Cafe Reviewed: Wednesday, October 12, 2005
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Spice’s shrimp in Indonesian sweet garlic sauce with basmati rice is a perfect example of the eatery’s culinary brio. (Photo by Vishal Malhotra)
Spice International Café
Chicken in Indian curry $10
Lamb kebab (2) $10
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Wild About Saffron

Spice is a delightful meander through scents and flavors of Southeast Asia, India, and North Africa.

By PETER GORMAN

Spice International Café

2747 S Hulen, FW. 817-922-0809. Mon-Sat 11am-2pm, 5:30pm-10pm. Closed Sunday. All major credit cards accepted.

Walking into Spice International Café, the new international restaurant that features Southeast Asian, Indian, and North African foods, is sort of like stepping onto the beach in Thailand. The interior is dotted with Indian art, prints, and decorative touches (supplied by nearby Namaste Imports), and elegant little beach huts serve as intimate dining booths. The scent of curry, garlic, red peppers, chiles, cilantro, lime, mint, and saffron fills the air like a sweet magic potion. The only things missing are island breezes and crystal blue water.

Though only two months old, Spice seems to be doing pretty well — the place was packed on a recent weekend visit. The patronage is well deserved: Spice pays attention to every item on the menu, from the most exotic dessert to the most humble salad.

A house salad began the Spice excursion. The bowl of ultra-fresh mesclun, moist bits of feta cheese, and crushed pistachios, mixed with a sesame oil-based dressing that contained a hint of orange flavoring, was a delightful tango of sweets and sours.

Equally good were the lamb kebabs. Tasty, succulent, marinated pieces of lamb broiled medium-rare shared two skewers with onions, crunchy green pepper, and good-sized bites of zucchini. The dish came with a choice of sauces (mango-lime, toasted tomatillo, orange-ginger, or, our pick, the terrific cilantro-mint). Served over aromatic basmati rice, the kebabs make for a splendid meal.

A recommendation: Order a single kebab (shrimp, chicken, and veggie are also available), and then order the chicken in Indian curry — perfectly seasoned, dry-curried breast pieces served with onion and strips of red pepper over basmati rice. The chicken was nearly crisp on the outside but moist and rich inside.

Yet another recommendation: vegetables in Indonesian sweet garlic sauce, a mélange of green zucchini, yellow squash, carrots, and onions. Everything was sliced thin but still cooked al dente, with whole cilantro leaves in a light but zesty sauce.

The only problem was the spicy Thai beef stir-fry. The tender, juicy beef was fine, as were the wonderfully done accompanying carrots and onions. But the dish overall was severely short on seasoning. When the words “spicy” and “Thai” appear in the same menu item description, no one would blame you for thinking “spicy Thai.” Spice’s version was hardly the rain of fire that was expected.

In addition to Southeast Asian and Indian dishes, Spice also offers standards from Brazil, Morocco, Mexico, and the Mediterranean, plus a small but challenging selection of desserts and assorted brands of beer, wine, and sodas (along with Tiki Punch).

Most new restaurants take a lot longer than two months to work out the kinks. In the case of Spice, owners Denise Paul Shavandy and her husband, Najid Shavandy, already run another restaurant, the successful Pegasus, which means they know what they’re doing. “But Pegasus is a bit more formal and upscale,” Shavandy said. “We wanted this one to be a little more casual and fun.”

There’s no question they’ve succeeded. The food is excellent, the wait staff is attentive, the interior is lovely, the booths are romantic, and the feel is exotic. Thailand, here we come.


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