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.

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