All Spice Is All Charm

Ahi tuna atop pickled watermelon at All Spice.

In a seemingly incongruous locale tucked back from busy El Camino Real in San Mateo sits a quaint 1906 Victorian house, where dynamic, modern Indian fare is now being created.

All Spice, which opened in November, is the latest venture by Chef Sachin Chopra, formerly of Sakoon in Mountain View, Mantra in Palo Alto, Amber India in San Jose, and Daniel in New York. It’s also the first time Chopra has partnered with his wife, Shoshana Wolff, in a restaurant venture.

Recently, I was invited to be a guest of the restaurant, which is a warren of small rooms that lend a feeling of warmth and intimacy.

Wolff greets you at the door with a cheery welcome. With a masters in Viticulture and Enology from the University of California at Davis, Wolff also is a wine-maker, growing her own grapes at her family’s vineyard in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Her Wolff & Father Wines, which she hopes to pour at the restaurant in the near future, will focus on Merlot and Zinfandel. At first thought, you might think those substantial reds jarring with Indian cuisine, but Wolff assures that they go exceedingly well with her husband’s style of cooking, which is boldly flavored but not at all searing in heat.

When I visited, the restaurant was still awaiting its wine and beer license, but offering a small, but well-crafted list of non-alcoholic beverages. I enjoyed a rosemary-infused pink grapefruit punch so much that I can’t wait to try making it at home.

Lentil-battered potato fritters show up as an amuse bouche.

After we were seated, our convivial server brought an amuse of lentil-battered potatoes with Indian-style aioli. The potato fritters were crisp on the outside, creamy within, and with bits of salty, porky bacon hidden inside.

Indian-style chicken wings with fall-off-the-bone tenderness.

My husband started with the star anise and fennel confit chicken wings ($9), a generous portion that is probably best shared. Fragrant with lemongrass and yuzu, as well as a red chili sauce, the wings weren’t crisp-fried like the Buffalo-version. Instead, the wings were braised until the meat was pull-away tender. It’s a messy dish, but one you’ll be happy to dig into.

My ahi tuna ($12) was beautifully arranged on an elongated plate to look almost like nigiri sushi, only the rice was replaced by pretty-in-pink pickled watermelon batons. The combination was refreshing and quite tangy.

Juicy rack of lamb wrapped in bacon.

Seabass in a creamy, tomato-curry sauce.

My husband’s bacon-wrapped rack of lamb ($23) was extraordinarily tender and enhanced by a sweet, intense sun-dried tomato red chili sauce.

My seabass ($25) came roasted with creamy potato coins and Brussels sprouts, accented with a creamy tomato curry that was complex and with a mild bite of heat.

For dessert, we tried the warm date and walnut cake ($8). The large, tender cake was brushed with a sticky lemon-ginger glaze. Alongside was a scoop of bergamot-clove ice cream. We also enjoyed the dark chocolate kulfi ($7) glammed up with silver leaf. The Indian-version of ice cream made from cooked-down milk is less airy than the American version. It’s wonderfully dense and rich — bordering on ganache-like.

Warm date and walnut cake.

Chocolate kulfi decorated with silver leaf.

At the end of the meal, the check is presented in a lovely, hand-painted hinged box that Chopra’s mother picked out in India.

Like so many gestures at this little Victorian, it’s full of finesse and charm.

Getting a check has never been such a pretty experience.

More: My Story on Chef Sachin Chopra

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Date: Thursday, 17. March 2011 5:25
Trackback: Trackback-URL Category: Chefs, General, Restaurants, Wine

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17 comments

  1. 1

    What a decadent meal! And you hit so many different flavors and textures with each course. Bet your taste buds were dancing.

  2. 2

    Everything looks amazing esp the chicken wings =)

  3. 3

    Everything looks so good especially the Ahi on top of the watermelon! I love the combination of fish and melon!

  4. 4

    That ahi tuna was sure lovely, huh? I loved the wings too, but not sure which one I like better…that or the ones from the Attic. ;)

  5. 5

    Sounds like a wonderful dining experience. As always, your pictures make me want to bite into my laptop!

  6. 6

    That looks delicious-like Indian food with a real twist but with real Indian touches. And hubby would love the red wine matching here which as you say you don’t often see with Indian food!

  7. 7

    I love reading your restaurant reviews, Carolyn. Makes me sort of feel like we got to walk right in that door with you :-)

    And, is that kulfi garnished with something like caramelized/candied macadamia nuts? Talk about gilding the lily!

    I repeat…”Wow!”

  8. 8

    a perfect evening, i love the watermelon with the ahi, thanks for sharing,

    sweetlife

  9. 9

    Carroll: You have a good eye. Yes, that garnish is macadamia brittle kicked up with tandoori spices. Mmmm!

  10. 10

    Carolyn,

    Did they take over the former Dining Room space? It seems to fit the description you gave.

  11. 11

    The ahi sounds great especially! The watermelon is a great combination I think.

  12. 12

    Lisa H.: It was indeed the former Dining Room. It also used to house Gator’s Back Porch BBQ.

  13. 13

    I have heard fantastic things about this place, but when you put the pictures with it, that’s taking it to a new level. Just amazing looking.

  14. 14

    For such a gourmet place, I’m surprised at the (fairly reasonable) prices! Looks like a superb restaurant.

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    […] courtesy of: Yelpers, Food Gal and AllSpice.    Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeOne blogger likes this post. Posted […]

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