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Spice Market Report – Fantastic

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Spice Market Report – Fantastic

YSChow | Jul 2, 2004 02:30 AM

I can eat good food in NYC.
I can eat very good food in NYC.
I can eat excellent food in NYC.
I RARELY eat food that astonishes me and makes me exceptionally excited. That’s the disadvantage of savvy eaters. We are bored – we need incredibly good food with a divine touch to be thrilled. Yes, after many years of eating and searching for good food I consider myself as a savvy eater.

Spice Market is one of those rare food places that astonished me.

I ate twice in Spice Market last month (both lunch) with family and friends. It was easy to get a reservation for lunch. Short-notice reservation for dinner is impossible.

The food is fantastic and consistently surprising. The touch of the two genius chefs Jean Georges and Gray Kuntz and executive chef Stanley Wong works phenomenally well. The dishes explode in the month with intense not-too-bold Far Eastern tastes that represent GS & GK fantasy about the street food of the Far East with perfect execution by SW. Most dishes are excellent, many are stunning and only few are just good.

Do not expect just an upscale Queens/Jackson Heights type of Far East/Asian food. JG & GK take the regular Far East ingredients, interprets them in their own way, play with them as magicians and brings them to a sphere unknown to those Asian street-vendor food or Asian “simple” restaurants (that I love very much as well).
SM’s “street food” is elevated to a far-eastern paradise along a magical mystery tour of colors, textures and scented tastes - not just hot-to-very-hot for the sake of spiciness. Some of the dishes are culinary miracles. The chefs have succeeded doing those miracles with “simple” street food ingredients – what a wonderful achievement.

To my opinion the most astonishing dish is the Lime Noodles (miraculously the cheapest dish in the menu - $6 as far as I remember). This dish (just noodles…) is beyond imagination – the colors, the texture and the taste. Only genius chefs can raise noodles’ taste to such culinary heights. It is the best noodles that I have ever eaten and I would bet that this is the best Asian noodles dish in the world.

GS & GK and SW are at their best in Spice Market. What a trio.

I won’t provide a detailed review of all dishes that I tasted – go and try all of them - but here are some of the dishes ( I did not take notes so dish descriptions might not be 100% accurate):

Appetizers, main dishes and side dishes:

- Lime noodles – astonishing
- Chili-garlic egg noodles topped with seared shrimp with star anise - excellent
- Green Cary vegetables – amazing.
- Avocado with Onion rings sprinkled with a dust of Avocado salt - fantastic !!!.
- Fresh shaved tuna with tapioca pearls – wonderful, excellent.
- Fried chicken wings in lime and fish sauce - excellent
- Crunchy squid salad (?) – excellent
- Shrimp in black-pepper sauce (?) - excellent
- Skate fish - fantastic.
- Striped Bass - very good.
- Monkfish with Tamarind glaze - excellent
- Shot Ribs - excellent.
- Vietnamese Spring Rolls – good
- Chicken Samosas with cilantro yogurt - good.

Deserts

- The Thai Jewels (Water Chestnuts) - magical.

- The Durian ice-cream – unique, fantastic.
It is only for those who are “open-minded” to inhale the “stinky” Durian aroma. What a wonderful desert and a wonderful packaging (take-away rice box). I hope they won’t remove it from the menu (one waiter told us that they consider removing it after trying to convince us to avoid the risky experiment) due to rejections by most guests that can go east but not far east.

- Ovaltine Kulfi – very good

- Other deserts are, to my opinion, less attractive.

The portions are medium to large sized, including the appetizers – above average for such an upscale place, and enable sharing by two and some dishes even by three people.

You can eat appetizers and side dishes only and have a great meal. I recommend ordering many dishes and sharing. Main dishes are excellent as well but the appetizers offer a better value for the money if budget is tight. We (a group of 5 each time) ordered about 8 different dishes each time – some of the dishes we order two of each - and shared. There were enough tasting potions for all.

I recommend going several times, taste all dishes, select your favorites and then go back again and again.

Wine can be avoided without degrading the pleasure since the tastes of the food are so intense.

For me Spice Market is currently the most attractive restaurant in town and, luckily, the best deal in town. Where else can I indulge on “eat as much as you can” (it is not a buffet…) of Jean Gorges and Grey Kunz fantastic preparations (that work!) for $35 to $50 dollars per person (including tip)? For $50 per person, including wine, a group of four can sample many dishes. Without wine you can eat a lot until you’ll explode. No need to order main courses although they are excellent as well. The appetizer and side dishes can comprise a great meal.

I do not care much about restaurants’ décor (I focus on food. I read that 5 million dollars were spent to build SM – it means that I pay for something that I don’t need) but Spice Market decor is amazing and it is not, as in many places, a cover-up for unexciting food. SM offers wonderful food in a wonderful setting with reasonable price– what could be better than that?

We received a good casual service. There was one minor flaw in two visits, no complaints. A brilliant aspect of the service is the way they determine the sequence of deliveries of the many various dishes to the table (very logical) and the perfect time intervals between deliveries – either they plan it or deliver dishes to table as soon as they’re ready – the flow of dished to the tables is right (not too many dishes were brought to the table at the same time). Having about 8 different dishes we had a well orchestrated menu-tasting experience.
Do not expect a 4, 3 or even 2-star service level but who cares (I don’t) when the food is so good.

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