I heard about Spice Curry House in G.O.P. after writing a restaurant review on Masala Cafe, a Pakistani restaurant. Over the past two years, I had it on my “to do” list. I had heard mixed reviews of the restaurant. Last night I experienced it for myself.
I was disappointed.
First, let me say that all of my disappointment may not be the fault of Spice Curry House. We had purchased a coupon online from one of the big discount deal websites here in Turkey. Allegedly, we would get a 98tl meal for only 49tl. Dinner for two would include a choice of 2 entrees, two rices, two appetizers, and two desserts. Upon review of the website, there was no way that could add up to 98tl. At most, it’s value would be 84tl. But perhaps they would include water or tea.
I have no confirmation of whether it was SCH or Grupfoni that falsely advertised the value of the meal. However, the taste of the meal and the size of the portions clearly are determined by the restaurant itself.
We quickly learned that nothing else was included. Our choice of entrees were limited to 4, and we would be served the combination appetizer – 6 pieces of vegetarian selections plus one additional piece of lamb samosa. An extra piece of appetizer. All right! Or so I thought. (Priced at 9tl each without the lamb samosa).
Our appetizers came. 4 pieces each. This signaled to me that we were going to be lucky to get a 49tl meal. We proceeded to order the Lamb Rogan Josh (22TL) and Butter Chicken (18TL), both with Saffron rice (3tl each).
Two sad plates arrived at our table. A small portion of rice and a teeny weeny salad on each – no dressing or slice of lemon. One very small piece of chicken breast and a small helping of the lamb – there couldn’t have been more than 6 tiny chunks of meat.
Inhale. Exhale. Taste it all. Hopefully that would change my mind. Boring. Perhaps my idea of Indian food – which is Americanized – is much different than the Australian or British idea. (I was told the owner is Australian, but the menu screams British.) The butter chicken had a lovely color but absolutely no flavor. The sauce was not creamy. In fact, it had separated on my place with puddles of grease. The small piece of chicken breast was overcooked and very dry. Their claim of being “a real crowd pleaser” just didn’t ring true last night.
The Rogan Josh was also very bland. I could barely make out the curry flavor. It also was not creamy, but filled with little chunks of ingredients. The “medium-hot” temperature was lost on me. There was nothing spicy about it.
A small piece of naan was served with each meal. It wasn’t the best I have ever had. It was certainly the smallest, and it wasn’t exactly naan in the way I know it, but I give them a plus for trying. It’s the first time I have seen it served in Turkey.
At last, the dessert. We were limited to two choices, a “Sticky Toffee Pudding” which oddly enough, was described in Turkish as a date pudding, or a traditional Indian cake known as Carrot Halva. (8tl each) My husband went for the pudding.
Perhaps pudding means different things in different countries. It was nothing like I would describe as pudding. A tiny little piece of dark brown cake with a dark brown icing was served with toffee lightly drizzled on the plate. There was the tiniest little scoop of ice cream served with it. I tasted it. It was so dry that I couldn’t make out the flavor (and I didn’t want to devour my husband’s dessert by eating more). But it seemed like chocolate with toffee to me, no sign of dates.
Since I was still very hungry and not the biggest fan of dessert, I decided to test SCH. I asked if I could have an order of Onion Bhaji instead of dessert, after all, it was the same price. (8tl). Our waiter, who was very nice and spoke English well, but who was also very inattentive, even though there was no one there when we came and only one other couple throughout our meal, looked shocked.
His response, with a mouth gaping open, was to point to the menu and say, “No. The whole point of it is to (silence). I will ask.” I smiled and thanked him and chose the Carrot Cake as an alternative should the chef refuse my simple request.
Within a few minutes, I was served HALF an order of Onion Bhaji. The only thing good about it was that it was piping hot, much hotter than the first round of fried appetizers. Actually there was a second good thing, I loved the chutney. I could do without the yogurt though. A traditional mint chutney would have been welcomed as a second dip.
My after-tizer was actually served before my husband was served his cake. This caused me to wonder about the Chef’s sense of timing. How could it possibly be faster to fry my bhaji before slicing a piece of cake?
And half an order. Seriously? I also started to wonder if we were even getting 49TL worth of food? All of the appetizers were clearly cut back, and I feel confident that our meals and my husband’s dessert were also smaller.
I waited with baited breath to see whether we would be offered a complimentary glass of tea. It was never even suggested that we buy a tea or cup of coffee.
We ordered one glass of wine (8tl) and a soda at the beginning of our meal. I specifically asked for a heavy dry white wine. I was served a freezing cold glass of barely dry, light and fruity wine. And I have this thing about drinking wine from a bottle that wasn’t opened the same day. This clearly wasn’t.
At some point we did get his attention and ordered water, since we had nothing left to drink by the time we received our meals.
Usually, when I review a restaurant, I like to take photos. I opted not to since I didn’t like what I was seeing and I didn’t want to tip them off.
Finally, I was also disappointed that our meals were served on a plate, without the beauty of small Indian crocks that usually hold the meals. The restaurant is clean, but there is nothing fancy about it with it’s picnic-style chairs and tables. There was no care to ensure that everything we needed was on the table. So I sent my husband to the neighboring table for a napkin. As is the case with most restaurants I have been to in Turkey, the waiter never returned to the table to see if we needed anything or how we were enjoying our meals.
For those of you who are thinking that this may just have been an off night for SCH, here is something to consider. A couple of months ago we tried to make a reservation. We were told that we were welcome to come, but that there would only be one cook in the restaurant as they were catering a party at an Embassy. So we didn’t go. Last night, there was a full staff, the owner included.
I am interested in your comments. Have you had a different experience at SCH? I won’t be returning as I left the Indian restaurant hungry – a first for me. Sadly, with the new management of Masala Cafe, I’m not a fan of it anymore either. Are there any other alternatives?
Note – the prices contained in this post are the actual prices on the menu at the time of this writing, some of which are higher than listed on SCH’s website. My suspicions about the size of the portions served are confirmed by the photos of full-sized meals on this 2009 blog post: http://eatingankara.wordpress.com/2009/12/03/spice-curry-house/. A coupon should not mean a smaller portion. The idea of the coupon is to get people in, and the restaurant has the benefit of being paid in advance. The restaurant also holds the cards in the risk – that one may not use the coupon in a timely fashion (usually within 3 months of purchasing it), thereby benefiting by being paid for nothing.