A bahm mi from Buford highway is certainly a tasty bargain, but it requires quite a drive from my downtown office and lacks somewhat in the atmosphere department. The bento box at Spice Market, on the other hand, isn't dirty cheap at sixteen dollars, but deserves to be honored as a great lunch bargain. The various nibbles in combination with the setting delivered on taste, presentation, atmosphere, and the possibility of a wine pairing (when one is not expected to return to work or at least to work effectively). And if the above photo doesn't convince you of the value here, they also throw in a great house-made box of ice cream. Now, that's value!
At a recent birthday lunch, I was surprised and impressed by the elaborate ceiling treatment and the live bamboo and orchid details scattered throughout the space. Considering that it is located inside a fairly old building in the area, the decor succeeded at reminding me of some upscale colonial Singaporean venues.
For food, I chose the pork skewer bento box. An actual box did not materialize. Instead, I received a combination of nibbles presented in little plates and bowls on a platter. The abundant sunlight made photo taking somewhat difficult, but certainly enhanced the tropical feeling. My pork skewers on the left were very tender and well seasoned with a hint of sweetness. The only thing missing was a bit of the charcoal grilled street flavor I so adore. The pickled cauliflower in the center were light and refreshing. The miso-based soup included a wonton. It was flavorful, but the wonton wrapper was a tad bit thick for my liking. One the right side, there was the avocado salad with fried onion rings. I liked both for their lightness and contrast with the sour sweet sauce under the avocado. The cod on Malaysian chilli sauce on the bottom right took the honor for being my favorite on the platter. The cut of cod was deceivingly similar to a large scallop, but the texture was very different, being much more fatty, which I love. The cod was lightly seasoned, the right thing to do considering the abundance of umami flavor in the chilli sauce. The color and texture of the sauce resembled that of a tapenade, but the flavor profile was very different. For one, there was the unmistakable chilli padi taste that is very southeast Asia. (This is probably a good place to say that going to Spice Market should not be viewed as a trip to taste authentic Southeast Asian food. For that you might as well save some money and head to Penang on Buford highway, which is where my Singaporean half of the family go when they are in town. Jean Georges, to his credit, doesn't claim to present authentic foods from the region, but rather strives to provide his own takes on foods inspired by those flavors. For one who is not into fusion food, I have to say that his stuff at Spice Market were executed with style and skill. I might as well also add here that I like this place so much better than its model-mobbed sibling in New York. There is something to be said for being able to enjoy ones food in peace sans a scene.
The dessert, as mentioned earlier, came in the form of a pint sized Chinese takeout box. You have a choice between sorbet and ice cream. Let's just say that I can't comprehend why anyone would get sorbet when there is the option of ice cream. I got Vietnamese coffee as my flavor and very much appreciate the pronounced, but not overwhelming coffee flavor tempered with a good dose of condensed milk. Yum.
188 14th St. NE
Atlanta, GA 3030