Yesterday I was in the neighborhood and had a chance to try Spices! for lunch. While Id been to the larger second location on Sixth Ave., this was my first time to the original restaurant, actually more on the order of a small café. The atmosphere is equally charged with Taiwanese videos on the screen, strobe lights, brightly colored walls, and Christmas globes.
The table next to me was enjoying a big plate of darkly sauced noodles, so I asked my waitress what it was and ordered the same, Mandarin Noodle with Sauce (zha jiang mian), $5.25. Since that was so inexpensive, I asked for one cold plate too, Spicy Chinese Bacon with Garlic (suan ni bai rou), $3.95.
The white meat aka fatty bacon was cut thickly and served slightly warm as if the slices had been tossed in a heated sauce, releasing more of the garlics volatile oils. The sauce was more in the style of an extra garlicky red oil than the thick and more intense mud-like garlic paste of China Village. Sweeter and not as exotically spiced than Sam Loks saucing, without the tender yellow leeks it was less complex and interesting. However, the serving size is quite generous and theres still a lot of flavor to be had. After a couple slices, it was too rich and fatty to have more, and I realized a plate like this is usually shared with several people. The rest was packed up and should last me for quite a while.
Served in a deep glass casserole dish, the mahogany-colored bean sauce ladled over the bare noodles was loaded with cubes of pressed tofu, chunks of black mushroom and zucchini, and gritty ground pork. It was topped with a fine julienne of cucumbers to be mixed in. The thickish noodles were on the firm side but not chewy. There was too much sauce, but overall, satisfying all round. Also, a big portion, I took most of this home too.
Spices! (Szechuan Trenz)
294 8th Avenue (@ Clement)