Thursday, June 26, 2014

Review: Spice Kitchen & Bar: Beating the Odds

Chef/Owner Ben Bebenroth – along with Chef Nate Williams and former Executive Chef Brandon Walukas – have overcome the odds and triumphed in a spot that was plagued with problems. While Spice Kitchen & Bar is supported by other revenue streams, including Spice of Life Catering Co. and their on-location Plated Landscapes dinners, the restaurant itself has become the destination. Effervescent Bar Manager David Hridel is in constant motion – mixing cocktails, offering suggestions about daily specials and attending to the six-or-so tables in Spice’s lively, friendly bar.
Chef/Owner Ben Bebenroth

One late spring evening, we decided to drop by Spice for dinner before a concert at the State Theatre and we couldn’t have made a better choice (love it when you can describe what you have a taste for and the bartender can improvise). I explained that I wanted something light, acidic and fruity. Hridel invented a drink that should be a seasonal special – an expertly mixed cocktail where the sweetness of the berries and the sour of the lemon were perfectly balanced. Sweet but not cloying. The concoction – which he served over crushed ice in a Collins glass – consisted of farm-fresh strawberries, lemon, just the right amount of simple syrup and vodka. Essentially, it was a perfect, potent strawberry-lemonade.
 Strawberry Lemonade + A Draft 

We kept it light for appetizers, selecting two vegetarian options. One was on their Happy Hour menu – a stuffed avocado with chickpeas, sprouts, grilled oranges, crispy red quinoa and  almondona dressing. I have never been a quinoa fan, but they made it palatable: it was sautéed to a nice, crunchy texture (this is how quinoa should be prepared). The complex flavors and richness of the avocado make this dish work.
Happy Hour Stuffed Avocado

The second appetizer was on the Daily Specials Board: the Foragers Plate – chicken-of-the-woods mushrooms, butter-fried croutons, shaved asparagus and pea shoot salad, champagne vinaigrette, toasted fennel & beet, avocado oil. Again: wonderful balance. The chicken-of-the-woods mushrooms were the stars of this dish, but I can’t say enough about the exquisite beet avocado oil that finished the salad.
Foragers Plate

Here’s where my dinner companion and I went our separate ways. He decided to order (our favorite) chickpea fries served with Spice’s spicy rémoulade and the Happy Hour chicken wings with lemongrass-ginger hot sauce.
Chick Pea Fries with spicy remoulade 

Happy Hour Chicken Wings
I decided on a new spring house-made pasta dish. I was in Mushroom Pappardelle heaven. The pappardelle were handmade by Chef Nate Williams. Fabulous ribbons with delicate taste and texture. The layering of flavors: mushrooms, beans, creme fraiche in a delicate flavorful vegetable stock made it taste like springtime on a plate.
Mushroom Pappardelle

To accompany my pasta, I relied on Hridel’s expertise again, and again he steered me in the right direction. He recommended a perfectly crisp, slightly acidic white – a Vermentino di Sardegna – to complement my pasta. I enjoyed its intense, fruity aroma, fresh flavor and clean finish.
Vermentino di Sardegna

For dessert, I went back to the cocktail menu, since something I noticed earlier had piqued my interest –Aperol and grapefruit soda. The drink – named Just a Question of Thyme – combines Boodles Gin, Aperol, grapefruit soda, thyme and thyme syrup. It was a perfect finish to a diverse, flavor-rich dining experience.
Just a Question of Thyme

We departed satisfied and ready for Mr. Beck Hansen.

Spice Kitchen & Bar is located at: 5800 Detroit Ave, Cleveland, OH 44102 Phone: 216. 961.9637

Prices: Moderate $$

Reservations recommended

No comments:

Post a Comment