a meal- more for drinks and some snacks. Maybe the essence of time was all they needed to fix a couple bugs..

                                1. Went there tonight, and although the food was okay, the service was extremely poor. Our server was inexperienced and did not know the menu, with a very unfriendly attitude. One of our 5 dishes came twenty minutes late (after we had asked for it with no response from servers and food runners) and when we asked to speak with a manager he was unhelpful and acted as though it was our fault for getting upset over it. They should stick with the club part of their business if they can't handle the restaurant side.

                                  1. Have been there twice, most recently last weekend. The food is okay, however as a reviewer for the Toronto Star said, it's the same stuff you can get at other Asian restaurants, but more expensive.

                                    The service is not great. Both times I went, the groups I was with spent a lot of money, and yet the service was poor.

                                    Don't go for the food, go for the atmosphere, if that's the kind you like.

                                    1. i saw all of the comments below and decided i would leave an opinion based on my experience this past weekend.

                                      i could not be less impressed with a dining experience. this resto set a negative tone from the moment you walk up to enter. the front door is populated by intimidating bouncers that check a list to ensure you "really" have a reservation. once inside the decor is alright, but seems to be a bit of a poor-man's Tao. most importantly, the food was sub-par. not even close to what a foodie requires. there was minimal flavour in each dish. poor attempts at good dishes included; the beef on a rock, the dim sum platter (avg at best), and the black cod. the best thing we tried, was their "house specialty", the peking duck, and altho somewhat tasty, it was by no means in the top 10 best i've ever had. this place is recommended to those with minimal food knowledge and desire to stare at unattractive people.

                                      even more "low budget" is the requirement to leave a credit card with your waitress if you go out to their private terrace (nowhere to sneak out) for a cigarette. overall, this is probably the worst restaurant experience I've ever had. i recommend you avoid at all costs and leave this place for the 905ers to spend their money.

                                      1. Had dinner here last week.

                                        Funnelled back the pitcher of Zen-gria. Found the food to be better than "good".

                                        Service? Not even close to attentive. Mind you, with 75% of the clientele being scantily-clad inebriated females, my mind might wander a bit as well...

                                        1. A visually dazzling environment with decent (but not spectacular) food is unfortunately stained by the horrendous service and mindless security staff. I realize that things can get busy, but 1/2 hour between visits from the waitress - even when I'm waving the menu and asking to order?

                                          How about this exchange with the "door security" when my friend "Bob" was attempting to return to the patio after a trip to the facilities:

                                          Security: "You can't go out there - it's full"
                                          Bob: "I just came from out there...my drinks and my party are all out there"
                                          Security: "Sorry sir, you still can't go out there, you'll have to wait in (the massive) line"
                                          Bob: "I don't think so - I've got a drink out there and you're not making any sense"
                                          Security: "You still can't go out there"
                                          Bob: "Okay then. I have a $200 bar bill out there - I guess I'll just leave"
                                          Security: "Okay sir...uh (scratching head and straining to think)...wait...um...(grabs Bob's shirt)...go back to the patio"

                                          I'm sure all of the trendy "clubbies" will put up with this type of service attitude, but the folks who spend the real money (the diners who actually provide profitable, repeat business) will quickly grow tired of this. It's too bad, because this place has great potential.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: annoyedcanadian

                                            actually, the sad thing is that the margin on drinks is usually higher than food. Yeah, I would have just left and called my friends to meet me on the street. lol.

                                          2. Tried out the Tao wannabe for first time last night. By the way the Tao decor is much nicer and more focused then SR - for TO it's a nice place. Our group of 7 waited a hour after our 10:30pm reservation to finally get seated and the font on the menu is small you really can't read what's written. The food is average but this place is all about atmosphere and the "scene" .
                                            Here are some pic's of Tao (Vegas) - the decor is stunning !

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: Rishiboy

                                              simply can't compare SR to Tao in the Venetian. I loved the Tao, gorgeous gorgeous place, and with a much better menu..

                                            2. Lets settle this: Spice Route is a bar, not a restaurant. Its trendy, hyped and looks beautiful, and I'm sure a great place for twenty somethings to drink. Problem is, as a resutaurant, its a flop.

                                              We went on a busy Saturday night and committed the unpardonable sin of arriving 5 minutes early. We were told (not ushered) to go to the bar and wait while they cleared our table. We had a drink, watching literally 20-30 people seated at the many "clear" tables in the place. We finally asked the hostess to seat us, which she did, and were promptly and absolutely ignored for 20 minutes. We had to flag a waiter down and ask if he wanted to serve us.

                                              The food: only marginally better than a good scarborough chinese food take out. The exception was the banana desert, which was exsquisite. Other than that, very (very) average.

                                              The place tries to be New York (think Tao run by people who don't care) without the soul or attention to detail. All the focus is on the partiers in the back who simply want to drink and hook up. Here's an idea: pay attention to the diners. They'll drink more and feel better when they leave.

                                              Unless your 23 and want to impress with a trendy pseudo hip resto, avoid it. Honestly. There are too many good restaurants in Toronto to waste your time here.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: thetuscan

                                                Agreed. Trendy bar. Horrible restaurant. Wouldn't go back unless forced. These are the guys from Ultra. Trendy club, horrible food. It's their status quo.

                                              2. kind of lame.
                                                It's fun to eat there... shared plates are a great time. It looks gorgeous. However, now its inundated with the fakerratzi, glamourhounds and 416-wannabes.
                                                Go there at your own risk.
                                                Hot rock is fun.
                                                Cheesecake pops are fun.
                                                blackened cod tastes fishy
                                                Korean lettuce wraps are my favorite.
                                                Everything else is kind of blah.

                                                When it first opened, it was cool. I really enjoyed myself there. Now, not the same place.

                                                If you are a douche or simply useless you will adore Spice Route only marginally more than Petit Castor.

                                                4 Replies
                                                1. re: sweatersister

                                                  Newsflash.
                                                  This place was tailor made for the fakerratzi, the glamourhounds and the 416-wannabes.

                                                  1. re: Suresh

                                                    Exactly. Not only that, but I went a few times right after they opened, and the food was not only awful, but it was filled with the same people sweatersister seems to think moved in after it was "discovered."

                                                    As a restaurant, it's not a great time by any stretch of the imagination. It's more like torture.

                                                    1. re: tjr

                                                      To be fair, I went every day for a 7 day period when they first opened. Thursday-Saturday - Fakerratzi - annoying.
                                                      Monday to Wednesday - families, old ladies, young women, and groups of friends dining.

                                                      But, if you open a location up on King West, you have to accept that your clientel will be both douche and useless.

                                                      I also believe that the attention and care that was put in the restaurant had the intent to build it into something that was akin to something more substantial than just a lame 905 watering hole.

                                                      I tell you what I hate - the beepers they give you when you go in. The herding of people like cattle, the lack of personalization, the inability to recognize that the restaurant is a nightclub NOT a fine dining establishment.

                                                      I don't agree that Spice Route was from day one Douche Bag central - I really don't. I didn't experience it like that and I won't be framed as someone who didn't come by this information on good authority.

                                                      However, if you want Chinese food of the same caliber at a lower cost, might I recommend The Mandarin?

                                                      1. re: sweatersister

                                                        Service at The Mandarin is better, and their food is just about as authentic. I wouldn't go to Spice Route to eat again, it's a waste of time as a restaurant of any kind. Spice Route knew what clientele they were trying to attract, and the volume of patrons they had the times I've gone have shown that they did it properly.

                                                        This isn't a board about what clubs or scene people enjoy, or who is a bigger hipster than someone else though, so the other points don't really matter.

                                                2. Its now been almost a year since all the reviews below and nothing has changed. Went to Spice Route on Saturday night and waited 2.5 hours to get seated! The service is absolutely horrible which puts you in a bad mood before you even have a chance to try the food. Frankly, I think the place is suffering from an identity crisis - is it a restaurant? is it a lounge? is it a club? If its a restaurant you're looking for, don't bother - best to keep on searching!

                                                  1. i had a veggie curry with eggplant in it that it was so salty, we actually spit it out. and when we told the waiter, was just like, "oh."
                                                    the dumplings were ok.
                                                    the sake was good, but they didn't make that.
                                                    and don't listen to how many dishes/person they suggest. you'll most likely end up with food for an army.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: foodismyhobby

                                                      I have to agree with most of the opinions here. Spice Route is not a place you want to eat at. The food is average at best but with the price you pay, you can have better Chinese food in Chinatown or anywhere else in the GTA.

                                                      I went to their "Lundin" promotion last week. $24 per person allows you to try 15 different dishes and its all you can eat. Sounds like an alright deal if you`re going out with a bunch of friends on a night out. As the dishes came out, one course after the other, I sat there in disbelief as I felt like I was eating in a foodcourt at Manchu Wok. Dishes such as Sweet & Sour pork, Deep Fried Squid, Beef with Broccoli, Deep Fried Chinese Donuts, Pork fill Potstickers, Sweet Potatoe Fries. Dont get me wrong, I enjoy all of those dishes, but completely below my expectations. It looked like they bought the food at a Chinese take out and presented it on a plate for us. Very disappointing and unsatisfying. Add in the fact that the service was very slow and the place wasnt even busy.

                                                      Go have a drink and hang out with some friends and its an alright place. The place is packed on Thurs, Fri and Sat nights.