1084 Grand Ave. Baldwin, NY 516-489-7460
Spices is a continental restaurant and bar. Which continent? More than one. You can pick penne alla vodka or jerk chicken, curry goat or cheeseburger, quesadilla or salmon teriyaki. Maybe all. It's a little United Nations, an all-purpose stop under chef Norval McKenzie. A lot of the food is fine; service, friendly if not always sharp; and the mood, very hospitable.
The gathering place also attracts regulars with a reggae band on Fridays, karaoke on Thursdays and R&B on Wednesdays. The music and the dining occur in a modestly appointed dining room that has been refreshed but not entirely updated.
"Sugar and spice" shrimp delivers a sweet-tart mouthful, with jumbos tinted via turmeric and spiked with garlic. "Mr. Chin Calamari" knows crunch, and has a gingery Jamaican-Chinese accent. And the tender jerk chicken wings alight moderately spiced. McKenzie's lump-meat crab cake, flecked with red pepper and scallion, arrives tastefully atop a sweet-corn riff on sauce rémoulade.
The "Ja-Mex" quesadilla goes inland from the Caribbean for a casual starter filled with jerk chicken, sour cream and melted cheese. The satisfying pear-and-Gorgonzola cheese salad includes mixed greens, walnuts, honey and a shallot vinaigrette. Oxtail with rice, peas and sauteed vegetables; and goat in a mild curry with rice and vegetables are Friday and Saturday specials, bony and flavorful.
"Spices feast" brings together broiled stuffed lobster; broiled scallops; shrimp, scampi-style; a crab cake and broiled tilapia. "Rote grutze," warm berries under the influence of Grand Marnier, balsamic vinegar and vanilla ice cream; and the individual, warm-center chocolate cake lead the desserts.
The pan-fried red snapper is overdone; stuffed mushrooms, overorchestrated. Limp apple strudel, so-so rum-and-raisin cheesecake.
THE BOTTOM LINE
A refreshing, new start.
Reviewed by Peter M. Gianotti, 11/7/08.Hours: Open Tuesday, 4-11 p.m.; Wednesday to Saturday, 4 p.m.-midnight; Sunday, 4-9 p.m. Closed Monday. Ambience: Good Service: Good Credit cards: Accepted Accessibility: One-level dining area.