Guest Author - Jason Hodge
Every now and then my wife and I venture off the beaten path and take in a new restaurant in a new city. This time we were in Santa Barbara, California and the Restaurant was Spice Avenue an Indian restaurant. Here's my review.
I love food; and I love the culinary genius behind food well executed.
We find parking in downtown Santa Barbara and decided to flip a coin to see where we would eat for the evening. We had a taste for something exotic, full of flavor and flair. Our coin landed on Indian and our feet walked us to Spice Avenue, an Indian restaurant, located on State St. at Carrillo. Did I mention that I LOVE food!?
As we go inside we notice the decorations and greenery highlighting the red brick walls. We sat by a wall-mounted fountain, that they had to eventually turn off because it was splattering water over our table. That was too bad, because we thought it was a very nice touch. The sconces on the walls were warming and the placement of the tables gave an open feel. This was all starting out to be a pleasantly memorable experience. Then things began to shift.
The first thing I noticed was that I couldn't smell the food cooking - the rich aromas I had grown so accustomed to in the Indian restaurants we've frequented over the years. I passed that off as a minor thing, but when there were no complimentary appetizers to whet our appetites and our server popped back frequently to ask us, "Are you ready to order!?", we felt a little pressure. That was interesting, but we stuck it out and when ready, we began ordering.
Here's what we ordered:
Popadams - $1.50
These were good. They were crunchy lentil wafers, flavorful and pleasing not only to us but to our son. Thumbs up! However, we were a bit put off, having to pay $1.50 for four half circles when we are accustomed to having them brought out for free, in other fine Indian establishments. So we didn't feel the love there, instead we felt nickel & dimed.
Vegetable Muligatawny Soup - $3.95
This was a pretty good selection. It was a nice broth with good color, flavor and aroma. I wished we had gotten two orders and skipped over the last two items on our list.
Vegetable Samosas - $2.45
Their description read, "Golden Fried Turnovers filled with Potatoes and Green Peas mildly spiced" These left a lot to be desired. They were on the dry side and the spice was so mild that it contradicted the restaurant's moniker. We expected to bite into our vegetable samosas and have a mouthful of flavorful enjoyment, instead we found ourselves overdoing the condiments to makeup for the missing pieces. By the way... the condiments were fairly good. The mint sauce and the tamarind sauce both tasted traditional and good.
Vegetable Pakoras - $3.45
This combo of diced, chickpea battered and fried onions, potato, eggplant and cabbage fritters was a major disappointment. I tend not to be a fried food eater, so when I break rank and eat the deep fried delicacies I want them to be an experience that I will treasure. I thought the size of the serving was ample, but they unfortunately tasted pasty and undone inside. We couldn't finish them. I think we shocked our server after this.
"Check please." Our server stopped for a beat and asked if that was all we were going to order, we nodded and informed him that that would be all. He brought out our check, we paid it and picked up our things to make our way out of Spice Avenue. A funny thing happened though...
As we were leaving, I couldn't help but ask this question the lady who seemed to be, either the owner or one of them... I asked her if their cuisine was adjusted to meet the tastes of Americans who were not used to spices or was it all authentic Indian cuisine. She told us that everything was authentic and that we could go around to the other Indian restaurants and find that their flavor at Spice Avenue was the best thing out their. I thanked her, smiled and we left to find another restaurant to fill the rest of the space in our tummies.
All in all, I can say we definitely had an experience. Here's what we concluded with:
We didn't find the food to be that flavorful and think that Spice Avenue should:
take a lesson from other Indian establishments and not nickel and dime their patrons by charging them for what is customarily complimentary.
go ahead and maybe spring for some free papadums, naan or something else to make their guests feel that they actually are glad to see them.
calm their servers down a little and for goodness sake...
kick up their notches on the SPICE or opt for a name change.
As a personal chef, these are some of the things you need to look at and plug into; because, you too will be under the scrutiny of your clients and you want to make sure that you always leave them feeling well appreciated and taken care of.
As always, it's been my pleasure sharing with you. Until next time...