Being in New York for a lot longer this time around meant we could go to places we missed out on two years ago. Not many, mind you, but one of them happens to be in the same neighbourhood as the one we were staying. Not bad when all you have to do is put on your shoes and walk a few minutes to somewhere like Spice Market.
I know from previous attempts how difficult it can be to get a table for dinner at this massive two-storey Meatpacking eatery. So a mid-week lunch it was, when most people are at work and getting a table is a breeze.
The beauty of many a Manhattan establishment is the concept of a lunch prix fixe. Here at Spice Market you can choose from the regular Southeast Asian menu, or go for the three-course lunch menu that’ll set you back a huge $25. Choices from three starters, three mains and three desserts. Bargain. Or $16 more if you want some wine pairing. Still a bargain.
I loved the delicately presented steamed daikon cake. Warm cubes topped with a tasty coconut & shrimp “jam” that had a distinct belachan flavour, which I love so much. Fried shallots and basil crisp and freshen things up nicely.
There was a bit of a delay in getting the chicken satay. Something like twenty minutes. There weren’t a great deal of people dining so I can only guess it was overlooked in the kitchen and forgotten about. When it did eventually come, I couldn’t help but notice how different it was from traditional satay. It had the same colour of Indian tandoori chicken, and actually tasted more like it. Not a bad thing, just not what we were expecting. An unconventional preserved lemon sauce was drizzled over, with some tasty little fried curry leaves as garnish.
To make up for the delay, the kitchen sent out some tasty little spiced chicken samosas with coriander yoghurt. A nice, and much appreciated gesture.
The crispy hainan chicken sounded interesting enough on the menu but all it actually is is regular fried chicken. Quite ordinary, to be precise. Very dry breast meat, no seasoning at all and just a little sweet soy and lime cheek to flavour things up a tad.
Things improved with the sambal skate wing, a delicate piece of fish pimped-up with a vibrant sweet, spicy and sour sauce. The meat was so close in texture and flavour to crab that I loved it even more. A cooling garnish of mint and cucumber strips sat to the side.
The sweet ending began with a couple of complimentary skewers of chocolate ganache crusted with crushed popcorn and caramelised banana. Something everyone was getting by the look of things.
My banana tapioca pudding came served in a tumbler, almost trifle style with clunky chunks of rather ordinary chocolate cake, really nice passionfruit sorbet and more of those brûléed slices of banana. Some surprise mini Maltesers lurked in the depths of the glass.
The other dessert was a strawberry/yuzu sorbet, presented in a card takeaway box. Nothing outstanding, just a refreshing end to a great value lunch.