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Spice Market: Midtown

posted on April 21, 2008 at 10:24 am
Spice Market: Midtown
RESTAURANT REVIEW
Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s food has never impressed me. My meals at the uber-pricey Jean Georges Restaurant were a total letdown and Vong left me feeling the same way. So, it was with great apprehension that I went to the newly opened Atlanta outpost of Spice Market. I do have to give the restaurant points for style. The dining room is beautiful and open without feeling cold.
Spice Market: Midtown
I especially loved the large cages of bells (pictured above) hanging from the ceiling and the moat of bamboo and daisies surrounding our table.

Everything on the menu is served family style. There is a bento box option that promises you in and out in 20 minutes, but my party went with the regular menu.
Spice Market: Midtown
Crunchy squid salad with cashews, ginger and papaya on top of frisee lettuce: More breading than squid and an odd combination of ingredients. The papaya weighed down the dish even more the doughy calamari and the mayo-like sauce was a big turn off. It reminded me of a fish sandwich I had at McDonald’s when I was a kid.

Spice Market: Midtown
Charred chili rubbed beef skewers with thai basil dipping sauce: The texture of the skewers was so odd. They looked like they were made from ground meat, but I found myself contending with large chunks of beef. The sauce was nice, but there was no salt in this dish meaning all the flavors just got muddled and lost.

Spice Market: Midtown
Black pepper shrimp with sun-dried pineapple: The shrimp were cooked well and very fresh. However, the black bean sauce overpowered the delicate nature of the seafood and it was way too salty. The pineapple was a nice touch, but there was no saving this dish.

Spice Market: Midtown
Spicy Shanghai noodles with chilled silken tofu, garlic and pea shoots: I wanted to like this dish because I am such a noodle-fiend but it was bland. Another dish lacking seasoning and there was no spiciness anywhere. I love pea shoots but their strong flavor overpowered the noodles and tofu. The dish was untouched after we each served ourselves a bowl.

Spice Market: Midtown
Steamed red snapper: Cold mushrooms. No salt. Nice gremolata-like topping. But, bland, bland, bland.

Spice Market: Midtown
Crispy catfish with lime sauce: The only dish I really liked. The catfish was greaseless and well seasoned. The lime sauce was beautiful. It had been whipped into an airy concoction that delivered an unexpected lightness. A lovely contrast against the crispy chunks of fried fish.

Verdict: Yet another place with lots of style and food as an afterthought. Atlanta deserves more than watered down concepts from out of state. Out of 6 dishes, I can honestly say one (the catfish) was passable. All the food was lacking acid and salt. Is the chef tasting the food before it hits the dining room? Service was a bit annoying because our waitress proceeded to painstakingly explain every dish before putting it on the table. Is it so hard to put the dish down while it is still hot and then explain? I hear from reliable sources that the desserts are amazing, but I am not planning on going back any time soon. If I am craving Asian food in that area, I’d hit Nan instead. Just not worth the money.

RESTAURANT INFORMATION:
Address: 188 14th Street (inside the W Hotel Midtown)
Website

Spice Market (at W Hotel Atlanta) in Atlanta

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6 comments

  • Re: Spice Market: Midtown
    posted by: Sonya · April 22, 2008  3:44 AM

    My husband and I went to Spice Market this past weekend for our anniversary. We had the $48 p/p deal and got a lot of food! All of it was good. Lots of flavor. I guess some peoples taste buds are seared against detecting seasoning and salt. There was plenty of it without being overboard. As far as spiciness goes, the food wasn’t spicy hot, but seasoned.

    We had 10 different things brought to us none of which is pictured here in this review. The avocado salad was great, the cod was great, the pork skewers were very seasoned and good, the kumquat blackened chicken was good, the dessert of fruit in a coconut soup was yummy. I can’t recall the others but they were delicious.

    The place just opened three weeks ago and was packed.

    I was glad to see a wide age group eating there including the jet-set type crowd dressed very trendily.

    It’s definitely worth trying out!

  • Re: Spice Market: Midtown
    posted by: The Blissful Glutton · April 23, 2008  4:46 PM

    If you are implying that I could not taste the salt, you are dead wrong. The food was bland as I said and my companions agreed. Re: spiciness, I don’t recall lamenting a lack of spice in all my dishes. Just the ones advertised as spicy. If a menu lists a dish as “spicy…noodles,” I expect there to be a glimmer of heat. I can’t say I am surprised at my experience though. The chef was churning out mediocre food in his previous gig at Posh and Shout too. All scene, no substance. I’ll pass.

  • Re: Spice Market: Midtown
    posted by: Sudhir · April 25, 2008  4:51 AM

    I have not been to any JG restaurant for dinner, but I have been to lunch at his eponymous restaurant, Perry Street and the one in Nassau whose name I forget. I would rate the first two as two of my most memorable lunches and the third as very good. I have no doubt that JG can cook, and though he has a million restaurants now, he does make regular appearances at all of them, or so I understand. I expect that Spice Market not being up to snuff yet is a fluke, and that it will eventually emerge as one of Atlanta’s premier upscale Asian restaurants. Tamarind and Nan have certainly left the door open.

  • Re: Spice Market: Midtown
    posted by: The Blissful Glutton · April 25, 2008  5:17 AM

    Sudhir,
    I hope the restaurant does correct the problems we encountered with our meal. Many people seem to agree with your assessment. However, many people have told me the food was just not up to snuff on their visits. So, not a fluke. I think the ultimate verdict will just be a matter of time. While the dishes are conceptually great, the final product relies on the skill of the kitchen staff. And no amount of visits from JG can make up for shoddy execution.

  • Re: Spice Market: Midtown
    posted by: Anonymous · May 13, 2008  11:56 AM

    I have not had a chance to visit Spice Market yet but may I suggest to Mr. Blissful Glutton, that you give your suggestions directly to the Chef.

    I’m sure the Chef would be happy to hear from someone as knowledgeable about food as you imply you are; and if this is supposed to be such a key restaurant to have in Atlanta why not help make it superb?

    ~International Wine and Food Society Member

  • Re: Spice Market: Midtown
    posted by: The Blissful Glutton · May 14, 2008  9:56 AM

    I am not a restaurant consultant. I report my experiences and my readers can take what they want from them. And, it is Ms. Glutton, not Mr.

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