Saturday, August 31, 2013

Spice Kitchen & Bar

Ugh, I don't want to write this blog post. I've been dreading it for a while now. But, I'm all about honestly sharing my dining experiences and opinions. You probably won't agree with this one, but I have to share it anyway.

I've been a big fan of Chef Ben Bebenroth for a long time now. His food is phenomenal, and he is one of the nicest and most genuine chefs that I've met in Cleveland. He takes his farm-to-table approach literally, and so much of the food that you enjoy from him comes straight from a local farm (often, his own). When they took his catering business to a brick-and-mortar restaurant, Spice Kitchen &  Bar, in the Gordon Square Arts District, I was thrilled. I had also had nothing but outstanding food from his Executive Chef, Brandon Walukas. I had a sneak peek of the space during a friend's private party before they opened, and I loved the layout and decorative touches. I also had the opportunity to sample some of their food during a charity event shortly after their opening. We enjoyed their now-famous Mushroom Beignets ($7), an okay flatbread, and a very disappointing dry and bland cornbread. I chalked it up to opening jitters.

Somehow, it took us over a year to return. Not really sure how that happened, but time slipped away and I continued to hear rave reviews about the restaurant.
Well, we finally made it back in for dinner. I am still in love with the vibe and d├ęcor, our server was fantastic, and our food was very good. But....I think it's overpriced for what you get. Now, before you yell at me, I understand that using local and high-quality product is more expensive. I have no problem paying for this, and it's worth every penny to support local and use quality ingredients. I just feel that the prices were a tad too high at this particular restaurant.

We started with the Beef Carpaccio ($12).
It was probably one of the better versions that I've had, but there wasn't a whole lot there for $12 and it was served with only three small pieces of toasted bread. Still, it was very good and I do recommend it.

I went with the Pan-Seared Walleye with rice fritters, spring beans, and a scallion mojo ($24).
Again, this dish was clearly made with fresh and quality products. However, it wasn't one of my favorite things that I've had from this chef, and I felt that the portion was very small for the price. It was kind of disappointing. Knock a couple of bucks off, and maybe I wouldn't have felt this way.

Ok, there, I said it. I'm not as in love with Spice Kitchen & Bar as I thought that I would be. That's even hard to type. I so want to love it.

It's not that I won't return, but this will probably be reserved for a special night out when we don't mind splurging a bit more. The menu changes often, and seasonally uses product that is at its best. It certainly should be towards the top of your list for a treat on a special occasion.


Spice Kitchen & Bar
5800 Detroit Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44102


Holly said...

I had a different issue. Like you went there more than a year ago and loved it. Went back recently (again on a weekend night) and could not get a table. We were told 45 minute wait and were rather shocked considering we had not needed a reservation before. Needless to say we went elsewhere and were seated immediately.

Cleveland Chick said...

I appreciate honesty. It is the only way places get better. I had a horrible experience with Chef Rocco's place and I thought I was going to get fileted over it. Rocco actually followed up with me to figure it all out and lay into who ever screwed up. Never be afraid to give your honest opinion :)

Bite Buff said...

Cleveland Chick- I completely agree. I always try to share my complete and total experiences, the good the bad the ugly. It's the only way my readers will tust my posts, and the only way that restaurants can grow. If people don't give honest feedback, they'd never know. Thanks for commenting.

Bite Buff said...

Holly- Thanks for sharing. We did not have a reservation either, but managed to snag a bar table before they filled up.

Anonymous said...

"I understand that using local and high-quality product is more expensive. I have no problem paying for this..."

And yet your review was all about the price of things. Was it tasty? Are there other restaurants in the area that focus as closely on local and offer a better price?

I don't mean to attack you and I personally don't know because I just moved to the area. But I'm excited to try this restaurant and am curious why you didn't like it. Is it solely the price?

Bite Buff said...

Anon- No, it wasn't based solely on the price. That was just the main sticking point, for me. Nothing was "outstanding" or better than what some other area restaurants are offering in quality of food and locally-driven. It was a good meal, not a great meal, and I felt that the price point was a tad high for what we received. The food and atmosphere are very good, but so are many others where I don't feel like I'm paying too much.

Beth @ CraveableCleveland said...

Aw, I love Spice. It may be a little pricier but I think the combo of atmosphere, local/quality ingredients and great service is hard to match in Cleveland and well worth it.

guv said...

You could always just stick to happy hour at Spice b/c it's phenomenal and perhaps enjoy their regular menu on special occasions. As I tend to agree with you, and really like other facets of the operation, That's the way I approach dining there.

Bite Buff said...

Guv- Thank you for the suggestion. I agree, that might be a good way to support the restaurant without committing to an expensive dinner.