Occupation: Auto Parts, Business Owner
Location: Redwood City
Favorite Restaurant: All Spice
Reviewed All Spice: Wednesday, February 29, 2012
All Spice. To be honest I was a little bummed when I sat down and opened the menu and the wonderful rutabaga soup wasn’t on the menu! I had never had rutabaga soup until I went to All Spice previously, and I really was looking forward to it. The alternative was roasted Sunchoke soup, and I didn’t even know what a Sunchoke was! But I said why not and ordered it for my appetizer. To my delight, the Amuse Bouche came and it was a shot glass with rutabaga soup and peas and carrots. To my relief and joy, the Sunchoke soup was creamy, warm and smooth with two pickled kumquats and a small amount of pancetta, and as good as the memory I had of the rutabaga soup. The two pickled kumquats didn’t add anything especially to my taste, but the pancetta was smoky and tasty. The most interesting thing is the way the soup is served as the waiter brings out the large soup dish empty except for the kumquats and pancetta, after the dish is in place, he’ll pour the soup from the tureen into the dish, which adds a nice flourish.
I followed that up with a shared Coriander-cured hamachi that was outstanding. The fish was served in inch-sized squares with paper-thin lotus chips and guacamole, and it literally melted in your mouth.
My entrée was Shortrib Vindaloo, and I questioned why they gave me a knife, as the meat was fork tender and easily eaten that way. But it was on a bed of baby bok choy, and for that I did need my knife. What I especially like about All Spice is the creativity of chef Chopra; most good restaurants make tasty food as that is their business, Chef Chopra surprises your palate with flavor bursts that are unexpected and delightful.
I ended the meal full and was worried that I had no room for dessert. My wife convinced me to try the special as the description made it sound unbelievable. Homemade single malt scotch ice cream, vanilla chiffon cake, salted cashew brittle and huckleberry compote topped with a chocolate disc that is then melted with a few drops of hot olive oil. It is served in a small round glass with the chocolate laid across the top and then when the hot oil hits the center it melts over the ice cream. It was such a compilation of tastes that each spoonful brought new flavors to your tongue. This was a perfect example of what I was saying earlier in that not only was each bite a flavor surprise but an extremely unique dish that you won’t find anywhere else.
This is a restaurant I frequent often and especially when I have a visitor from out of the area that I want to show how good Bay Area restaurants are. It’s not cheap but it’s a fantastic value for the money.
We were pleased to see that the owners of the restaurant came out to greet patrons and we had a few minutes with Shoshana and Sachin. They are extremely nice people and meticulous in everything they do. The design of the small Victorian house that they renovated is perfect for an intimate restaurant with 3 or 4 small tables in each of the 3 rooms, so the noise level is quiet enough not only to converse with your companion but hear the soft background music while doing so. Each room is tastefully decorated and painted so you feel like you’re in a truly lovely room of a friend’s home. The individual dishes and silverware are all unique and reflect on the owner’s good taste.
In conclusion there are three things that make for a really good dining experience for me: service, ambiance, and unique and well-prepared food. All Spice hits a home run on all three; the servers are very knowledgeable and monitor their stations with an eye to your complete satisfaction. The ambiance is quiet enough to hear the background music playing and carry on a conversation without a strain, and the surroundings are both tasteful and elegant. And the quality of the food is superb. It's not an accident Esquire magazine picked Chef Chopra as one of the four top new chefs in the United States last year and said he is "one to watch." I wholeheartedly agree!
Favorite Restaurant: Sorella di Zza's
Reviewed All Spice: Thursday, March 15, 2012
Located in San Mateo at 610 El Camino, All Spice is tucked away in the center of the block and easily missed, so you have to pay attention to find the turn into their driveway.
There were four of us arriving for our 8:00 PM reservation. Upon entering this converted house, we realized that it is a very cozy restaurant with a small and really quaint entry-waiting area with a couch for seating. As we were waiting, another couple gave nothing but praise for their dining experience as they passed us on their way out, so our expectations were heightened.
The hostess-owner seated us within fifteen minutes and once seated, we perused the menu. All the appetizers and entrees sounded unique and tempting, so we shared them all…. Mine was the hamachi, served cold on a plate decorated with mango sauce, so good! I also got to taste their braised scallops, which were melt-in-your-mouth delicious, as well as the lobster tail, also good. I won’t forget to mention the mushroom soup and bread fritters, which were our complimentary starters, amazing.
For my entrée I selected the Venison with Lentils and Brown Gravy and asked for it to be cooked to a medium rare. It had a subtle gamey taste, but was delicious, especially when you got a bite of the venison and lentils with the sweet grapes that popped in your mouth. All the portions were not too large that would fill me up too quickly, but just right and enjoyable when comparing different tastes. Although a little pricey in my opinion, the experience was still worth every penny!
Occupation: PR Account Executive
Favorite Restaurant: Hillstone
Reviewed All Spice: Tuesday, March 13, 2012
All Spice blew my mind. Everything about it was beyond my expectations, and I can't stop talking about it already. I went with my aunt on a rainy weeknight. We were late for our reservation (my fault), but they were friendly about it as could be. Upon walking in a little frantic after a very stressful day at work (hence being late), the staff's smiles and understanding calmed me down immediately. They walked us to a table by the window in the front dining room next to the fireplace; the best seat in the house in my opinion.
Our server came over right away and answered any questions we had about the menu, gave us a suggestion on how many dishes to order, and gave us his recommendations. I read the menu and wanted literally everything on it. I had to have my aunt decide because I would have been there all night, or spent a fortune and actually ordered everything… would have been worth it, though!
We ordered two appetizers: the Ode to My Wife II (savory ricotta cheesecake layered with goat cheese custard, red and golden beets in a sundried tomato almond crust) and the Lavender and Cumin Scallops with bacon and black cardamom potato sauce. We ate the scallops first; perfectly cooked-- seared lightly brown with the slightest bit of crunch on the outside, soft and sweet on the inside. The potato sauce was soft and buttery. It was just thick enough to beef up the dish, but not so heavy that it took anything away from the lightness of the scallops. Next we ate the Ode to My Wife II. I was the slightest bit nervous not being the biggest fan of ricotta cheese or cheesecake, but I was very pleasantly surprised. It was nothing like I thought it would be composition or presentation wise, but it far exceeded expectation in taste and flavor. Stacked in a neat torte shape, the ricotta cheese was mixed with goat cheese and flavored with fresh basil and garlic, making it closer to a pesto. The almond crust was in between the cheeses and the fresh beets, a completely unique way to stack the various elements. The crust was light and flaky, and the beets were cool, crisp and fresh.
Our entrees came out next, and we intended to share both. We started with the short rib vindaloo...it was love at first bite. Just the thought of it takes my breath away. Immediately it was one of the best things I've ever eaten. So tender it just fell apart at the touch of a fork; dark and caramelized on the outside, perfectly pink on the inside. Smothered in a sweet, tangy brown vindaloo sauce, it had the slightest hint of a kick on the aftertaste. Steamed baby bok choy and cherry tomatoes lay underneath soaking up all the yummy juices. And tiny crumbles of goat cheese melted in, giving a tart creaminess to the sauce.
Next we ate the Frilly Turbot (Katafi-crusted, with Madras masala, asparagus spears and yuzu cauliflower sauce). Not knowing what katafi was I had no idea what to expect, but again I was pleasantly surprised. A light, flaky, crunchy crust covered the fresh white fish. Much less flavor than the vindaloo (so quite possibly would have been better to eat before the short rib), I was not as overwhelmed with this dish, but it was perfectly cooked and seasoned and we still enjoyed every bite.
For dessert, we ordered the dark chocolate "kulfi" (with tandoori-spiced macadamia nut brittle). Not quite ice cream, but more than a mousse, the dark chocolate had a hint of spice, cutting the sweet richness (my preference). Tiny bite-sized pieces of the brittle were scattered on the plate along with halved fresh blackberries, both a perfect accompaniment to the decadent chocolate.
The service was impeccable throughout our time at All Spice. Our server was very polite and formal without being stuffy and knew a lot about the menu and how dishes were prepared. When we asked him for recommendations, he didn't just tell us what he liked the best, but also was careful to point out the most traditional dishes, along with the most unique dishes (which I thought was a very nice touch). He gave us plenty of time before ordering and between each course, though the food did come out faster than expected (but not in a “it's-been-under-the-heat-lamp-until-somebody-finally-ordered-it” kind of way). When we had finished and verbally attacked our server with rave reviews about the food and overall experience, he offered to bring the chef out, which he did. Chef was delightfully humble, and incredibly friendly. His pride and love for what he does was evident through his pristine smile and willingness to talk with anyone who wanted to speak with him. His wife – who manages front of house – was equally as passionate and warm. She also came by to see how we enjoyed our experience, how we heard about the restaurant and what we liked the best.
The restaurant was comfortably quiet; just soft enough to hear the enchanting restaurant murmur of light conversation over the clinking and clanking of forks and knives against porcelain plates, but audible enough to carry on a conversation without feeling like everyone else was listening to every word. Being set down a long driveway, we were completely unaware that we were anywhere even near the typically busy El Camino Real. The space was interesting in that it appeared to be the original framework of the house dating back to when it was built as a home. The whole restaurant is comprised of three very small dining rooms, all decorated with rich wall colors, beautiful hardwood floors, and contrasting modern crystal chandeliers.
Overall, we had an outstanding experience; I'm still glowing and gushing about it. While on the slightly more expensive side, it was more than worth every penny, and perfect for any kind of special occasion. I highly, highly recommend All Spice; it was a happy find and is definitely a neighborhood / Peninsula gem.