Contributed by Amit Uppal
[Rating:2.5/5] I’ve had my experiences of good and bad restaurants and have come to realize that it’s one thing to continue delivering a substandard dining experience and quite another to keep improving and come up with goods that will make guests come back for more. My second visit to Spice Circle at the Spice Mall in NOIDA highlights this point. Nancy Taneja, my newest partner in the culinary trysts, had joined me.
For those who wish to have a background, please read through my previous review on Spice Circle. This time things were different and we had a fairly good time at Spice Circle.
The ambiance is soothing, with dim lights, lots of space between tables and comfortable seating. Colorful drawings depicting dragons, owing to a Chinese food festival they had recently, adorn the walls on one side. The menu was a bit hard to follow as there did not seem to be any cuisine-wise sections. The ‘Tandoor’ section contained only Indian; ‘Main course Veg’ contained all Indian, but for the last two dishes, which were Chinese; the ‘Main course Non-Veg’ had it all mixed up – Japanese, Thai, Chinese and Indian. Nancy wanted some mocktails and to our surprise, there weren’t any to be found on the menu. The server then verbally recited a list of the few mocktails that were available. Since she didn’t like any we ended up with a Screwdriver.
We had Hot n Sour Chicken Soup, which was not sour, but tasted good all the same. The chicken within however seemed to have been added post preparation and tasted bland. Then came the vegetarian Caesar Salad – lettuce with grated Parmesan sprinkled on top, with Caesar dressing. It was light and crisp, highly recommended for those on a diet. Next was a non-veg sizzler platter, consisting of Chicken Malai Tikka (skewered cubes of boneless chicken, marinated in a mixture of yogurt, cream, lemon juice, ginger, garlic, cumin and other spices; cooked in a tandoor); Chicken Tikka (same as the Chicken Malai Tikka, minus the cream and cheese, and plus red chili powder in the marinade); Tandoori Chicken (need I elaborate on that?); Tangri Kabab (chicken legs marinated in lemon juice, chili powder, yogurt, spices and ginger and garlic paste, cooked in a tandoor); Chicken Haryali Tikka (chicken marinated in a paste made with coriander, mint, lemon juice and other spices, cooked in a clay oven); and Mutton Seekh Kabab (a relief with all that chicken going around!). Everything on the platter was great, especially the Chicken Malai Tikka and Tangri Kabab, that just melted in the mouth.
The server then brought Thai Corn Cakes, accompanied by Plum sauce and Red Sweet sauce – bite sized pieces that were soft inside and crisp outside. It was now time for some Indian fare. We were served Paneer Lababdar (cottage cheese cubes in a rich aromatic, spicy gravy with sautéed onions); Dal Makhani ; Pudina Paratha (layered unleavened bread with a mint topping, cooked in a clay oven) and Garlic Naan (leavened flatbread, stretched and topped with crushed garlic). The Paneer Lababdar deserves a special mention. The essential part of cooking any dish with paneer is that it must be soft as can be and shouldn’t appear as if it were added after the gravy was cooked. The paneer in the Paneer Lababdar was tender and cooked just right. The Dal Makhani was good too. I’ve eaten Dal Makhani at some restaurants, who add tomatoes to the tadka (tempering), which I’m not sure should be so, as tomatoes tend to overpower the actual flavor of the lentils. The Dal we had was definitely one I would rate highly. The rotis were good too.
Further was a mix of cuisines. Prawns in Red Curry (Thai); Lamb Coriander in Oyster Sauce, Teriyaki Chicken and Teppanyaki Greens (Japanese); Pasta with Arrabbiata sauce and Vegetarian Noodles. The star of the show could have been the Prawns in Red Curry if it wasn’t so mildly spiced. Other than that it had all the right flavors and went wonderfully with steamed rice. The lamb was however, a let-down. The meat was slightly undercooked and chewey. Teppanyaki Greens were good too comprising crunchy vegetables in a mildly flavored sauce.
Last, but not the least – the desserts. We had Jamaican Sunrise (three scoops- one each of Chocolate, Strawberry and Vanilla ice-cream, topped with pineapple and chocolate sauce). The secret, however, lay beneath. As we polished off the ice-cream, my spoon came up with assorted fruits. Ice-cream with fresh fruits is something I can have anytime. Also, there was the Chocolate Fudge Cake, which was above average.
Food presentation wasn’t up to the mark and needed improvement.
The verdict? Spice Circle has moved up the ladder when it comes to taste. Other factors will improve with time I am sure.
Ed: The photograph on the front page is not from Spice Circle. Thank you Wikimedia Commons.