Friday, April 11, 2014

Spice Market: Asian Cuisine in the Meatpacking District

An exotic ode to Southeast Asian sensuality, Spice Market seduces Manhattan’s Meatpacking District with Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s exotic interpretation of the region’s street cuisine served in a casual, sexy atmosphere. Inspired by the street food Vongerichten enjoyed while traveling in Southeast Asia, Spice Market’s menu emulates dishes that might be found in a Vietnamese street market or a Thai food stall. Regional fish sauces, curries and spices are tweaked to delicious effect in dishes like Chicken Samosas with cilantro-infused yogurt, Steamed Shrimp Dumplings with a lobster and shiitake mushroom sauce, Char Grilled Squid with Cucumber Fennel Salad with Miso Dressing and Braised Chick Peas topped with lemon yogurt and served with crispy naan.

The centrepiece of the restaurant is a fabulous pagoda-style 'asian temple'

The interior of the restaurant is as exotic as the cuisine, with a collection of artifacts imported from Rajastan, South India, Burma and Malaysia creating an interior of Eastern exotica including antique wall carvings, screens and pagodas. Jacques Garcia designed the soaring, Buddhist temple–inspired space, with custom-made colonial style furniture, oriental period pieces and plush curtains complemented by the soft, mood-enhancing glow of Herves Descottes’ lighting. The rich colour palette of violets, indigos, ochres and deep reds balance the former warehouse’s raw timber beams and teak floors from a 200-year-old Bombay palace. The space is stunning. So are the servers — Alpana Bawa created the backless outfits the servers wear, and thanks to Jean-Georges Vongerichten's delicious twists on everything from fish cakes to samosas, it's no wonder Spice Market is still packed more than a decade after opening. Spice Market is fun and sexy, and fits perfectly in New York City's hip Meatpacking District. If only the music wasn't so ear-thumpingy loud...

The interior has an exotic ambiance with richly coloured, textured finishings

The soft, mood-enhancing glow of Herves Descottes’ lighting

Spice Market leather bound menu with Malaysian graphic detail

The menu features a tempting array of Asian-inspired street food style dishes

The dining is tight and dimly lit, but full of atmosphere

Cilantro Cooler: a mix of Tequila and fresh Cilantro with a 'float' of beer as a finish

Wooden bowls of fresh pappadam are served with a spicy chilli sauce

Spicy Chicken Samosas with cilantro yogurt sauce

Grilled Chicken Satays with Spiced Peanut Sauce

Steamed Shrimp Dumplings with a lobster and shiitake mushroom sauce

Grilled Squid and Cucumber Fennel Salad with Miso Dressing

Braised Chick Peas topped with lemon yogurt and served with crispy naan

Warm crispy naan are served with the Chickpea Curry

Vietnamese Chicken Curry Snap Peas and Cilantro

Ginger Fried Rice topped with garlic and ginger-crusted fried 'dragon' egg

Executive Sous Chef Anthony Ricco takes care of the day-to-day culinary demands at Spice Market

Celebrity chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten

Jean-Georges Vongerichten's cookbook 'Asian Flavours of Jean-Georges, on sale at Spice Market 

Ginger Fried Rice
Serves 4
Recipe courtesy Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten

1/2 cup vegetable oil  
4 cups day-old cooked jasmine rice, at room temperature
2 tbsp minced garlic  
2 tsp sesame oil
2 tbsp minced fresh ginger  
4 tsp soy sauce
1 pinch of salt, to taste  
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 cups thinly sliced leeks, white and pale green parts only  
4 large eggs

Melt half the fat in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and ginger and season lightly with salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp and browned. Drain on paper towels and set aside.

Meanwhile, melt the remaining fat in a large deep skillet over ­medium-­low heat, then add the leeks. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes. They should be very tender, but not browned. Season to taste with salt.

Add the rice and cook, stirring well, until heated through. Season to taste with salt, then remove from the heat. Put a quarter of the rice into a small bowl and gently press down into the bowl. Invert the bowl onto a serving plate. The rice will unmold in a small dome. Drizzle 1/2 teaspoon of the sesame oil and 1 teaspoon of the soy sauce around the mound of rice. Repeat with the remaining rice. Put the grape seed oil in a nonstick skillet and fry the eggs, ­sunny-­side up, until the edges are set, but the yolk is still runny.

To serve, put the eggs on top of the mounds of rice; top each mound of rice and egg with some of the garlic- ginger crisps and serve immediately.

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