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Review of Southern Spice Restaurant (South Indian Cuisine)

Summary: An adequate restaurant with good value for money (and some pretty tasty offerings) that can be more than it is right now.

India is such a diverse country that evenIMG_0026 the cuisine varies from region to region. India can be roughly divided into the four corners of the compass, where each region has it’s own unique blend of spices and dishes.

Most people in Calgary are probably only familiar with North Indian cuisine, with restaurants serving up their standard fair of butter chicken, aloo gobi, mutter paneer, chana masala, etc. that taste oh-so-good but also are pretty rich.

Personally, I am originally from the south of India, so North Indian cuisine is always a treat for me. South Indian dishes tend to be heavily rice-based and plainer than their North Indian cousins. Geographically this makes sense as North India is drier and cooler (during winters), whereas southern India is pretty much a tropical paradise where rice grows abundant.

It’s great to see that Calgary is slowly developing an alternative to what’s typically offered at well-established stalwarts such as Glory of India and Namskar. We personally reviewed one such hidden-gem – Canada Dosa Corner – which became such an instant hit with all our friends that we had to seek out other similar restaurants and see if they matched up.

Walking into the restaurant is a bit discombobulating as the exterior doesn’t match the interior whatsoever. The place appears pretty unremarkable and drab from the outside, but on the inside, it’s actually quite dramatic. The high ceilings together with plenty of natural light gave the place a “tiffin hall” feel that is reminiscent of those in India. All in all, it actually worked quite well.

We had the option of either going for the buffet or a la carte. In the interests of checking out their entire offerings, we opted for the buffet, which also came with unlimited (!) dosas. We immediately went over to the buffet area to check out their offerings. I was pretty wowed by the number of the dishes in the buffet.

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The buffet had all the traditional South Indian dishes like rasam, sambar, medu veda, radish curry, and paysam, which all tasted pretty authentic, but also watered down. They were spicy, but almost spicy for the sake of being spicy – like they added a couple of tablespoons of chilli powder just to bring the heat up. There was a coconut-infused broccoli dish that tasted delicious, but is traditionally prepared with carrots. It was weird though, tasting an Indian dish made from non-traditional ingredients. There was also a chowmein noodle thrown in for good measure. it wasn’t too bad, but kinda felt like French fries at a Chinese buffet. It was all fairly generic.

The dosas were another story though. Hot off the pan, they were more soft than crispy, but the stuffing of masala potato was pretty amazing. The combination of the sambar and masala dosa was also pretty tasty. The most delectable part of the night was the potato fry. It was a bit greasy, but it was the perfect combination of sweet, salty, and spicy. It wasn’t as crispy as I would have liked it to be, but that’s just nitpicking.

Overall, I felt like this place doesn’t know what it wants to be. Part of me wants to break my own rule and revisit the restaurant to give it another chance (primarily cause a brown co-worker of mine loved it), but that remains to be seen. If you want another viewpoint, Foodosophy has a great review on Southern Spice that is also slightly mixed.

Richard’s Ruminations

For whatever reason, Indian food and buffets seem to be as common a pairing as wine and cheese, and Southern Spice is no exception.  However, their offering of freshly-made dosas as part of the buffet seemed to be a nice little addition that sets them apart from your everyday self-serve-curry line.

Unlike most Indian buffet places in Calgary, this place has a very sparse selection of non-vegetarian options – in this case, only fish or chicken curry, and they were all out of chicken.  I opted not to try the fish curry either as it had eggplant in it, which, unfortunately, I am allergic to (Hmm, I did not know that.  –Kiran)

One of the downsides of a buffet is that the food could have been sitting there for quite a while – and when we went, it sure seemed like that was the case.  This doesn’t matter for curries, really, but the pakoras were not very hot and were crunchy (instead of crispy) – kind of a shame, since they tasted pretty good and would likely have been pretty awesome hot out of the fryer.  Unlike Kiran, I thought the curry noodles was one of the better tasting dishes, despite being some kind of rip-off of Chinese cuisine Winking smile  (It’s hakka)

As for the dosas – the do have the huge-ass ones available, but not as part of the buffet – instead, the buffet dosas are the size of a side plate, and come out upon order from the kitchen.  Probably smart that they come out in that size, given that it’s all-you-can-eat!  I found the dosas to be kind of greasy, soft, and a little more sour than the ones at Dosa Corner – but the filling was still quite tasty.

South Indian food doesn’t rank among my favourite cuisines, so I didn’t eat until the point of gastro-intestinal rupture, but it still seemed like a reasonably valued buffet.

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Ranking

  Richard Kiran Kent
Ambiance 4/6 4/6 N/A
Service 1.5/3 4/6 N/A
Plating N/A N/A N/A
Taste 3/6 4/6 N/A
Authenticity 5/6 5/6 N/A
Value 4.5/6 5/6 N/A
Overall 18/27 = 66% 22/30 =73 %

 

Southern Spice on Urbanspoon

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One response to “Review of Southern Spice Restaurant (South Indian Cuisine)

  1. Canapé October 27, 2011 at 03:57

    I also like to eat radish curry

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