While my love for Indian food is great, I admit I don’t have that much depth (not that I ever would, I’m no Indian food expert obviously). Other than your chicken tikka masala, naan, and maybe some tandoori chicken my knowledge of Indian food is as superficial as it gets. Part of it is because good Indian restaurants are hard to find, and I’ve managed to be spoiled by Indian families giving me some of their homemade food. I’ve only ever been to three Indian restaurants in my lifetime: Kohinoor in Altamonte Springs, Memories of India II in Lake Mary, and Kabab House in Gainesville. All have met or exceeded expectations, although I haven’t been to either Kohinoor or Memories in years…so I could be wrong.
So, naturally, when I heard about iSpice in Altamonte I was kind of shocked and appalled. Shocked because the prices were actually REASONABLE (unlike all three restaurants I’ve been to where the price for a dish was STARTING at $10). But appalled because it was in a food court in the Altamonte Mall. Food court eateries in general don’t engender the best thoughts…so I was a little wary. Not to mention, because of a lot of the cream/sauce-based dishes of Indian food, if it’s even lukewarm it’s not the best to eat…so temperature management is key. Not that it isn’t key in ANY type of food…but you precipitously lose more excitement with Indian food when eaten lukewarm compared to other foods.
You can look on iSpice’s website at ispiceusa.com for details of their menu, but they offer a good selection of vegetarian and meat offerings. (The meat varies, but chicken predominates the menu). I got the combo meal, which includes one meat choice, one veggie choice and either basmati rice or samosas. I got the vegetable korma (never had a korma before, sadly) and my favorite Indian type of prepared meat: chicken tikka masala. I was begging for samosas, but unfortunately they were making a fresh batch and I’d have to wait a few minutes. I was hungry, so I didn’t mind settling for the rice..and I appreciate the fact that at least they were somewhat making something to order (kinda sorta).
(Now I should warn everyone, my standard of comparison for this review is Kabab House in Gainesville. I use this because a lot of Indians I’ve talked to who have gone to Kabab say that Kabab has come very close to their Mom’s cooking…to me, that seems good enough to use Kabab as a standard).
The veggie korma was excellent…nothing to complain about. Vegetables were perfectly cooked, and the sauce was excellent, if not a bit spicy (funny enough it was spicier than the tikka masala). It was a wonderful introduction to korma, and if I were ever EVER to become a vegetarian, I pray that I be allowed to eat veggie korma. I could eat it all day. The only negative was that the sauce was lukewarm, although the spice helped me to forget it.
The chicken tikka masala wasn’t necessarily disappointing…but, rather, a victim of food court style preparation. Since you’re assuming buffet style, the meat and everything else needs to be prepared beforehand rather than being made to order. As such, the meat turned out to be a little more tough (not terribly though), more tough than I would’ve preferred (Kabab’s has ALWAYS come out tender). The sauce was also lukewarm, and as such I was kind of let down. I was happy my Indian tastebuds were satisfied…but at the same time I came out wanting a little bit more.
As an afterthought, there was nothing special about the naan. A little burnt, and I can’t tell if this was freshly made naan, or naan bought from Publix. My mind is trying to convince me it’s the latter, but I can’t really confidently say that just yet.
But for $5.99…I mean honestly you can’t beat it. Just look at the picture below and you’ll see how much food you get.
Pros: CHEAP (therefore, needs to come to Gainesville), good food…for a food court.
Cons: Slightly above average food…for Indian food. I’m still wanting my samosas.