Spice up your usual restaurant routine with a stop at Spice Affair in Beverly Hills. This Indian restaurant offers a romantic atmosphere with dim lights and cozy booths, as well as exciting flavors with California ingredients kicked up a notch with traditional northern and southern Indian spices.
For drinks, my husband and I started the evening with two refreshing craft cocktails: the Asian pear mojito made with St. George pear brandy, fresh mint, lemon and a bright red strawberry for garnish, and the Mumbai mule made with premium Hangar 1 vodka, Domaine de Canton, squeeze of lime, Bundaberg ginger beer and cardamom bitters. For those looking for nonalcoholic beverages, the menu includes a black grape and mint cooler, and a smoked pineapple quencher. The pineapple is tandoori-fired and finished with roasted cumin.
Spice Affair features attentive service for indecisive diners unfamiliar with northern and southern Indian cuisine. Servers are happy to recommend a few of the signature dishes based on a diner’s taste preference. Both vegetarians and meat lovers will enjoy the chefs’ judicious use of spices and sauces breathing new life into roasted meats, potatoes, cauliflower, peas and eggplant. For those following gluten-free and vegan diets, there are plenty of plates accommodating those dietary restrictions as well.
As recommended by our server, we tried the crispy cauliflower appetizer to start our meal, which was bathed in a tangy coconut sauce. However, the most visually spectacular dish of the night was the avocado bhel presented in a perfect cylindrical stack with spiced mashed potatoes, a thick layer of smooth avocado, puffed rice and an assortment of chutneys. It arrived with a side of microgreens and a handful of pomegranate seeds for a pop of red. The dish hit the right balance of smooth and crunchy, as well as earthy and a touch of sweetness.
A bowl of butter chicken arrived next, which featured a tomato-based sauce with shredded tandoori chicken and a slew of spices to add a touch of tingling heat to the spicy, sour and sweet sauce.
We also ordered the sesame eggplant dish with tender baby eggplants mixed with a tomato and tamarind sauce, caramelized onions, chopped almonds and peanuts, and a generous sprinkling of sesame seeds on top. It was delicious.
Heartier dishes include Konkan lamb vindaloo and a tender braised lamb shank enhanced with spices.
We enjoyed scooping the sauces with naan, the Indian flatbread. At Spice Affair, they make three different types: butter naan; olive and thyme; and garlic and chives. The chefs also prepare four different Punjabi variations of naan, called kulcha, that include potato and peas paneer; onion and gorgonzola; wild mushroom; and cumin. For another bread option, there’s the layered laccha paratha, a popular shallow-fried north Indian flatbread that can be ordered plain or with mint.
We finished the meal with the ras malai cottage cheese dumplings in saffron milk and topped with chopped pistachios, and the gulabo, the rose-flavored Indian ice cream, which I preferred. The sweet ice cream was cut into half-inch slices instead of scooped, and was drizzled with raspberry sauce and a tart raspberry for decoration.
Whether it’s date night or you’re looking to break your routine, dining at Spice Affair in Beverly Hills is an epicurean experience that you will want to revisit again.
Spice Affair is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner starting at 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and for dinner from 5 p.m. to closing. On Saturday and Sunday, they offer a weekend brunch for $39.95 per person from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30. $$$ 50 N. La Cienega Blvd., #120, (310)400-6800.