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Cafe Spice, Casual Indian at Rio Washington Center - Gaithersburg - Closed

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So there I was this morning sitting in my office, sipping my first coffee of the day, reading the accumulated e-mails from last night, wondering what I wanted to have for lunch today.

(Mrs JPW thinks I'm nuts for this. At the breakfast table I always start thinking about lunch, right now I'm thinking about what I want to do for dinner.)

I was sick of the lunch rut I'd fallen into -- pho at Pho Nguyen, Pizza or a hoagie at Giuseppe's, Gyro at Tribes Grill, salad bar at Safeway -- and needed a change. The light clicked on - somewhere in the Post I remember seeing notice of Cafe Spice. I had to pick up baby wipes for Peanut at the Target out there anyways, so why not? It's a small chain with 5 stores around NYC and a couple in Philly.

I walked in and it was pretty. But pretty like a Playboy centerfold -- artificial, airbrushed, and without a hint of soul or apparent intelligence.

The service was earnest. And by earnest I mean a fresh faced teen from Iowa or some such who butchered all the Indian dish names and tried to hard sell me on more dishes at every possible moment. To be frank, he and the service were reminiscent more of TGIFriday's than even a mallified Indian restaurant.

After fending off his frontal assaults on my ordering preference, I successfully ordered the Lamb Vindaloo platter.

Again pretty. The lamb was accompanied on the platter with a stew of vegetables ("vegetable of the day!!!" I was told, but it looked like about 7 different plants were in the bowl. The could serve the same thing every day and claim it was a different vegetable), lentils in enough sauce that it was more lentil soup than anything, some decent basmati rice, an undressed salad of cabbage, cucumber, and carrots; and some serviceable naan (but then again how hard is it to make decent naan).

Given that it's a cold dreary day I wanted the vindaloo to heat me up. Alas, the heat had been thoroughly Americanized. We've all had vindaloo that was so hot that it killed off any other taste, this was not that hot at all, but there still wasn't much else that could be tasted. Once I again, it was more like spicy lamb soup than anything else.

As I walked out, I tried to think of why this seemed so familiar to me.
Average Americanized food - check.
Overdesigned interior - check
Corporate service - check
Decent, but in no facet spectacular experience - check

"Holy Toledo Batman!", I internally exclaimed, "I just ate at the Indian version of Tara Thai!"

PS - I got lost in the parking garage

Coming next week -- "Just because I'm the only person here doesn't mean I want you breathing over my shoulder every 15 seconds!! Back off!"

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Whoa.  Thanks for the report.  We'll stick with Bombay Bistro, thanks.(which is only a short drive from your office, Joe, and has an awesome lunch buffet).

I know, but I was at Rio anyways.

I go there about once a month when the mood hits. Usually drive past it on my way for pizza at Giuseppe's.

The tandoori chicken is quite good.

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The new Indian place in Rio Shopping Center.

Comments, Opinions?

I have a friend that wants to try it.

Let me know.


Thanks for swapping this into the old post - Doesn't sound promising but any updates.

Edited by hm212
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Thanks for swapping this into the old post - Doesn't sound promising but any updates.

Went here Friday night with friends out of convenience. Third time here and the only real positive each time is that it's not food I regularly cook myself. Different flavors but less depth of flavor than this very amateur cook can toss together himself. Lentil mush as a side had no flavor at all. If you're mentally prepared for chain Indian food to act as a backdrop of engaging conversation with friends, you won't be upset you went, but nothing to get scraping-the-bottom-of-contentment about. Naan's pretty good though.



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