2241 148th Ave NE
Bellevue WA 98007
Spice Things Up at the Spice Route
By: Bryan R
A name like Spice Route brings to mind an image of camel-drawn caravans laden with exotic wares crossing a dusty desert in the company of nomads. Although the restaurant is a bit less romantic than its namesake, Spice Route still has much to offer. Located in a nondescript strip mall on the edge of Bellevue, Spice Route blended in almost perfectly with its surroundings. Parking was plentiful, and as we approached the entrance, the busy in and out flow of patrons looked encouraging. As soon as we entered, our eyes needed a moment to adjust to the soft, subtle lighting. The interior design of Spice Route was modern and chic with accents such as high, spacious ceilings; track lighting; dark, bold colors; and minimalist decorative touches. In the back, there was a rectangular wooden floor that appeared to be a dance or karaoke stage. During the lunch hours, Spice Route offers a popular lunch buffet, so shortly after taking our seats we set course to the steaming trays of food.
Billing itself as a fusion of northern and southern Indian cuisine, Spice Route offered an impressive array of edibles in its lunch buffet, ranging from vegetarian options such as Vegetable Pakora to meaty dishes like the Lamb Saag. After considering our options, we returned to our tables with a veritable bounty of spicy goodness. The Veggie Pakora (little mixed vegetable fritters cooked to a crisp) was, as one reviewer commented, among the best -if not the best- pakora around. Another tasty vegetable dish, a specialty of the chef, was the Cucumber Kootu accented with coconut and chili spices. We also made sure to sample the Paneer Tikka Masala, which included homemade cottage cheese in a tomato sauce. Though tasty, several of the reviewers found the cheese to be a bit too firm and the overall dish a little bland.
We also had the opportunity to sample several chicken dishes such as the Chicken Tikka Masala. Made of chicken cooked in a tomato and butter sauce, we all found it to be tasty and especially good when served over rice. A particularly delectable treat was the Tandoori Chicken, a classic tandoor oven-roasted dish. Marinated in a yogurt-based mixture of spices such as garlic, ginger, cumin, and cayenne, the mouthwatering chicken came out with just the right crispy texture and intense flavors. It was a favorite of all our reviewers and helped highlight a common trend in nearly all the fare available at Spice Route: they aren't shy about spicing up their dishes. This isn't to say that the dishes are hot (although some certainly are) but, instead, they are flavorful and powerful tasting. It's a pleasant change of pace from other buffets that have toned down their cuisine to appeal to the lowest common denominator at the sacrifice of zing. Another dish that wasn't sheepish with the spice was the Lamb Saag. Grant, our resident lamb connoisseur, was especially keen on sampling the lamb and found it was excellently prepared and simply loaded with the flavors of saffron, paprika and cumin.
For dessert, Spice Route offered a tasty south Indian specialty known as Vermicelli Payasam. This sweet dish was a custard and milk based dessert flavored with ghee and dried fruit and has the best mouthfeel when served cool. It was delicious and definitely worth seconds.
Spice Route had a few more bonuses in store for us; first, for what ultimately was an excellent Indian lunch buffet, at $7.95 per person it was also one of the most affordable buffets in the area. The service was quick and professional and even though the dining area was pretty crowded we felt looked after. In addition, all the meats are prepared in the Halaal tradition which is the Islamic legal convention regarding the preparation and handling of meat (it is somewhat similar to the Jewish Kosher laws). There are a few helpful hints, however; Spice Route is located close to several Microsoft campuses, so the lunchtime rush can make things a little crowded. But even those who had to wait for a table did not have to tarry for long. And lastly, parking is no problem making Spice Route perfect for a quick, but incredibly tasty, lunch.
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