499 King Street West, Toronto
Cost: Summerlicious. $15 for lunch
It used to be an auto dealership. Then Touch lounge. Now, it's a massive Asian bistro/bar called Spice Route. Although there is neither spice nor route to any flavours here. And the service is one of the most pretentious I've ever seen.
Not to take away from how glamorous and exotic the place is, however. It's quite a retreat from your work day.
With its cavernous entryway, giant studded wooden door, encased fire towers and marble fountains, it's as if you've stepped into an episode of Survivor: Laos.
Inside, the vast expanse of open space creates an atmosphere not unlike a museum or Buddhist shrine.
The sleekness of the furniture throughout the space culminates at the bar, situated under four big screen tvs and illuminated by recessed lighting.
Green (albeit fake) grass trims the window ledge behind your (back-less) seat. High wooden fences on the patio shield away the common folk who linger, necks craning, on the sidewalk. Oranges are nestled within intimate cubby holes in the walls.
But, enough of the ambiance!
Our server, Sebastian, took a seat beside us and began to describe their regular menu mentioning that patrons usually order 5-7 items and share tapas-style. My lunch partner politely requested the Summerlicious menu (which I'd already mentioned to them upon making the reservation). His response was classic. A slight nod, grunt and an abrupt exit. Nothing was said about the Summerlicious menu.
But here it is. The appetizer selection was as follows:
Mushroom Noodle Soup
Efu Noodles, Thai Chili and Young Spinach
Spring Mix Greens, Orange, Asian Pear, Water Chestnuts and Honey Walnut Ginger Vinaigrette
Shanghai Eda Mame Salad
Pickled Cucumber and Rice Vinegar
Spiced Chicken Lettuce Wraps
Brandied Hoisin Sauce
My friend ordered the Citrus Salad. And I, the Spiced Chicken Lettuce Wraps.
Our appetizers didn't take very long to arrive and were brought to the table by another gentleman.
Citrus Salad, which my friend seemed to enjoy.
I'm still amazed that they named it "Spiced" Chicken...I'm sorry, but to warrant the term '"spiced", a dish must have some spices in it. Not great, but not terrible, either.
For the mains, our options were:
Wok Steamed Mussels
Red Thai Curry and Kaffir Lime
Lemon Glazed Chicken
Crispy Wonton and Thai Citrus Sauce
Mandarin Sizzled Fried Rice
BBQ Roast Pork and Sweet Peas
Thai Vegetable Curry
My lunch partner opted for the veggie curry and I decided to try the lemon glazed chicken.
Apologies for the blurry photograph. The veggie curry sat well with my friend...I, on the other hand, was not impressed with my 'lemon glazed chicken' which actually was BATTERED and DEEP FRIED chicken with an accompanying lemon sauce that I had to dip my chicken into.
Why was I having to do all the work? First with the lettuce and now with the glazing. We couldn't figure out what the mystery vegetable beside my chicken was, either. Baby bok choy? Overall, not a great dish - which on the regular menu is $19!
For dessert we had two choices:
Chefs Selection of Exotic Sorbets
Fortune Cookie and Sesame Praline
Raspberry Chocolate Brownie
Caramelized Mandarins and Tangerine Cream
My friend chose the sorbet and I had to go for the brownie.
The desserts were definitely better than the rest of the meal. The sorbet flavours (we decided) were mango, raspberry and coconut? We weren't too sure about the white one.
The brownie with mandarin oranges paired together really well, with the ice-cream topping it all off - I didn't notice the raspberry flavour in the brownie at all however, or the tangerine in the ice-cream. Overall, it was fairly good although it came with a Pocky stick, which we both thought was weird.
After lunch, while we waited for our change, and having read so much about Spice Route's 'amazing' loos, I thought I'd take a few pictures of them to show you all.
The 'stalls' basically line the length of the hallway at the back of the restaurant; each massive wooden door leading to a separate washroom, with its own floor to ceiling window. The view from the toilet is an alley-way of grass, stone and the same tall water-fountains displayed outside. A strange looking sculpture - Protector of the Alley? - loomed down the way as well.
Two things; a) the washrooms are clean, but I think that leads us to b) you are so afraid that someone is going to walk down the alley-way that you don't use the toilet at all. And they don't have any hooks for women to hang their purses!
Back at the table, Sebastian still hadn't returned with our receipt or change. That meant he had assumed all of it was a tip? Well! How...assuming!
He was nowhere to be seen either! We had to ask someone who asked someone else who told us he was coming. We finally saw him and he returned with our change and the receipt. Needless to say, our tip was lower than what he thought he deserved. What a pain!
2 Hours for lunch is a bit long for food which is prix fixe and probably even pre-prepared, don't you think? I'd suggest taking another route when picking a place for lunch. Spice Route definitely isn't worth all the fuss.