Monday, February 04, 2008

February Is Resort/ Restaurant Review: Spice Company

First, a disclaimer: I've only been to Spice Company once - last Friday night. And it was Restaurant Week. So this review is obviously not as well-researched as it could be.

And that's why I'm going to try to be as objective as possible.

Here's the scene: Friday night, Cooper and I went to Spice Company with our friends Mike and Alicia and Jen and Bill. We were all excited - we like having dinner together (you know how there are some people it's naturally easy to eat with? The four of them are easy to eat with.) Plus, Jen and Bill had a baby a week earlier, and while they are very, very tired, we're all still in a celebratory mood.

However, Spice Company was not our first choice. We wanted to go to Bicycle, but it was booked (early). But that's OK. Spice Company is not far from where we live, so if we loved it, it would be easy to go back.

I'll get to the pros and cons of the experience in a minute, but first, a quick summary: We sat immediately at a good, central table. Everyone ordered a drink off the martini menu, then we settled in to decide what to eat and what to drink with dinner. They were only offering the prix fixe menu, which seemed a little odd to me, but it included tons of options, so that wasn't a big deal. Between the six of us, we ordered nearly everything on the menu - there was a lot of diversity. After dessert, there was coffee. Then we went home. (And by "home", I mean to the liquor store then back to Alicia and Mike's, where we stayed up too late talking over each other, as usual.)

Now, the evaluation.

  • The lobby/bar is cool - it has an interesting, warm library feel.
  • My before-dinner cocktail was nice. It was called a Keir Royale, after the owner, and was a champagne and chambord and something else mix that wasn't overpowering in terms of taste or alcohol, and was just fizzy enough.
  • The wine list is very reasonable and fairly interesting. We especially liked the "Great Spanish Values" section, and ordered the Abadia Retuerta “Rivola” which, at $34, was the third priciest bottle on that part of the list. Everybody liked it - it wasn't too oaky for Alicia, and it was spicy enough for Cooper and me.
  • We all liked our appetizers very much. Jen's calamari was super lightly dusted and fried and the accompanying aioli was excellent. Alicia and Mike had the pancetta-wrapped scallops, which were cooked perfectly (and who doesn't love bacon?) I actually can't remember Bill's order, but Cooper liked (not loved) his oyster stew with fennel and I really enjoyed my carrot and ginger soup - it was very gingery, which I like (though Cooper didn't like it at all).
  • Some of our entrees were good. I had roast duck with a pomegranate reduction. The duck was tender and the sauce was just sweet enough. Cooper's quail stuffed with jalapeno and pancetta cornbread stuffing was really fantastic.

Unfortunately, that's where the "pro" column ends.

  • In general, I don't love hotel restaurants. There's just something weird about walking through a lobby to get to a lobby. Plus, the valet wasn't there when we pulled up.
  • There's no coatcheck. When we got there, a bunch of people had thrown their coats on ottomans in the lobby/bar area. It looked messy - like a tour bus had just dropped off a bunch of outlet shoppers.
  • This isn't exactly a con, and it's something I'd anticipated going in, just because of the location and the restaurants that used to occupy the same spot, but we were the youngest people in the restaurant by a lot. It doesn't exactly scream "young and hip". No one treated us badly (and, ok, we're not actually THAT young) but it definitely wasn't our scene.
  • The drinks menu was so inconsistent with the overall feel of the place. While my drink was normal, Mike managed to order a "Jamaican Me Crazy" and Bill got a "Vacation-tini" that was roughly the color of windshield washer fluid (Cooper's joke, not mine). Apparently we stepped into Seacrets for a few minutes without realizing.
  • While our appetizers were good, and some of the entrees were as well, Mike was sorely disappointed with the cut of his steak, and Jen's chicken in kaffir lime, chili and coconut sauce (that I thought sounded great) was waaaay overcooked.
  • The desserts were out of a box, still partially frozen when they came to the table. My pot de creme was fine; everyone else's choices sucked.
  • Cooper ordered an espresso and was served a lukewarm cup of weak coffee in an espresso cup. MUCH unhappiness about that. Oh - but the waiter only asked the guys if they wanted coffee! Alicia had to pin him down for some.
Overall, the service was fine - not outstanding, but certainly not terrible either (except at the very end). And most of the food was decent to good, though there were a few disappointments. But we left on such a bad note, between the desserts and the coffee, that we had to make up for it with a fancy bottle of wine back at the house.

Verdict: I hate to say it, but we won't be going back. At least not for a very long time.

Of course, my opinion isn't the only one. Check out other reviews at Urbanspoon. Their Spice Company page is here:
The Spice Company in Baltimore


Pigtown-Design said...

kit... i swear that place has a curse on it. nothing's done well there.

Kit Pollard said...

That actually makes me feel better. I just read Elizabeth Large's blog comments and a few other people said they had GREAT experiences, so I felt like maybe I was being too harsh.

But really I don't think my expectations are too high.


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