For some time now, I've been craving generously spiced, rich Indian dishes. I've had decent dosai at Udupi Palace, and palatable chaat at Preet's and Mayuri, but never the sumptuous textutre and vivid, unrestrained flavor of proper curries that I used to get in New York or Edison, NJ, home to one of America's most established Indian communities. While there are several places in Redmond, Renton and Kent that I have yet to try, I've found the curried dishes in Seattle proper muted and relatively insipid, and the selection offered never ranging too far from the butter chicken-tikka masala Anglo-Indian standards. (perhaps this is due to the oft-cited "seattle fear of spice"-what's up with that anyways? maybe that's a seperate topic).
Spice Route's got the goods. It is located in a massive space in a strip mall in Bellevue that seems suitable for weddings or large parties; I noticed a dance floor hidden under the lunch buffet trays, suggesting that the place doubles as a reception hall, a common practice in central NJ. What impressed me upon seeing the menu was first the diversity and ambition: the kitchen makes a wide range of styles, from south indian dosai, uttapams and pongal, to tandoor dishes, and even indo-chinese plates like "gobi manchurian". More important, the menu has many dishes I've never seen elsewhere in seattle or the eastside such as "chicken kadai" or "lamb pepper fry"; many of these are designated "speciality"-Spice Route is aware that it is unique.
We opted for the "chili chicken" appetizer, sort of an indian take on general tso's with ginger and cilantro. It was quite good, but without the fiery power of other indo-chinese dishes I have had. We had two vegetarian dishes: hariyali kofta curry, vegetable spice balls in a creamy spinach curry with a touch of yogurt and a ginger matchstick, and guttu venkaya kura, indian eggplants in a tamrind and peanut sauce. The latter was full of red chile heat, but not overwhelming the harmonious flavors. I was told this dish comes from Hyderabad. The chef is apparently from Tamil Nadu, a state on the southeast tip of India known for its Hindu temples, and also the Chettinad dishes which appear on Spice Route's menu. On the stereo, there was a chill mix of Indian music playing, tending more toward mellow and modern instrumentals than Bollywood classics.
We also had garlic naan, which was not the best I've had, but was definitely housemade and well above average.
I can't wait to go back. http://www.spiceroutecuisine.com