Normally an intimate space where you could take a first date and feel unique and clever, Spice Room is an equally good option for a home date while restaurant dining rooms remain closed. That's in part because many Indian dishes travel well: Vegetables and proteins arrive already mingled with divine sauces and curry blends (which is also why Indian buffets tend to fare better than other cuisines). Rice, the curry vehicle, can easily be meted out to taste for each person sharing the meal. And the cuisine adapts beautifully for vegetarians, vegans and gluten-free diners without leaving omnivores and bread-heads like myself lusting after something more substantial.
For our Spice Room home Indian feast, my roommates and I opted for four curry dishes we knew would carry us through the week (and, it turns out, beyond). First, the old standby: saag. I have to quote the website here, which matches my sentiments exactly, “It’s hard not to love the rich, thick, creamy spinach.” Add cubes of fresh Indian cheese to the mix — making it saag paneer — and you have yourself a perfect feel-good comfort food. In addition to saag paneer ($13), Spice Room offers a gamut of proteins and veggies that can be included in the saag base, including potato, chickpeas, daal (usually split lentils), tofu and mushroom (all for $13), and chicken ($15), lamb ($17), shrimp ($18) or salmon ($19). So you could order this dish once a week for almost three months and never have a repeat.
My roommates generally eschew goat and lamb, but it's one of my favorites, so I ordered lamb korma to satisfy my own craving — and in hopes that they would be converts. The korma, with its “royal cream gravy," crunchy almonds and sweet raisin bursts, wasn't everyone's favorite, but it was by far the most interesting. Of similar hue, the baigan bharta (mashed eggplant, $14), was mostly of one texture, despite the many ingredients, and probably did best in our third-day soup-making extravaganza, in which we added potatoes and more coconut milk to the mix.
Which brings me to my final point. I have ordered from Spice Room a few times in the past, and I can’t say for certain that I recall the spice level chosen, but I can definitely say that medium gave every one of us a run for our money. But diluted with other ingredients in our leftover soup, the heat was toned down toward the more palatable end of the Scoville scale, allowing us to enjoy everything for several days of lunches.
When you order, don't skimp on the naan. Since we’re all in such close quarters these days, I probably shouldn’t recommend the garlic naan, but I do; it’s delicious. If I could do it again, I would have left off a curry and sprung for one of Spice Room’s smaller dishes and appetizers, such as the mulligatawny soup or ten-piece pani puri ($7), delicately fried puffs filled with chickpeas, potatoes and spicy-sour mint water (accompanied by tamarind chutney). I’d also probably go straight for the Kashmiri rogan josh (usually made with goat) and keep it all to myself.
Spice Room Neighborhood Indian Bistro is located at 3127 West 38th Avenue and is open for carryout and delivery from noon to 9 p.m every day but Tuesday. Call or order online for the easiest touch-free purchase.