Located in the Meatpacking District is one of Jean-George’s several restaurants in NYC. From the outside, the restaurant doesn’t look very large, but after entering, I realized just how enormous the space was. The space consisted of two large floors of Asian-inspired décor. It was so over-the-top, I felt like I was on a movie set.It wasn’t very difficult getting a prime reservation here…probably because the restaurant is enormous. Upon arriving around 8:30 on a Thursday evening, the place was quite loud and lively. It struck me as a nice spot for a date, but definitely not if you’re looking for an intimate evening.
The menu prices are mid-range and the food is served family-style, and whenever the items are ready from the kitchen. This is definitely to a restaurant’s advantage given that they don’t have to time all the dishes out as carefully.
They started us off with some complimentary Papadum and Tomato Chutney. The papadum was thin, crisp and incredibly addictive. I love how light it tasted, which was definitely a nice change from eating bread at the beginning of a meal. The spicy tomato chutney was also quite tasty with chunky tomatoes and a sweet/spicy taste to it. This was a nice start to the meal.After reading through the menu, we inquired about the first appetizer on the menu, the Shrimp Tod Mon Pla – with cucumber peanut relish ($13). After inquiring about what tod mon pla was, we were informed they were like fish cakes.
Certainly sounded like something Mike and I would enjoy so we went with this. It came with four pan-fried shrimp cakes topped with the advertised cucumber peanut relish and topped with a ton of shredded mint leaves. There was way too much mint for my liking but this was easily remedied by moving the shredded leaves off the cake.
I didn’t think the shrimp cakes were terrible, but I didn’t think they were great either. I was trying to think of what would have made them taste better. Maybe a bit of spice? There was just something missing as they were a little bland. I wouldn’t recommend this.
The next dish that came was the Red Curried Duck ($20). This was easily my favourite dish of the evening (although I’m not sure that’s saying much). The duck was fall-apart tender and the curry had such a great flavour.You’d expect the curry to come with a side of rice…but it doesn’t. So, I’m glad we ordered a side of Coconut Sticky Rice – steamed in a banana leaf ($2). I love sticky rice and this one didn’t disappoint! The coconut flavour wasn’t too strong and was the perfect vehicle for soaking up all the tasty curry.
Shortly after the curry, the Onion and Chili Crusted Short Ribs – with egg noodles and pea shoots ($22) arrived at our table. I didn’t realize this was actually a soup-based dish. The dish came with a large piece of short rib which lacked consistency in texture. I complained to Mike about the dryness and toughness of a piece I had tried and he gave me a piece of his. Similar to the duck, it was fall-apart tender and moist. It’s just a shame the entire piece of meat wasn’t this tender. The noodles and soup base weren’t really anything to write home about either. Overall, just a so-so dish.We also ordered a side of Snap Peas and Shiitake – with water chestnuts ($8). We actually didn’t really need this dish since we were both already quite full. And, in hindsight, we shouldn’t have ordered this as it was incredibly salty. The salt was especially prevalent in the mushrooms which soaked up so much of the sauce and salt. Sure, the snap peas were cooked well, but the salt level just ruined the dish for me.
Overall, this was just a mediocre experience. The only memorable part of the experience was the red curried duck. With so much hype around Spice Market, I have to admit, I had some pretty high expectations. Maybe we didn’t order the right things… but with so many great restaurants in NYC, I don’t think I’ll be back.At a glance:
• Felt the restaurant was overrated
• Only memorable item: Red Curried Duck
• Food served family-style and whenever items are ready from the kitchen
• Loud, lively atmosphere
Ratings (out of 5):
• Food: 3 stars
• Service: 3 stars
• Atmosphere: 3.5 stars