Spice Market, NY. An eating adventure.

The tradition in my family is that Dad takes me and the grandkids out for Father’s Day. We’ve tried to flip this tradition around so we are the ones taking Dad out, but this upset my father so the tradition holds.

Tonight Dad took us to a wonderful restaurant on the corner of 9th Ave and 13th Street, Spice Market. Evocative of leisure service establishments in Asia several decades ago, when space conservation was not a consideration and buildings were envisioned with ease as their foremost design element.

Staff bustle around the vast, dark, interior space wearing a variety of earth-toned garments. Slender waitresses wear matching burnt orange pant-top suits with open backs. Male staff share the same burnt-orange pants but two different styles of tops distinguish waiters from busboys. Dried plants reside inside double-glass sided frames on the restaurant walls and spice urns and baskets overlook the dining area from shelves built around the staircase descending to private party rooms. We could enjoy the sensation of looking in on the large open kitchen’s ceaseless activity, just visible in the far distance across the dining room.

Although the temperature outside was over 90º and doors were open to an outside wrap-around balcony, the interior temperature of the Spice Market dining salon remained pleasant.

Dishes span the entire Asian continent and include Indian, south-east and eastern Asian appetizers and entrées. Unfortunately, the food lives up to the restaurant’s name and both Dad and my older boy spent the evening fanning their mouths and passing up seconds on food that was just too hot for them!

The most interesting dish of the evening was shrimp in a black bean sauce with pineapple. I tasted Chinese black beans, garlic, scallion, rice wine and plenty of hot chili paste in the extremely pungent sauce which covered the shrimp. Chunks of “sun-dried” pineapple were laid aside the shrimp, uncovered by the sauce, and had an interesting taste but were verrrry sweet. The sauce was just a bit overblown. Less chili and less black beans would have made it meld with the taste of the shrimp instead of overwhelm it, but still, this was a very memorable dish.

The charbroiled chicken was not very spicy, and was very good. The grilled outer layer of the chicken had been seasoned with a mouth-watering rub which gave it a fantastic flavor and an agreeably crunchy texture. My father enjoyed the short beef ribs, which were served with noodles. The taste of the ribs was reminiscent of Shanghai red cooking.

For appetizers, we thoroughly enjoyed the 5-to-an-order, eggrolls. Filled with pork and shrimp, they were a truly special taste. But, the lobster rolls were a disappointment. For the price, we expected more than a single sushi roll containing less than one lobster claw of meat. Furthermore, the yellow sauce served up in a leaf pattern on the plate, was the tastiest part of the roll. So prettily laid the sauce was, that I thought it was a real leaf!

Spice Market
403 W 13th Street at 9th Avenue phone
212 675 2322
http://www.jean-georges.com/

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