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I’ve walked by this King West restaurant a number of times not knowing it was Spice Route. It’s an intriguing building, as it’s all dark with castle-like doors and torches, but it lacks signage. I only realized it was Spice Route after getting up close and personal with a small menu located outside the restaurant.

Deep fried buns - served with a banana chutney

We arrived here around 7pm to find it nearly empty. The space is enormous, but there were only a handful of customers at the time. However, it got pretty busy by the time we left at around 8:30. Guess all the cool people eat late! It has a very lounge-y atmosphere and people were likely grabbing drinks before going clubbing (they were certainly dressed for it!).

To start, Mike and I were brought two pieces of complimentary deep-fried buns, served with banana chutney. I really enjoyed the buns, which were a bit sweet in flavour. I wish they had given us more! The banana chutney however, was literally just mashed up bananas. I could’ve lived without this.

They also brought us some condiments to go with our meal. It came with soy sauce, wasabi mustard and a chili sambal sauce. When the server was explaining the condiments to me, I didn’t catch what she had said, so I took a spoonful of the chili sambal sauce and put it in my mouth, thinking it was some kind of salsa. Nope, it was definitely a chili sauce…

Spiced Chicken + Peking Duck Lettuce Wraps – served with brandied hoisin sauce

Anyway, we started with the Spiced Chicken + Peking Duck Lettuce Wraps – served with brandied hoisin sauce ($12). This was served with mini lettuce wraps (much smaller than the ones served at Chinese restaurants). It was a tad on the salty side and was really greasy. After finishing it, we noticed a pool of oil at the bottom of the dish. Overall, just a half-decent dish.

We also ordered the Spicy Stir Fried Eggplant – “in chili pepper sauce” ($7), which was a side dish. This actually wasn’t served in a chili pepper sauce like the menu had advertised, nor was it spicy. It was actually served in a black bean sauce with some red and green pepper chunks in it. Overall, another okay dish. My favourite eggplant dish is still at Asian Legend!

Spicy Stir Fried Eggplant – “in chili pepper sauce”

What I didn’t like was the fact the eggplant came way earlier than our main course. We finished the entire dish and probably waited another 10 minutes before our next course came. Not quite sure why they couldn’t just time it so it would be served with our next course, the Whole Red Snapper –“served with julienne ginger + scallions + sizzling hot oil” ($22).

This was a pretty big piece of fish. While ordering, we thought about ordering this and the lamb rack. It was a good thing we didn’t. We didn’t even finish off the entire fish! The red snapper came fried and the skin on the top half of the fish was very crispy. The other side’s skin wasn’t quite as crispy, as it was soaking in the soy sauce. The top side was a tad dry… I think the fish would have been better steamed rather than fried. Consistent with the other two dishes, this wasn’t bad. But it wasn’t great either. Oh, and if you ever consider ordering this, keep in mind it’s not a very good “first date” dish since the fish is full of bones. You’ll be spending a lot of time picking the bones out of your mouth!

Whole Red Snapper –“served with julienne ginger + scallions + sizzling hot oil”

To go with our meal, we thought we had ordered the traditional steamed sticky rice ($5) which was the only rice I saw on the menu… Either way, Mike and I were complaining to each other about the rice, which wasn’t sticky… nor very good (we thought it was kind of a rip-off at $5…but after getting the bill, it turned out we just got the regular steamed rice for $3).

For dessert we went with the Tempura Banana – “vanilla bean ice cream, chocolate drizzle, sesame praline” ($6). I really enjoyed this! It was so much better than the disappointing tempura banana dessert we had at Guu. This came with five timbit sized chunks of tempura bananas. The vanilla bean ice cream was a nice compliment to the bananas, but I really didn’t need the chocolate drizzle.

My final thoughts? The tempura banana was a great way to end an otherwise unmemorable meal. Although nothing was bad, there wasn’t anything that was particularly good either (except for the dessert). However, it has a pretty nice patio and atmosphere, so I’d recommend Spice Route for a place to grab drinks.

Tempura Banana – “vanilla bean ice cream, chocolate drizzle, sesame praline”

At a glance:

  • Forgettable food (nothing bad/nothing amazing)
  • Lounge-y atmosphere; a good place to grab drinks
  • Nice patio
  • Ratings (out of 5):

  • Food: 2.5 stars
  • Service: 3 stars
  • Atmosphere: 3.5 stars
  • Spice Route on Urbanspoon

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