I love manipulating my parents. Originally, we were going to dine uptown at Fresco’s for lunch. “Maybe we’ll see Katy Couric again,” said my dad eagerly. Since I knew celebrities were the draw, and since I was less than impressed on our last outing to Fresco’s I said: “You’ll see twice the celebrities at Spice Market. It’s the hottest spot in New York.”
This wasn’t really a lie. Spice Market IS one of the hottest spots in New York right now. However, much of that “hotness” occurs at night, not for lunch. And also it’s Labor Day weekend so most big shots are out of town. But, on the other hand, this allowed us to get a 1 pm reservation. We showed up a bit before then and walked around the meatpacking district. I think my parents enjoyed it–quite a change of pace from their posh (*=count up all the Spice Girl references in this review and win a free Spice Girls CD retrieval from your CD collection, free of charge) confines uptown.
So we gingerly made our way over to the brown and white open-aired cafe on the corner of 13th and 9th:
Now you may remember the scary hullabaloo that surrounded Amanda Hesser when she gave Spice Market 3 stars after which it was revealed that she was friends with the chef. Well I am here to tell you, after eating there, that were I judge and jury I would exonerate Amanda immediately: the food at Spice Market is wonderful and quite deserving of three stars.
For starters, there were “lobster rolls”–a sushi-like concoction featuring lobster and fiery mayonaisse:
Then we were brought chips and salsa–which was really a sporty tomato jelly with a kick to it:
The chips were really amazing. Familiar, yes, but so much fresher and tastier than the styrofoam you find at Chili’s. They crumbled with a “posh” in your mouth.
Next up were Vietnamese mushroom spring rolls:
Also quite tasty. It’s as if Jean-Georges (the owner/chef) took Asian street food and gave it an elegant spin. What’s that you say? That’s the whole point? Well sorry, don’t be a baby about it.
[Note: this Spice Girls game is growing irritating, Adam. Can’t you supplant the Spice Girl references with references to other popular all-female bands? Consider it done.]
My mom’s HEART was set on a salad, so we ordered the avocado salad with radishes and mustard and onion tempura on top:
The BANGLES of microgreens on top really gave it an edge.
Now for the entrees—here we GOGOs.
Noodles with shrimp and a spicy tomatoey sauce:
The shrimp were good, the noodles boring and the sauce incredibly hot. (My mouth was on fire). This was my least favorite dish. The only HOLE in an otherwise great meal.
[Ok, I’m quitting this game.]
The steak with cilantro lime topping (I’m getting some of these dishes wrong because I didn’t keep a menu or take notes) was a perfect fusion dish:
The steamed lobster (the priciest dish on the menu) was a little disappointing, but how disappointing can lobster be?
Now then, I made an excursion to the bathroom and soaked in the aesthetics: (sorry for the bad pic):
Sort of like a really classy EPCOT version of Asia. Acutally, it was really quite a beautiful space. Added a lot to the experience.
Finally, there was dessert. The waiter sold me on Vietnamese coffee—something I’d never had:
It was espresso on top of sweetened condensed milk. Very sweet, and therefore right up my alley.
For dessert I chose the one I had read the most about: Thai Jewels.
When this arrived, my dad made me laugh by saying: “It looks like spit. Who would want to eat that?”
He had a good point, but it ends up that I would want to eat that. A lot of it. It’s sort of a milk foam with all sorts of strangely textured fruit and tapioca mixed in on top of coconut ice shavings. This next picture is nasty but it gives you an idea of what lingers beneath the surface:
In conclusion, spice up your life with a meal at Spice Market. It’s what you want what you really really want…