Spice India: A Celebration of Taste

The cure for boring food is Spice India! The two of us have become fussy diners because we are jaded by the mediocrity pandemic to mass-produced chain restaurant food. We demand exciting food and competent service at a reasonable price, and these days that is getting near impossible to find. But we found it!

The Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania offers a new culinary adventure through the exotic flavours of India at Spice India, where your senses will be seduced by the aromatic dishes expertly prepared by professional five-star chefs, trained and practiced in India. Spice India, owned and operated by Mr. Atul Agrawal, can be found in two locations, one convenient to the shopping corridor of MacArthur Rd. in Whitehall and one further east, just off of Rt. 33 (the addresses are below). Our personal experience is that the quality of the food masterfully prepared and presented is better than that of the high-priced ritzy restaurants of Manhattan, and only a fraction of the cost! Mr. Rawat (chef) and Mr. Singh (tandoori chef) in Whitehall, and Melvin (chef) and Bilal (tandoori chef) on Rt. 33 will amaze you with their culinary skill. The dishes that they serve up are a tantalizing blend of perfectly balanced Fresh ingredients combined with a talent more akin to magic than cookery.

The menu of Spice India is diverse and extensive. We tried the clear chicken soup as an appetizer, and for the entree, we chose the Chicken Tikka Masala, the Chicken Saagwala, and the Paneer Tikka Masala with garlic naan and white basmati rice. The chicken soup was light and very flavourful, a surprising burst of cilantro and turmeric that makes ordinary chicken soup, well, ordinary. The complementary popadam are served with three flavours of chutney, and it was difficult to avoid gobbling down too many of those before the main meal arrived, because their unique flavours were so temptingly tasty.

The entrees were brought out promptly by the efficient and friendly wait staff who are always cheerful and very knowledgeable about the menu. (Our servers were Winnie and Windy in Whitehall, and Amarjeet on 33 respectively.) Spice India is the real deal: we have travelled all up and down the east coast, and we always make it a point to look for Indian restaurants (Indian is one of our favourite cuisines), but the best, by far, is right here in your backyard!

We were really too full for dessert, but Raman, the manager of the Whitehall location, treated us to a complementary sweet rice dessert and Indian Masala Hot Tea, which we couldn’t refuse! It was a delightful way to subdue the spice of our meal. But our meal was more than dietary sustenance: it was a work of art!

Those of sensitive palate or fragile digestion need not fear an overload of heat in their menu selections. We have several friends who say they stay away from Indian food because they cannot tolerate the burning spiciness they assume will assault their taste buds. Their hesitation is unnecessary, since the accommodating staff of Spice India will prepare your dish as mild or as spicy as you like. In fact, the chefs will always err on the side of caution by tending to add less heat rather than more.

We, personally, are of the opinion that if our food doesn’t bring tears to our eyes and perspiration to our nose, it’s not hot enough. We like our food so spicy-hot that if you spill some on the floor, it will burn a hole right through it! It took a while for us to convince the kitchen to ramp up the heat, and to demonstrate that we really were as crazy about spicy food as we claimed. I suppose the chefs and managers were merely attempting to save us from ourselves.

After our third or fourth visit, when we started to get to know the staff a little bit better, we pleaded for the burning heat that only Indian food can provide. The Indians looked at one another, shrugged (shaking their heads in disbelief). Soheil (the manager on Rt. 33) watched the chef prepare our fiery food, and when he came to the table to ask us how we liked it, he admitted that even he was afraid to take a taste! Melvin and Bilal whipped up a delicious Chicken Tikka Masala blazing with flavour and spice that would have scalded the devil himself – but we were in heaven! The chefs are able to bring out the heat without permitting it to overwhelm the rest of the flavour. Eating at Spice India is a celebration of taste!

Spice India provides an extensive selection of vegetarian options for those who abstain from eating meat. And, for those who either don’t know a whole lot about Indian food and want to sample a variety, or those who simply cannot decide what to order because there are so many tasty options on the menu, there is a buffet served at lunchtime every day and at dinnertime on Mondays and Wednesdays. (The a-la-carte menu is available at all times.) The level of spiciness of the concoctions on the buffet is extremely gentle, so you need not fear a painful surprise. It is a great opportunity to try something new or to introduce someone to the wonderful variety of Indian cuisine.

Of course the quality of the food and service is always top priority in any dining event, but the atmosphere of the restaurant undeniably contributes to the overall enjoyment of the experience. The decoration and mood of the two Spice Indias are very different, yet both share a simple elegance that tastefully avoids clutter and vulgar gaud. The Whitehall location is an older building that was renovated for its new occupant. The hardwood floors and white tablecloths lit with ambient light create a classy and relaxed environment. A few authentic Indian artworks make the cultural immersion of the dining experience complete. The location on 33 is a building of new construction. The entire front of the restaurant is a wall of glass that lets light pour in to the cheerful dining room. The walls are painted a vibrant array of bold primary colours and decorated sparsely with mirrored tiles. The simplicity of the restaurant is a nice contrast to the complexity of the cuisine.

Both restaurants are relatively small, but we’ve never had to wait for a seat. If you intend to take a larger party to Spice India, a reservation is advisable. Spice India is also able to accommodate private parties if you make arrangements in advance. And now, you can enjoy “Music ‘N Spice” every Thursday and Friday evening.

We have become such regular visitors to both locations of Spice India, and we have become so addicted to our favourite dishes (that we order time and time again), that Winnie, Windy and Amarjeet (our regular servers) as well as the two very attentive and competent managers, Raman (in Whitehall) and Soheil (on 33) know what we are likely to order before we actually order it! It is impossible to get bored with such finely prepared dishes and service that is not just competent but outstanding.

We thank Mr. Atul Agrawal, the owner of Spice India, for bringing this incredible food to the Lehigh Valley, and for his generosity in entertaining us. He should be proud of the fine team of chefs, managers and servers that keep us coming back for more (and more and more). Even if you don’t live nearby, a dining experience at Spice India is worth the trip!

VISIT SPICE INDIA at these locations:

2407 Mickley Ave. OR 3812 Easton Nazareth Highway

Whitehall, PA 18052 Lower Nazareth, PA 18045

Ph: 610-432-0980 Ph: 610-365-7400

For more information, visit http://www.spiceindia.us

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