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Sunday, October 11, 2015

New Kid In Town: Spice Kitchen (I cheated on my favorite restaurant and paid the price)

There is so much new construction happening in my neighborhood right now (and I'm not always sure that's a positive thing) Whatever issues I might have with that, I can't help being excited when a new restaurant moves into town.  One of the latest restaurants to come into the neighborhood is the Indian restaurant, Spice Kitchen, conveniently located directly across the street from our building.  Kevin and I were torn between wanting to try it, and feeling like we were being disloyal to one of our favorite local restaurants, Rani Mahal.

Well, after we broke down and decided to finally try Spice Kitchen, I realize the gods at Rani Mahal were having the last laugh.

Spice Kitchen has some impressive decor.  It's a small restaurant with an intimate feel and a very modern vibe.  It is the kind of Indian restaurant you expect to find in Manhattan.  Everything from the wall decor to the seating was done with meticulous detail.

(Note the table pictured here was empty when I sat down.  This is going to be important for later.)

We were seated quickly and the staff was friendly.  We ordered our first glasses of wine.  As I looked around this beautiful space I wondered how I could ever go back to Rani Mahal.  Rani Mahal is a large open space with very simple decor.  It is lacking in this cool vibe.  How could I ever eat Indian food without this cool vibe?  Cool vibes are part of the dining experience, right?

They put down exactly two pappdums in front of us.  I thought one wafer each was a little cheap, but they did offer us more after we ate them.  Silly me, I told them we wanted to save our appetites for dinner.  

I opened the menu eagerly.  What would this new restaurant offer?  Would the food be as unusual as the decor?

The menu was pretty much the same old - same old.  There were some different appetizer offerings from other Indian menus, but otherwise it was the same tandoori/tikka masala/vindaloo entrees that dominate every Indian restaurant you have ever been to.  The menu was cleverly set up though.  Rather than list each and every dish, the menu had a wheel set up with each type of sauce available and which proteins you could order with it.  There was a description of each sauce type below.

Since the menu had some unusual appetizers listed, and I thought the Tangy Eggplant sounded good,we went with that.  We also ordered mango chicken (that was one of the few dishes on this menu I hadn't seen on other Indian menus) and chicken tikka masala (Kevin's perennial favorite).  Our server used a little electronic device, like an iPad to take our order.  She had to question me twice what I was ordering, and I thought I saw her push a few buttons.  I'm not sure why she seemed so confused when she took our order, but I didn't think much of it at the time.

Our eggplant came out. These were like the eggplant chips I have often eaten at Greek and Middle Eastern restaurants.  They were delicious.  We gobbled them up quickly.  They weren't really tangy though.  Also the dipping sauces were the same ones that came with the pappdums (standard tamarind and coriander sauces).

We finished our appetizer and waited for our dinners.  A busboy came along and put dinner plates in front of us.  We received our naan bread (and they charge you by the piece instead of giving you a big basket).  We kept waiting for the rest of our dinner.  We ordered a second glass of wine (because we were waiting so long, we had finished our first glasses and wanted to have something to drink with our dinner).

Our server came to our table and asked if we wanted to order anything else.  We were confused.  We were still waiting for our main courses, so we weren't really interested in dessert at that point.

We kept waiting.  That empty table in the photo filled up.  The group who sat there received their dinners.  Other tables that came in after us received their dinners.  We were still waiting.

Finally we flagged down our server and asked what what was happening with our entrees.  She had no memory of us ever ordering anything.  Whatever she did with her little device, she did not actually enter our order with it.  She had to take our order all over again.  The entire staff, including the owner was apologetic.  We had multiple  staff members coming to our table and apologizing.  Our food finally came out of the kitchen.

Was it worth the wait?  It wasn't bad, but it certainly wasn't worth the wait.  I enjoyed the meal, but it didn't blow me away.  For all the excessive decor, there really isn't much about Spice Kitchen that differentiates it from most other Indian restaurants in the area.  The mango chicken was just a thick, sweet, heavy sauce. 

After this was all over, I was hoping that they might try to compensate us for their incompetence.  Maybe they would offer us a dessert on the house or comp us those second glasses of wine (which we never would have ordered if our food had come out on time).  If they had tried to make their error up to us in any way, then we might have just considered this ordering glitch to be a simple mistake by a new restaurant trying to work the kinks out.  We might have returned in a few weeks to see if service had improved.

When we received our bill, not only did they not comp us any of our meal, but they double charged us for the mango chicken (they remedied that).

I'm not inclined to come back here again.  The next time I'm in the mood for Indian, I'm going back to my old stand-by Rani Mahal, where the owner will pour me a second glass of wine on the house just because he's a nice guy.

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