By Sara Newberry
Spice in the City is an Indian-Tex Mex fusion restaurant helmed by a chef and dietitian whose focus is on recreating Indian flavors and recipes with a healthier twist, as well as incorporating some local Tex-Mex flavor into some of the dishes.
The result is somewhat successful, in that it’s not a menu you’ll find anywhere else. While I admire the ambitious efforts to create a new kind of food, I spent my meal wishing the menu had been more focused: fewer choices, with better results. That’s not to say the food at Spice in the City isn’t enjoyable. It is. But I’d rather see a menu with 20 amazing choices than one with 60 average ones.
Tikka Masala is a go-to Indian classic; here it’s less rich than what you’ll normally find, which is not such a bad thing. It seemed to me that to compensate for lack of fat, the heat has been amped up. I felt like the heat overpowered any nuance that the sauce might have had. It was part of several dishes, including the Tikka Nachos, which we tried both with chicken and paneer, the fresh Indian cheese. The sauce was spicy, the chips were spicy and the melted cheese was no match for the heat. I couldn’t eat them, but one of my tablemates, who loves anything spicy, enjoyed them.
An appetizer sampler also yielded mixed results. Mini samosas and cheese pakoras were both tasty and well-seasoned; veggie potstickers were odd and were basically just fried wontons.
I found the less-rich version of Saag Paneer successful. The paneer had fantastic texture (and I was happy it wasn’t tofu, which I’ve seen elsewhere). The spinach was well seasoned, if a little heavy on the cumin.
Another tablemate ordered the Tikka Saag, which was a lovely mix of Chicken Tikka and Saag Paneer, a dish I’d try again.
My favorite dish was the Halal Lamb and Peas, a mix of spiced ground lamb and green peas. It was complex, with slightly astringent cardamom coming through and balancing out the rich lamb. Pulao rice, studded with dried fruit and cashews, was a perfect partner.
Naan was at turns pillowy and chewy, as it should be, and the raita and chutneys offered alongside were spot-on.
I’ve racked my brain trying to figure a word to describe my experience at Spice in the City, and the word that I keep going back to is convoluted. From the ordering system (at a window downstairs, then you’re directed to proceed upstairs to find a table), to the overwhelming menu, to the service (our server was very nice, but dishes seemed to arrive at random, rather than in any sort of order, like appetizers first and entrees next), it all seemed a little chaotic.
Spice in the City is the neighborhood go-to for Indian food and, certainly, if you’re downtown and must have Tikka Masala, it’s there for you.
Spice in the City
1512 Commerce St #101
Mon.-Fri. 7 a.m.-10:30 a.m. 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
5 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Saturday 5-9 p.m.