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Restaurant Spotlight: Spice Circle - Service with a Smile?

When I go out to eat, especially to a place that boasts being connected to a couple 5 star restaurant group I.T.C. in India, there are some things you expect; friendly staff, good service, and great food to name a few. As a reviewer I also expect openness to talk about themselves and good examples of their food they are proud to serve their guests. I can’t say all of my expectations were met when I went to Spice Circle. I went there with an open mind expecting the restaurant, which new I would be coming that evening, to provide me with what I need for my reviews. That night I didn’t feel like a guest. I first introduced myself as Jeff sent by ShenzhenParty to do a restaurant review and the manager/bartender that night, Ram, answered me in a very annoyed way questioning who I was. After a few uncomfortable minutes, he told me to have a seat and he would come and take my order when I was ready, then he disappeared for a long while. I decided to try my best to enjoy the place regardless. I looked around and noticed the decorations of Spice Circle were pretty appealing including their logo, a squiggly line resembling a ying yang and their restaurant reflects the shape of the logo with a lot of curves. Interesting chandeliers, dark colors, and the Indian music really transport you to another part of the world. Highlighting the path to the seating area were glass covered boxes with what looked like spices lining the bottom that you walked on top of. I found the curved booths that I would soon be sitting in to be very comfortable but one complaint that I had was seeing where the waiters and other staff were over the high booth walls surrounding you. You could argue though, that you get more privacy for you and the person(s) you are out dining with. Speaking of private spaces, they have private rooms with beaded doorways that could seat about nine people.

After about 10 minutes, I finally got a waitress’s attention in the mostly empty restaurant and placed my drink order. I asked for a Mango Lassi, an iced drink made with yogurt and mango blended together which is offered sweet or salty. As I further perused the menu, they brought out a free basket of Papadum is a thin Indian wafer, sometimes described as a cracker or flatbread typically made of lentil, chickpea, black gram or rice flour. It was served with a tamarind sauce and a mint sauce. It wasn’t that bad but I didn’t like it too much. The mint sauce had a deep strong taste that burned the back of my throat. I much preferred the tamarind sauce that had some spice but starts off a little sweet and tangy.

The menu at Spice Circle is very large offering many authentic Indian dishes. It includes many Vegetarian and Non-Vegetarian delicacies. Be sure to watch for the very important spice meter next to each dish which goes up to three peppers. Not paying attention might lead to an uncomfortable evening if you aren’t used to eating spicy food.

It took me a long time to decide, but even longer to flag down a waitress. Did I mention the place was almost empty? The waitress came over to take my order. I had an appetizer #10 Pakoras (35 RMB), which are assorted vegetable fritters served with a mint sauce. I asked for a version of it that came with chicken for 5 RMB more. For a main I had the #66 Mutton Shahi Korma (55 RMB), lamb cooked in cashew nut gravy and mildly spiced. I also had some #77 Plain Naan (15 RMB), a round flatbread made of refined flour. I also asked for the #17 Murgh Shorba Badami (25 RMB) which seemed like it would be a chicken soup advertised to have almond flakes and Indian condiments, but it was never brought to me.

It took me 20 minutes before I got frustrated and asked the manager about my food. Apparently, the waitress never put in my order, I ordered again and the appetizer came out pretty quick. The Pakoras just seemed OK at first but later the flavor really grew on me as I went on from one nugget to the next. Basically a deep fried chicken nugget with a vinegary flavor. It was something you should eat slowly and get to know. Let it convince you little by little. Give it a chance.

By the end of the Pakoras, I had finished my Mango Lassi, but again, I was met with a service problem. No one came back to check if my drink was done and needed a refill or new drink. In a place serving spicy food, I think that should be a priority.

I next received my Mutton Shahi Korma. I enjoyed it immensely. So delicious. It comes out so beautifully looking similar to an artfully done espresso. They poured in a little cream similar to the logo of the place. The waitress then poured some of the curry like food on a serving dish. This was served along with my naan. The naan was really fresh and made a satisfying crackling sound as I ripped it apart for dipping into the cashew nut gravy. The lamb cubes were juicy and fell apart ever so easily. For those wondering about spice, it was pretty mild in my opinion and only the back f my throat was affected. The gravy was the best part though. Watch out for the wholly tasty cashews beneath the surface.

For dessert, I wisely chose the #6 Kesar Kulfi (35 RMB). This is a kind of Saffron and Cardamom flavored ice cream. It was a very interesting dessert topped with rose syrup. The ice cream had more of a frozen milk texture and tasted of nuts, possibly cashews. The flavor sort of reminded me of pumpkin pie.

Before I leave you let me give you a bit of Spice Circle’s background. They’ve been open for three years in Shenzhen, by the owner who is a vegetarian. They have a very large wine list and have a full range of cocktails. The food is done in a Tandoor Province style. In 2008 they were awarded the Best Foreign cuisine by Shenzhen Daily and Best Indian Restaurant for 2008 by That’s PRD Magazine.

Maybe it was just an off night. I have been to Spice Circle before and I liked it then. We had a group of maybe 20 people and everything was pretty good especially, the manager that night, who really had control of his staff. Of course, that was over a year ago so maybe things have changed? If anything, the food is still good so maybe just order some take out.

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Comments

The owner was nice and should

The owner was nice and should talk to him.

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