Returning to our "Dining Tour of Atlanta," our next stop was the one I had looked forward to the most. When I began planning where we would dine in Atlanta, I consulted a trusted adviser who highly suggested we try Spice Market. Since I already wanted to check out the W Hotel Midtown, where the restaurant is located, it made perfect sense for us to kill two birds with one stone. When I made our reservation, I fully expected to have a great experience, but what I didn't anticipate is that it would be the best meal of our trip.
Spice Market is the creation of acclaimed chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, who's award winning restaurants can be found from New York, to Vegas and Shanghai. In addition, there are three Spice Market locations across the globe, with the others being found in New York and Doha. The menu is inspired by the street food of Southeast Asia, and is served "family style," with most of the plates designed to share.
We arrived at the W about a half hour before our reservation so we could check out the hotel enjoy a drink at the lobby bar. In making small talk with our bartender, we asked what we should try at dinner, to which she replied "I don't really like Spice Market." Huh? Undeterred, we arrived at the restaurant and I was slightly disappointed we hadn't instead come up to their bar, as it was much more inviting than that of the lobby. We were seated in a comfortable banquette, which gave us a great view of the beautifully themed dining room. The view was only impressive for a few minutes, because for the next two hours all I would be seeing was food, food, and more food.
As we looked over the menu, the 5 course tasting immediately caught my wife's eye. We asked our server for a bit more information, and he simply asked if we came hungry. Answering in the affirmative, our decision had been made. The tasting would consist of 10 dishes, with something from each segment of the menu, but all unknown to us before their arrival at the table. We inquired if a wine pairing could also be arranged, rather than attempt to choose a bottle suitable for the entire meal. Our server consulted the bar manager who happily obliged this request, and we settled in for what was sure to be a great foodie adventure...
The first two dishes out were the Spicy Thai Slaw as well as the Black Pepper Shrimp with Sun Dried Pineapple. I never eat cole slaw because, well, I just don't like it, but this version I could grow to love. I enjoyed how the slight spice of the dish was offset by the cool crisp taste of the accompanying Asian pears. As for the shrimp, there isn't much else I can say other than it was awesome. It's possible that on many menus the shrimp could stand by themselves as a dish, but here the pairing with the pineapple created an unbelievable explosion of both sweet and spice.
The street food inspiration began to shine through in the second course, as it consisted of Beef Skewers and Spiced Chicken Samosas. The skewers were paired with a lime dipping sauce, and they were a fun, although somewhat uninspiring dish. The samosas on the other hand were outstanding and also carried a bit of heat, which was cooled by a cilantro yogurt. I wasn't as blown away by the second course as I was the first, but I had high hopes for the three which remained.
Next up in course three was a Cod with Malaysian Chili Sauce, in addition to Wok Grilled Eggplant. The Cod in my opinion, was the best plate of the evening, with everything from presentation to taste being a hit. I usually find cod to be pretty uninspiring because let's face it, it's cod. The chili sauce however, added a much needed punch to the flavor, but yet was not overpowering. As for the eggplant, well about all I can say is that I tried it. I'll just be upfront and say I'm not an eggplant fan, but being a good sport I tried a few pieces, and a few was enough for me. My wife absolutely loved it, and I'll have to defer to her judgement on this one.
Course number four was what I'd consider our main of the evening, and consisted of Char Grilled Chicken in Kumquat Dressing, as well as Ginger Fried Rice. As with most everything else we'd experienced, the chicken was excellent, and the accompanying kumquats were a unique pairing. The fried rice actually one-upped the chicken in my opinion, as it was some of the best I've had anywhere. The presentation with the raw egg was great, and it's safe to say a giant bowl of this would make the ultimate comfort food.
Finally, it was time for dessert, and thanks to our doing the pre-fixe, we were actually served two. First up was the Ovaltine Kulfi with Caramelized Banana and Spiced Milk Sauce. The combination of the banana, chocolate and popcorn (yes popcorn) made for a great pairing, and it was no surprise that I loved it. What was a surprise however, was that I actually loved our second dessert more. The Roasted Peach Financier with Ginger Ice Cream was simply refreshing, and was the perfect dish to end a meal full of such varying flavors. It's highly unlikely that I'd have ordered this dish if given my own choice, so here was yet another reason I was glad we did the pre-fixe.
The only thing that could have topped the food for the evening was the service. Our server, Blake, was excellent and I enjoyed sharing stories about our mutual love of theme parks. It was actually his suggestion that we see if a wine pairing was possible, and I'm glad that we did as the 5 wines we experienced were great. It's my suggestion to the restaurant that a pairing be added to the menu, because I'm certain many would take advantage, and most pre-fixe options across the country feature a wine pairing.
As I said in the very beginning, our experience at Spice Market was the best of our time in Atlanta. The food, service, and ambiance were all exceptional, and I found the pre-fixe menu to be an excellent value for the price paid. Since returning home, I've read many reviews that are not as favorable, so either I simply don't know what I'm talking about, or Spice Market has a consistency problem. Either way, they knocked our socks off, and I can't wait to return to The ATL and visit again.
Enjoy Your Stay