Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Friday, April 19, 2024

Spices makes sporty effort at fusion cuisine

This week I review Spices, the Tutto Pasta spinoff that attempts to combine flavors from around the world. But before I do, I would like to say that if anyone saw 'Emeril' this week, they now know what I was talking about last week. I feel vindicated. 'Emeril' is by far the worst show on TV; Conan O'Brien practically said the same on Tuesday's show, and he's on the same network.  




Back to the matter at hand: Spices, you try so hard. When I walked in I was impressed with the space: huge ceilings with upper-level seating that is reminiscent of European balconies.  





117 State St. 
Fri.-Sat. 11 a.m. to 1 a.m., Sun.-Thurs. 11 a.m. to 12 a.m. 
(out of 5) 
Overall *** 
Food ** 
Atmosphere ** 
Service *** 
Dateability *** 
Style over substance 
Strange European city, inside 

The faux road-and-streetlights motif was interesting as well. Did Spices hire Disney Imagineers to do interior design? I wonder. Whoever did it, I must admit that the stone arch over the kitchen is pretty spiffy.  


Enjoy what you're reading? Get content from The Daily Cardinal delivered to your inbox



I appreciated being able to see the action in the kitchen, which I judged to be sufficiently bustling. The pizza oven appeared to be in good order, with gas flames licking the heating element, cooking the upscale pizzas. I've heard they are quite good, but I will have to defer judgment, as I didn't have a stomach for pizza this week.  




Sun-dried tomatoes, cilantro and mayonnaise concoctions are all beautiful things that have been held up to the sun ever since Wolfgang Puck rose to power in the '90s. The cuisine at Spices is born of the same movement that brought us Toppers' many varieties of pizza sticks and brought parmesan and garlic salt to every bread product at so many fast food places.  




Life has taught me that people like to feel classy. If you want to feel as classy as a 40-year-old man at a House of Blues, then by all means, go to Spices.  




The food was actually pretty good. The meal begins with a basket filled with a heavy rosemary focaccia bread and nachos, along with a dish of salsa and some garlic-flavored mayonnaise aioli. I liked the salsa, spicy and flavorful, and the chips were crispy. The aioli contained anchovies and oregano and probably would have complemented a lighter bread better. 




As always, I opted for some alcohol. There is a fine selection of beer, but varieties often change, so it's necessary to ask your waitress which Red Hook or Sprecher is on tap that day. The wine selection is also sizeable but, hey'it's no La Paella. And, thank the Lord, you can smoke at the bar.  




All entrees come with a small salad. The salad, although it contained a mixture of greens, was disappointing, because it contained nothing but greens. There were no tomatoes, no onions, no olives, no nothing. The bleu cheese dressing was good, with enough crumbled bleu cheese to impress my pungent cheese-loving dining companion quite a bit. I found the vinaigrette to be too sweet.  




The curried shrimp entree was decidedly unimpressive. The squash, shrimp, onions and rice were all cooked with skill, but the cool curry sauce was far too mild for a restaurant named as such.  




I ordered paella, simply because I love the dish so. This paella was served in an individual paella pan on top of a wicker basket placemat. It contained shrimp, mussels, chorizo, chicken and shreds of salmon. The chorizo was reminiscent of a good, spicy smoked sausage. The mussels were well cooked and the shredded salmon was a nice surprise in every bite. Also in there were flame-charred red peppers (with the charred skin removed).  




All of this was great, but the whole dish was missing one thing: olive oil. I'm sure there was some used in the preparation, but in comparison with other paellas I've had, this one was lacking.  




The most impressive dish of all was the garden pasta. The cream sauce was light and matched with the flavor of sun-dried tomatoes extremely well. Combined with squash and onions, this was an elegant dish done very well. 




Spices is a good place for a first date, especially if you don't know what kind of food he or she will like. The service is friendly, and the atmosphere is conducive to conversation, even if that conversation is about how silly the lamp posts are. Also, this is a good place to pretend you know what you're doing when ordering wine. For a nice meal in a nice place, Spices is the place, provided your expectations aren't too high.  

Support your local paper
Donate Today
The Daily Cardinal has been covering the University and Madison community since 1892. Please consider giving today.

Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2024 The Daily Cardinal