One of the drawbacks of living in India for 3 years is that I am now a self proclaimed curry snob and have become extremely fussy about Indian food I eat anywhere else. Annoying? Maybe, but at least I’m honest!
Even growing up in England, where there is a large Indian population and curry houses are prevalent – you quickly learn that a good Indian meal is comprised of fresh, simple elements and shouldn’t cost the earth. Sure there will be times when only gourmet will do and there are tantalizing Michelin ranked restaurants such as Benares (London), Tusli (NYC) and even Bukhara in Delhi (a favorite of Bill Clinton no less) to cater for you on those occasions. When moving to DC, I was disheartened to find plenty of the expensive, fine-dining variety, but a genuine lack of well priced, authentic Indian restaurants serving decent food.
Imagine my disappointment! I move from Bombay where I was eating scrumptious handmade curry for $5 and arrive in Georgetown, where I am handed a bill for a somewhat greasy, under-spiced, over-creamed, distinctly unauthentic meal for $50. Excuse me? How hard can it be to find a decent curry in this town?
And then, one day, when visiting my house-to-be in the up and coming neighborhood of Hyattsville, just outside the DC line… it happens. I see this vibrant logo for Spice 6 Cafe, and upon closer inspection, a menu chock-full with heart tingling favorites from my days in Bombay, complete with colorful photos of delicious looking Indian street food. OK. I’m in!
Once inside, the best way to describe Spice 6 is “like an Indian version of Chipotle”. But this is not in any way meant to be disparaging, merely an analogy to the process of choosing a meal style, protein, sauce, veggies and salad toppings as you move down a line with all of the piping hot ingredients simmering before your eyes.
One great choice is the naan wrap, which you can stuff with all sorts of things. First you start with a strong base of rice, salad and chutneys. Then comes your choice of main filling: chicken, lamb, veggies or juicy (oh so juicy) tofu. Finally layer that with Korma, Spinach, spicy Tikka Masala or the slightly milder and sweeter Kadai curry sauce. The naan itself is cooked in their in-house tandoor: a custom made clay oven housed in their open kitchen where you can watch them knead and bake the traditional Indian flat bread to perfection.
There’s also salad and rice bowls, another familiar approach to this sort of self assemble meal and interestingly a naan pizza, allowing those not yet 100% in step with Indian cuisine to try the flavors while still retaining a slice of America.
Some of the best items on this menu are the street food style sides. Try the Samosa Chat – crispy, fried triangles of pastry filled with spicy vegetables covered in tamarind & mint chutney, cilantro and pop-in-your mouth garbanzo beans. Pair this with their chai-spiced Mango lassi (a yoghurt and fruit blended drink designed to cool your palate from all those delicious spices). I’ve been back just for this dangerously good duo, many times since.
Finally, don’t pass over the sweet stuff! Indian desserts are generally extremely sugary and not everyone’s cup of tea, but here they offer the two reigning champions that will appeal to even those not usually sweet of tooth. Gulab Jamun – a deep fried dough ball steeped in fragrant sugar syrup – or as Ken described it “ It’s like a mapley, waffley, pancake ball!” Also Malai Kulfi – the delicately flavored ice cream of the Indian subcontinent, a version of which you can find a recipe for on my blog.
I’m thrilled Spice 6 has arrived- the concept is smart, the food is excellent and it’s great value. I hope Vik Sing, the owner has plans to go on and open more branches. For now, I can be smug that this will be my new local diner.
Overall Rating: 8/10
5501 Baltimore Ave, #107
Hyattsville. MD – 20781
Hours: 11 am – 10 pm daily