Restaurants are popping up everywhere in JB nowadays, and finding one that sounded interesting and wasn’t too far away was something we couldn’t ignore. Especially if it had a Groupon offer attached. Here’s what Groupon had to say about The Spice Kitchen deal:
Today’s Groupon takes things up a notch with an Asian meal at The Spice Kitchen in Johor Bahru. Choose from:
Meal for 2 people for RM45 instead of RM102.90 (only RM22.50 per person)
Meal for 4 people for RM75 instead of RM205.80 (only RM18.75 per person)
Each group of 2 people gets
Choose 1 from:
Set A (RM88.70 value)
Hot and sour soup
Chicken and egg fried rice
Kung Pao chicken
Set B (RM77.90 value)
Chicken chingari, hariyali, or cheese tikka
Lucknowi Dum lamb biryani
Aloo Ghobi Matar (gravy dish made from potato, cauliflower, and green peas)
Gulab jamun (without ice cream)
Set C (RM74.90 value)
Chicken cheese tikka
Chicken butter Masala
Carrot halwa (dessert made with fresh carrots and milk)
With two adults and two kids, I bought a 4-person meal and, the following week, away we went.
I would describe the restaurant’s decor as “bunker”, due to the concrete interiors. It really works in hot climates and gave the restaurant a modern, edgy air that I liked.
Our first problem, however, came with our order. Note how the Groupon said, “Each group of 2 people gets…”? Well, not so fast. Two of us wanted Set B and two of us wanted Set C. “Oh no,” the manager told us, “we can’t do that.” “But we paid for 4 people,” I said. “Yes, but you didn’t buy two separate Groupons at RM45 each. You only bought one Groupon for RM75, therefore you can only choose one set and you’ll get two of them.”
Now look. Do you want me to come back to your restaurant or not? Because, fella, the full price of the second set we chose was actually cheaper than the first, and we didn’t even choose the most expensive set! If I had been the manager, I would have let it slide because I’m running a hospitality service, it’s a relatively new restaurant and, really, it wouldn’t have cost anything to please the customer. But no, Pompous Ass Manager insisted that we could only choose one set. Okay, two lots of Set B, then.
Two lots of this for four people? I don’t think so… (Objects appear bigger than in reality)
Then, “do you eat spicy food?” “Yes, we eat spicy food.” “Well, it’s not enough to say that, madam,” Pompous Ass tells me. “How spicy do you want it?” Good grief. “Medium,” I finally said. It’s difficult to know what a particular restaurant considers “hot”, so I went with the easiest option. “Medium? Are you sure, madam? We are talking about spicy food here.” “Yes, medium, thank you.” Was it because J is white? Maybe.
By now, I wasn’t in a very good mood. Pompous Ass assured us that the food would be more than enough for four people (“We’ve never had a problem yet, madam!”). It was mostly lovely.
The chicken chingari tikka came straight from the tandoor oven and was well-seasoned but a little too lightly for my taste. It seems that each “Set B” only contained four nuggets, because we got eight nuggets for four people. In fact, the chicken in the picture above was actually a four- or five-person portion, not two. Chew slowly.
The Aloo Ghobi Matar, with chunks of cauliflower and potato, was lovely. The kids liked it and I promised them I’d make more such curries at home.
The Lucknowi Dum lamb biryani felt like it was a cheat. We know, because we benchmark against J’s homemade biryani every chance we get. The real way to make biryani is to combine a cooked saucy lamb mixture with soaked-then-drained uncooked rice and bake them together in the oven until the rice is cooked. It’s nerve-wracking because you’re always wondering if you’ve put in the correct amount of sauce for the amount of rice, but J is a master of this.
I can understand that commercial kitchens like to be a bit more predictable, as it seemed to me that the lamb was cooked separately to the rice and then combined at the end. The rice did taste like it was cooked in meat stock, but there was no real marriage of flavours between the chunks of meat (admittedly tender and quite big) and the rice. J was jealous because the rice grains were more separate than his, but his tastes nicer. The kids agreed.
The extra dish of dhall was delicious and welcome.
But it was also not enough. In fact, we had to order another round of food because three out of four of us were still hungry. In the end, if we hadn’t bought the Groupon, we would have paid RM300 for lunch for two adults, a tween and a young teenager. This is for comparable food that we could buy at our local Indian Muslim streetside joint (Hamid’s Indian Muslim Kitchen) for about RM50.
I think I would have been prepared to be a bit more lenient if Pompous Ass had, at any point, enquired after our meals. But he didn’t. In fact, he made sure he turned away from us when it came time to pay the bill, not looking at us or even making eye contact when presenting the bill or handing J his change. The second he put the bills and coins on the counter, he spun around and walked away. Now that’s just cowardly.
To make up for this, the rest of the staff were terrific. Prompt, courteous, friendly. But, thanks to Pompous Ass, we’re not ever going back. YMMV.
The Spice Kitchen,
Wisma SP Setia, No. S3-0120, Jalan Indah 15/1, Bukit Indah
Great staff, interesting interior, nice food, small portions, condescending attitude
Link to original Groupon deal (not sure how long the link will last)