Four of us had a very nice dinner at SPiCES!3 in Oakland.
It was pretty full on a Sunday evening, and we were the only all-Caucasian table. We raised the average age in the room by quite a bit. The waitresses were indeed young, as noted by "William" in the report linked below. Unlike the "desultory" service he received, we were very impressed by the efficient, swift, courteous servers. Perhaps that was due to the presence of the owner, Mr. Wang, who was ambling about keeping an eye on things.
Only one of us had been to the #1 (or #2) Spices in SF, so we were mostly Spices neophytes. The only menu I can find from Spices2 in SF (from MenuPages) is rather different.
Every table was enjoying some sort of hotpot so we ordered Lamb with Cumin Spice "Nomad" style( #121, $16.95). We bypassed #114, "Gangsta" Casserole "Murder style". The pot (on a propane burner) came already filled with slices of tasty lamb, cumin and sesame broth, glass noodles. Very rich and satisfying.
Following "William"'s recommendation in the link below, we ordered Calamari in Mustard Sauce (#101, $4.25). Though rated "three dots" (Extremely Spicy) we did not find it so spicy. It was redolent of Chinese mustard, and very tasty . It was an appetizer portion (the other dishes were rather large portions), and served at room temperature.
We followed the recommendation for Eggplant in Garlic Sauce (#143, $7.95 - vegetarian) and it was superb. We also ordered Dry Braised Sting Beans (vegetarian), #142, $7.95. They have non-veg versions of these as well.
Also we had Shao-Lin Sizzling Tofu with Basil (vegetarian), #11, $7.95. This came on a hot iron platter - but lined with aluminum foil!. It was still sizzling when it got to the table. The basil was not the Western kind, but an Asian version. This and the green beans were exceptionally tasty on first bite, but subsequent tastes revealed excessive salt. If you were ordering these as a solo diner or even as a couple, you'd get sodium overload.
"Chinese MTV" blared throughout the meal, so dining with a larger group would be a communication challenge. But I guess that's the "buzz" you young-uns crave.
In addition to the hotpot activity, I saw an alarmingly large open flame on one table. Diners were toasting tofu on skewers over a can of Sterno. It was #18, Stinky Tofu Barbecue Style (there does not appear to be any option for other items "barbecue style," though I am only partway through reading the 192-item menu). There are a dozen different "StiNKy" (sic) Tofu dishes.
As yet they have no liquor license, and therefore did not permit us to open our own wine. With tax and generous tip the bill was $64 for four hungry people, no leftovers.
We chatted with the amiable owner, Mr Wang, who also owns Spices 1 and 2 in SF. He is from Taiwan, and obviously a clever businessman. For example there are no "only-in-Chinese" wall postings -- everything is on the menu in Chinese and English. So he can appeal to all clients. We asked him if he were franchising further, and he merely chuckled.
Look for Spices XVII coming soon to Blackhawk.
369 - 12th Street (between Webster and Harrison)