Friday, September 19, 2008

Restaurant Week in Philadelphia

It's Restaurant Week here in Philly, an fantastic opportunity to sample fine (and some not so fine) cuisine in our city. It comes twice a year, and has grown in popularity to now over 100 participating restaurants offering a prix fixe menu for $35. The event is sponsored by the Center City District, and it's a great way to try that pricey restaurant you've been wanting to go to without putting a strain on the wallet. Some of the places are very high end, and others ... well not so much. Regardless, it's a good chance to get out in the city for a night at a reasonable price.

Tonight I dined at Cafe Spice, an Indian Restaurant in Olde City (35 S. 2nd Street). It's actually part of a small chain with some restaurants in both New York and Pennsylvania -- but I say to you: "Be not afraid of the chain!"

Our foursome started at the bar with a couple of half-priced happy hour martinis. My mango was delicious and obviously made with fresh juice ... not some sugary bar mix. The others had sour apple martinis, but I'm over those -- they resemble watered-down antifreeze with a cherry to confirm fitness for consumption. Regardless, at $4 a drink it was quite a bargain.

The decor was exactly what the name of the restaurant suggested -- a cafe decorated in colors typically associated with the word "spice." Oranges, yellows, greens, deep reds, browns ..... lanterns and a tiled floor. Requesting a booth was worth it, as they were much more private and gave a completely different ambience to the restaurant. The regular tables are much more together and not so private.

Anyway, the food was very good. We each ordered something different and while we didn't share (thank goodness because I made the best choices), we did sample. The 4-course menu featured choices of:
  • Soup (I chose the pumpkin lentil over the leg of mutton in peppery broth)

  • Appetizer (lots to choose from -- i went with the kicked up samosa)

  • Entree (My "Lamb Chettinad" was the unaminous winner at the table over tilapia in some kind of curry/veg sauce; lobster in sumpin sumpin, and grilled lamb chops)

  • Dessert (chocolate mousse or mango ice cream. I should've picked the mango.)
The service was good, although the waiter wasn't very skilled on ingredients. "What is fenugreek?" "Uhhhhh ... duhhhh .... I'm really not sure." OK, thanks ... and he never went to find out. I'll be conducting a Google investigation on that one as well as combing the grocery store to see this mystery item in person. Nonetheless, the servers were prompt and polite, and most importantly, the food was delicious. It was spicy, but not too spicy. And it came out piping hot -- something that is mucho important to me when I'm eating. I may not eat my food when steam is coming from it, but I want it served to me that way. Cafe Spice obliged.

If I were like the restaurant critic that writes for the South Philly Review and I had to assign a rating of chef toques, I'd give Cafe Spice 2 1/4 tips of the toque (out of 3). And I'd go back.

Next time Restaurant Week comes around, I'm doing two things:
  • Making more reservations

  • Making them further in advance -- it was hard to find a table even 2 weeks ahead of time

Next time it comes around I'll put out the call for dining companions, so let me know if you're interested.


Los said...

Restaurant week has taken off big time in Philly ... what a great idea! Schue and I really do need to take advantage of it.

schue said...

yea - restaurant week is all i have been hearing about! oh time. We'll definitely make reservations, too!