Sunday, May 29, 2011

Spice Jammer - it ain't so Jammin'! - 852 Fort St

I had been to Spice Jammer before but had found it quite expensive so when I saw a Groupon come up I knew it was a deal worth taking advantage of.
We headed down on a Saturday night, and if you didn't know about the restaurant already it's easy to miss and even harder to know if it's open with it's dark front windows and then weird seating area. The front has around six fancy chairs beside a bar and then a hallway leading to the dining area. There is no sign so it's confusing when you arrive to know where to wait to be seated as there wasn't anyone waiting to greet us. We moved up towards the dining room and were told to take a seat while a table was being cleaned. We waited about 5 minutes or so and a server lead us to our table.
We promptly were served water and asked if we had any questions about the menu. Our server informed us that she was new but would answer any of our questions. I was trying to decide whether to get a vegetarian dish or one with prawns so I asked her if the Butter Prawns came with vegetables because I didn't want just sauce and prawns and she said yes it did but she didn't know which ones. I said that was fine and ordered it with rice to share and a vegetable samosa. James ordered a vegetable and a beef samosa as well as Beef Vindaloo and an order or naan bread. We also both ordered chai teas to drink.
As we sat and waited we listened as another server explained to her table that they are a African-Indian based restaurant as opposed to Punjabi style so while you will find similar dishes to other Indian restaurants, the spices and preparation may be different, and that everything is cooked to order so it does take longer. She went over a lot on the menu and seemed very helpful... wish we'd gotten her! We also noticed other tables around us get complimentary baskets of pampadums even though they'd been seated after us.
Our server came back and informed us that they were out of vegetable samosas and would we like meat ones or naan bread instead? I said no as I am a vegetarian but she never asked James if he wanted to switch his. I should have at this point been tipped off when she asked if we wanted to order naan. So I decided not to get anything else as that was all I wanted and she came back a minute later and said she'd convinced them to make some more. She earned points for this and we were happy, though I found it interesting that they were suddenly able to make them when we wouldn't order something else in their place.
The table next to us was also particularly annoying. It was an older group so I was surprised when they pulled out a laptop and proceeded to show some sort of clips to the people at the table. The dining room became quiet as everyone could hear the sound and just stared at the table. I found this really rude and it just added to the frustration that night.
At this point we had been there quite awhile when eventually the better waitress came over and refilled our water glasses and asked if we'd gotten pampadums so we told her we hadn't and were still waiting on our chai teas. She said she'd look into that right away for us.
We waited some more and eventually the pampadums came but still no tea. We waited even longer, I didn't check my watch but maybe 1/2 hour. She said the tea was brewing but really it doesn't take that long. Eventually just before the samosas come out we each get our own tea pot of chai. I did like that we each got a pot of tea versus just one glass and at $2.50 this was a good deal. We had to add our own sugar but at least it allowed us to adjust the sweetness to the level we liked.
The samosas were very good, crisp on the outside and a nice filling on the inside that was complimented well with the tamarid sauce it came with.
I should have ordered more then one because the wait for our main courses was even longer. The server had said it was a crazy night but dining room wasn't completely full though they did keep turning over tables quickly I noticed. The room wasn't very big so my guess was they aren't used to being this busy.
We waited a very long time and eventually our food came, minus the naan. We waited some more and it never came and by the time the waitress checked on us we were partway into our meal. We told her her error and James also asked for some raita to go with his vindaloo. You'd think since she'd made an error she would be quick to get us our naan bread but as we ate more of our meal it never came, though the table beside ours did get some. Also with all the waiting you would assume it was cooked fresh and came out right away. Well the warm dinner plates they brought out sat for 10 minutes before we even got our food so they were cold by the time it came and then the food was only lukewarm itself and quickly became cold.
The portion wasn't that large for $19 without rice, while the food did have good flavours it certainly didn't justify the price.
When our plates were cleared we still hadn't recieved the raita or naan so we told our 4th different server about this. He said he would check on it so we made sure he was clear we didn't want it anymore in case they tried to now bring it out. No apology was made at this point it.
He came back and asked if we had a Groupon and went and got our bill. He came to the table with the bill open and announced the total. I found this very strange, but whatever. So we look at the bill and luckily the two items we didn't get weren't charged but there was an extra charge of $2 for vegetables added to my Butter Prawns. The waitress had told me they were included and if she was going to add them to the bill when she found out they weren't she should have let me know. Also for the amount of vegetables in it it didn't justify the extra charge either making my dish now a ridiculous $21. We also noticed that James' suspicion about his dish was correct and he had gotten the Bhunna Beef instead of the Vindaloo he had ordered, though at least this was cheaper! Also because of the mix up with the food I would have thought they would have maybe comped our drinks or something for the bad service which they didn't. I always tip but this was my last straw and I figured for the extra they charged us that was what their tip would have been. I am sure glad I had a Groupon otherwise I would have been even more upset to pay almost $60 for that meal.
This place has some good food, but with the extremely high prices and bad service I know this was my last time and I won't be back.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Savory Seattle!

Well I'm a day late getting at least one post in April but I was off on another adventure for half the month which brings me to this blog post!
Before jetting off to Hawaii we spent a few days in Seattle and hit as many food spots as our stomach could handle!
We took the Clipper down and luckily we had a lot smoother ride then previous trips, though I'd still never go on it without my trusty Gravol!

View from our hotel!

We arrived just after 9pm and had a great location to explore the city from. Just down the street from us were a few Tom Douglas restaurants which we'd heard many good reviews on so we decided to pick Dahlia Lounge for our first stop.
We were starving so we started out with the Dahlia Bakery Bread with house made butter with fennel salt. The bread was very good and the butter had a great fresh creaminess to it with the fennel salt adding some nice flavour.
For my main I had the Vegetarian Thai Bento Box. I notice that it's not on the menu now so I'll have to try and remember what was in it.

Luckily I had a picture! I was overall let down with this meal, with four different components nothing stood out to me. Everything was ok but for a thai bento box nothing had stand out flavour. The green curry on tofu was bland and had no spice or flavour. The thai style rice was good but nothing special, and the papaya salad was bland.
James luckily took a risk and tried something he doesn't often have, duck, and was not let down!

As we ate out meal we saw waiter after waiter go by with paper bags being shaken and dumped out onto plates at almost every table. We knew what they were having and this was one of the main reason we chose to go here. Tom Douglas is famous for his house made donuts and of course we had to try them!

These did not let me down! Served with vanilla marscarpone and seasonal jam they were perfect little fluffy balls of goodness!

We ended up coming back the next morning as their restaurant across the street Lola had a long wait and they had the same breakfast menu.

This time I was not let down at all! I had read a recommendation for the French Toast on another blog so I decided to go with that. It came with a pistachio ricotta that was amazing! I subed Parmesan potatoes for bacon and those were perfect as well! Very salty but it was a nice contrast to the sweetness of the French Toast. I usually go for savory breakfast dish but this was a perfect balance of the two.

James had the eggs benedict but this time it was his turn to be let down. He said it was ok but overall wasn't blown away and felt that the greens overwhelmed the dish.

That afternoon we explored the city and went on a great Underground Tour which I highly recommend to anyone visiting the city!
We decided to have an early dinner as our friend Perry was joining us that night so we went to P.F. Changs for their happy hour special.
We arrived around 4-5pm and were surprised to find a very busy restaurant and had to wait about 15 minutes to be seated. Our waiter was great, very energetic and friendly without making you feel totally creeped out.
We tried some drink specials, I had the Asian Pear Mojito which was very good. To eat we had to start off with the Vegetarian Lettuce Wraps which we'd had before and were the main reason we came.

These are one of my favourite things and I can never find a vegetarian version so I am always excited when I get a chance to have them again.

Then we tried a variety of Steamed Dumplings and I had the Mahi Mahi Taco and Tuna Tataki Crisps.

They were all very good and we enjoyed being able to try little bites at a great price. Our dishes came out one at a time which worked well for us as we didn't want to be overwhelmed with all the dishes at once. I guess this wasn't ok with the management though as the manager came over to apologize and comped our drinks! Well ok I'll take that! I was very impressed by this as we hadn't every complained and in fact told him we preferred it that way. We were on a limited budget as well so this definitely helped!

We also went down to Pike Place Market that day and had to check out the famous Piroshky Piroshky. The line up was long but moved quickly and we had some coffee from the first Starbucks to keep us going on that very cold day!

We also stopped by french bakery Le Panier and had some amazing macaroons! I have seen pictures of this little treats all over lately it seems to be a new food fad but I'd never tried them. These were amazing, they don't look like much, bright coloured mini sandwiches, but they sure packed a lot of flavour!

That night we met up with Perry and check out Shorty's. Half bar serving hot dogs and nachos from behind the bar and the other half pinball arcade.

The next day we had to stop by Top Pot Doughnuts as it was around the corner and Obama has been there so you know it's good right? The doughnuts were great I tried the apple fritter which was huge and a traditional old fashioned style one with raspberry frosting. Obama didn't let us down, these doughnuts were great!

From there we went to the Experience Music Project so the boys could check it out. The building is very cool but I'd been here before a few times and for the price I was a little let down and bored this time.

That afternoon we decided to check out the other Tom Douglas restaurant on our block Serious Pie for their happy hour.
It wasn't as busy here which is good as it's very small inside and we were told it's communal seating so we may have strangers seated beside us. The tables fit about 8 people so I thought it seemed a little crowded for the communal concept, luckily it never got that busy and we had the table to ourselves. One of the waiters was very snobby about informing us of this and rudely grabbed our menus off our table later, I was not impressed at all. The other server was ok but overall I was very let down with the service here.
Since it was only $5 for the mini pizzas we each tried two different ones. We all ended up getting the Yukon Gold Potato pizza and I also tried the Chantrelle Mushroom pizza.

Both pizzas were very good I really enjoyed the crusts and unique toppings. I wished maybe I'd ordered a different combination though as these two were drier pizzas and I wish I'd had a different flavour combination. The potato pizza was very good not something I had ever tried before. The mushroom pizza was good too but the cheese almost melted to the pizza in a plastic like way and didn't have any creaminess. Comparing it to the Funghi pizza at Pizzeria Primi Strata in Victoria that one wins hands down. Though I think I may like the crust slightly more at Serious Pie as it was a little thicker and chewier.

That night I joined the boys for a screening of Kevin Smith's Red State and a Q&A. My iphone 4 has really impressed me with the photos it's been taking and I really enjoy using Camera+ to edit my photos but it let me down here. When Kevin was on stage we were only a few rows back and no matter what I tried I could not get a good shot that wasn't blown out by the light.
This as good as I could get so you'll just have to take my word it's him!

That's Perry asking his question, very exciting! I really enjoyed the movie and was glad it wasn't as scary and gruesome as I was afraid it would be. :)

That night we finally got into the other Tom Douglas restaurant on the block Lola. We joined up with some of Perry's friends that were also at the show and got to the restaurant just before closing but the staff was very good at accommodating our group. Since we had a large group we decided to share the Lola spreads and the boys had some kebabs. The spreads were great and it was good to get to try a variety, my favourites were the tzatziki, fava skordalia and roasted sweet red pepper. We were kept supplied with grilled pita bread and even when we were all stuffed there was still spread left.
We wanted to let the others experience the doughnuts as well but unfortunately they were sold out so the waitress recommended the Loukoumathes which were different doughnuts with cinnamon, honey and walnuts and they were just as amazing, a great alternative!

It was a perfect end to our gastronomic journey. Seattle has a great restaurant scene and I can't wait to go back and try something new next time!