The place will seduce you with its earthy ambience, peak your senses with its flavors and finally lull you with its fine service. Effortlessly, it would seem, this newcomer in the Indian food scene, has stolen the limelight. But as everyone knows, effortlessness comes only with buttressing of detail and endlessly practiced skill.
No heavy handed use of masalas here, instead the spices are used to perk up California cuisine. So the food is low in saturated fats and lays an emphasis on locally sourced fresh ingredients that include a range of lean meats, seafood and of course vegetables.
The spices are also used to innovate by using non-traditional spices in traditional Mughlai fare. And how! The simple phulka becomes a taco. Asparagus mates with goat cheese to morph into a tikki. Prunes and almonds transmute into a unique kofta.
But of course, each meal begins with a drink. And spices add verve here too. If it is alcohol you are looking for, the in-house mixologist has come up with some -oh so cool- ideas to serve at the spectacular agate topped bar. Ginger, cilantro, cloves, cardamom, coconut, cucumber splash around for some exotic cocktails but the signature, dubbed the Golden Elixir, is a hit and made with 12 ingredients that hints of flowers and saffron. If your libation veers toward the non-alcoholic, there is the simple pineapple that has been roasted, mashed and liquefied that goes down the throat sweet, tart and smoky all at once. A smoother option is coconut water that mixes happily with honey.
Co-owner Sonia Batra urges that a few starters be tried. So dainty sized papdi, arrives with a robust duck and date topping. Then fellow diners and lovers of seafood swoon over the South Indian influenced black pepper shrimp dunked in coconut and pepper sauce. Marinated artichoke hearts that look suspiciously like chunks of tandoori chicken are easy to devour with the accompanying yogurt. The crackling chickpea and caramelized walnut kebab is every vegetarian’s must do.
With your taste buds satiated and the eyes pleased with the presentation of the food, there is little urgency the stomach feels for a main course. But saliva kicks in again, when the biryani is brought tableside. You know it really has been cooked dum style, as the pot is cracked open and steam fragrant with mint gushes out.
After this you are sure nothing that is served can be wrong. You run through the spectacularly flavorful ginger okra and the saag without pause. Then there is butter chicken and tandoori sea bass. All cooked traditionally, without fuss but only with an eye on lightness in fats and spices and you are hooked.
Batra is pleased that her customers seem satisfied. She agrees she is not new to the feeling. Along with husband Dr.Puneet Chandak she also runs another fine dining restaurant in NorCal which draws good reviews. She credits Anupam Bhatia, the main man behind the food, and CEO of Spice Affair for their early success. She recalls how she and her husband would often stop by at the little restaurant Bhatia had worked at several years ago. The duo observed not only his hospitality toward them but his food choice memory of every customer who came in. That attention to client preferences and nuances, is what set them apart, when the three decided to come together to open Broadway Masala in Redwood City, says Batra.
A trained therapist and a county employee, neither Batra nor her physician husband had any exposure to the food industry prior to this venture. But when her mentor and uncle Dr.Avtar Singh, who had funded her graduate school, passed away leaving a tidy sum to her, the couple decided to invest in the business.
Batra describes the trio as “open minded.” They will, she says, do what it takes to suite the customer’s palate. She cited a recent instance when the adjoining Spice Ballroom hosted an event where the dal was spiced more heavily to suit Indian tastes and a menu was drawn to reflect their proclivities. To keep ahead of the game, Batra says Bhatia travels to India ever so often sniffing out trends and recipes to work with. Another thing that they do is to bring in star chefs from India, once every six months to consult with and train the kitchen to produce specific dishes. The ballroom, Batra speaks of, has a full service bar and has been nicely done over with lovely chandeliers and can accommodate between 200-250 guests. Batra emphasizes the customizable menu, the provision for a dance floor and screens for presentations. In the short time, since Spice Affair has opened, the hall has seen various events both personal and high profile public ones. Intrigued? Act then. Go suffuse yourself in an affair you will remember.
Spice Affair, 50 N La Cienega Boulevard, Suite 120 Beverly Hills, (310) 400-6800 email: firstname.lastname@example.org