Spice is located in Savage, one of Minneapolis’ southern suburbs. And if the prosaic town of Savage can’t quite live up to its name, Spice also fails to deliver on its promise of “[T]he…only authentic Thai Cuisine South of the River”. (I’m not sure, by the way, if the restaurant’s name is just Spice or Spice Thai.) Once upon a time I would not have bothered to eat at a Thai restaurant in the suburbs, but having been pleasantly surprised by Thai Curry House we were optimistic. Well, if recent history has taught us anything it is that optimism leads naturally to dull disappointment. So it was for us at Spice. Our lunch here a few weeks ago was very disappointing. I know I said I’d be changing the focus of my restaurant reviews with a view towards supporting immigrant-run places but I can’t bring myself to say that a place like Spice is better than it is.
However, they’re unlikely to be harmed in any way by my review. First of all, no one reads my blog (do you know anyone who does?); secondly, the look and feel of the restaurant suggests that they’re doing very well with the local population. It’s a large restaurant, done up stylishly and there were quite a few people eating there at lunch on a weekday. Despite their claims of authenticity on their website, this seems very much like food that has been severely toned down to meet stereotypical Minnesotan expectations. We asked for a number of things to be at their hottest setting and nothing was even remotely hot. Almost everything was sweet, however, and generally lacking any kind of funk. This is basically the Thai version of a mediocre Indian curry house. Well, perhaps they’re capable of better but unless I hear a very convincing case for that we are never going back—not when Thai Curry House is just a little further away in the opposite direction. The best I can say is that the service was friendly (though it wasn’t always very present).
This is hardly an enticing lead-in but in case you are interested in the particulars, here is what we ate:
- Chicken satay: the brats were with us and so we had to order chicken satay. Six to an order, these were pretty decent and gave us some hope for the meal.
- Beef larb: This hope was let down a bit by the larb, which was not bad but had nothing to particularly recommend it (and was not particularly hot despite our asking for it to be).
- Green curry with pork: But the green curry made the larb seem like a masterpiece. Thick, sweet and cloying, it may as well have been made by heating up the contents of a can. We’d asked for it to be made at their hottest setting as well and it was just a little north of mild. Adding a lot of supplemental chilli paste gave it some bite but did little to fix the other problems.
- Beef noodle soup: We got this for the boys, who usually love noodle soups. Even they were not enthused about this one. The broth was characterless.
- Thai fried rice: This was okay, I guess.
For pictures of this uninspiring food (how can you resist?!) click on an image below to launch a slideshow.
Well, this put an end to our mini-run of promising meals in the southern suburbs. It wasn’t cheap either. All of the above came to about $65 with tax and tip. We had to go back to On’s Kitchen shortly after this to recover (we didn’t eat anything at that meal that I haven’t written up before and so there won’t be a writeup of that).
My next review will not be of a smaller, immigrant-run place: I’m making an exception to that policy for our meals at Piccolo, which closes in less than a month. We ate there again in late January and I’ll be writing that meal up next week—and we want to go back one more time before they close. After next week’s Piccolo review it will be a return to Somali food, with Tawakal in Burnsville and then probably some Mexican action. And if I can get the missus to agree we’ll eventually dip our toes back in the South Metro Thai waters—Joy’s Pattaya Thai was recently recommended in the comments elsewhere on the blog—but that probably won’t be for a little while.