Friday, July 2, 2010

Spice Market

I was checking the links on my website to see if they're still active, and to my dismay, I couldn't find my Spice Market review. The page is gone. But of course, I have copies of all my work, back-ups everywhere, flash drives, external hard drives... you know the drill. 

This was written back in 2008 as well. I apparently ate a lot that year. I even sent it to hoping it would get into the man himself's hands and to my surprise I was contacted by Jennifer Russo of Bullfrog and Baum.

Yeah... I have to get back into my food writing on a more regular basis. I haven't been to Spice Market in a while, but here's how they made me feel when I did frequent their restaurant.

Spice Market

On a recent visit to Spice Market, my friend was convinced this was the sort of place she could never get a reservation in. I assured her she could, no problem. To which she replied, “Yeah, on a Monday at 4:30.”

Not at all. Spice Market (Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Southeast Asian restaurant) in the heart of the Meatpacking District may have an air of exclusivity to an outsider, but the exact opposite is true. Spice Market prides itself on service. I eat out a lot in New York City. I honestly don’t remember when I had my chair pulled out and pushed in for me by the hostess. At the same time, my two dinner companions were getting their chairs tended to as well. That was 1-on-1 service.

As expected, we started off studying the cocktail menu. I ordered the Tamarind Rum punch. The drink is very light and refreshing, and made with actual tamarind nectar/puree. A wonderful, non-alcoholic, option from the bar is their Fresh Ginger Ale made with ground ginger, seltzer and Rose’s sweet lime juice. One of our cocktails was served in a chipped glass. The waiter took it back to replace it without complaint. The bartender made a visit to our table to deliver a personal apology.

Before dining, we were given warm hand towels infused with lemongrass oil to wash our hands. Our round of appetizers soon followed. We ordered Chicken Samosas served with Cilantro Yogurt. That was accompanied with an order of Fragrant Mushroom Egg Rolls that were on the house. We later deduced this was also to make up for the chipped cocktail glass. The server suggested we wrap the egg rolls in lettuce before dipping in the Galangal Emulsion. Wrapping the egg rolls in the iceberg lettuce leaves was awkward and the green sauce was a definite acquired taste. The next appetizer – an order of Black Pepper Shrimp and Sun-dried Pineapple, was spicy and sweet, a complimentary contrast of color and flavor. I could’ve made a meal of that paired with their delicious Coconut Sticky Rice (next time….).

The shrimp appetizer came to the table with yet another complimentary appetizer – Pork Satay – for which we would’ve gladly paid. The meat was lightly charred, and extremely moist and succulent. The cuts of pork slid easily off their skewers and didn’t need any accompaniment.

Food is served family-style at Spice Market and the serving sizes were hefty. For our main course, I stuck to my theme of the evening and also one of my favorite food combinations – meat and fruit. I ordered the Char-grilled Chicken and Grapefruit Lemongrass Dressing. I wondered how the outside of the chicken could be so thoroughly charred while the white meat on the inside remained so flavorful and moist. For diners who find it hard to stray from the usual chicken dishes when they eat out, this choice will be quite satisfying while adding a little something different in the tart kumquats paired with the meat.

My dinner companion ordered Pork Vindaloo (braised, slow-cooked pork in a spicy red tomato based stew), one of the more affordable menu options. The Pork Vindaloo stew was spicy and flavorful – sticking to the name of the establishment, without being just plain hot. The pork practically melted in my mouth. Pork being the other white meat is sometimes chosen to be a lighter choice than beef while being similarly satisfying.

For dessert, my friend and I shared a Dark chocolate coated ginger-filled chocolate cake, served with Blackberry Sorbet and Gingersnap Ice Cream. Excellent choice. It was sweet enough for dessert, and not too heavy to put you in a food coma either. The dessert menu is constantly changing, but there are always options where you can still get a little spice with your dessert.

Throughout the evening, the service was attentive, welcoming and professional. At around 11:15 the ambient music on the upper level was turned off and Spice Market began showcasing why it’s still a leading destination in the trend of nightlife dining. More and more New York City restaurants are restaurants-cum-lounge-cum-nightclub and Spice Market’s service, cuisine, atmosphere and location should allow it to maintain its appeal.

403 W 13th St
New York, NY 10014

Spice Market is Native Creative Concierge™ approved.

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