• Spice Affair Brings Contemporary Indian Cuisine & Private Dining to Beverly Hills

     
    POSTED September 18, 2015
     
  • Spice Affair Brings Contemporary Indian Cuisine & Private Dining to Beverly Hills

     
    POSTED September 18, 2015
     
  • Spice Affair Brings Contemporary Indian Cuisine & Private Dining to Beverly Hills

     
    POSTED September 18, 2015
     

There are lots of familiar options for group dining in Beverly Hills, from hotel banquet rooms to iconic restaurants. But you won’t want to overlook a new addition to the neighborhood, the private dining rooms at Spice Affair, a beautiful new restaurant on La Cienega Boulevard’s Restaurant Row that serves contemporary, California-influenced Indian food.

When I was invited to a press dinner at Spice Affair, the first revelation was the main dining room, a sleek elegant space that looks more like an upscale steakhouse than a traditional Indian restaurant. The references to India are there, in a color palette that evokes the colors of Indian culinary spices and in other subtle elements. 

“We wanted the décor to capture the complete sensory package of Spice Affair,” says co-owner Sonia Batra. “Exotic tones like saffron, gold, and cinnamon encourage an intimate ambiance, while textured accent walls represent natural movement of the wind and fire, and the extravagant water feature just outside the entrance sets the stage for a high sensory experience.”

What you don’t glimpse from the lounge (offering a terrific 5-8 p.m. Happy Hour menu of bites and beverages) or this dining room are the two lovely private-event spaces. The light-filled Spice Ballroom is 2,800 square feet, with a private entrance and restrooms, a full-service bar, high ceilings and gorgeous chandeliers; it can accommodate 200 for a seated dinner/250 for a reception. The more intimate Ruby Room, which takes its name from the rich red chairs and wall accents, seats 30 and accommodates 45 standing in 800 square feet. Both have projectors and retractable screens and are available for breakfast, coffee breaks, lunch and dinner, with full customizable banquet menus.

Indian cuisine’s versatility is well suited for group dinners. And that’s especially true at Spice Affair. With lots of vegan and vegetarian options, along with dishes built on chicken, duck, lamb, shrimp, lobster and fish, and varying levels of spiciness, the restaurant can please every palette. The menu we enjoyed combined traditional and inventive dishes, including shredded tandoori chicken, chicken masala taco, tandoor-grilled artichoke hearts, a stunning chicken biryani take on a chicken pot pie that’s served tableside, dates and ducks over crisp papdi bread, black pepper shrimp, and deeply flavorful okra, cauliflower, eggplant and dahl.

The creative cocktails include the Mumbai Mule—Spice Affair’s version of a Moscow mule—flavored with ginger and cardamom honey in an icy copper mug, and Golden Elixir, an intoxicating mix of saffron-infused vodka and a blend of spices and floral essences. A wine list, with mostly California bottles, pairs perfectly with the cuisine.

Green salad, chicken, two veggies and a starch—that might have been a reasonable meal to serve group attendees in the last century, but it won’t cut it in 2020. Today, guests expect that a growing range of dietary needs will be accommodated, whether they’re eating keto, vegan, paleo, gluten free or some combination of all four. And, in a time when tech employees enjoy gourmet in-house commissaries on the job, it takes some serious culinary pyrotechnics to impress them.

 

Lots of folks claim to be adventurous eaters, but are the epicureans in your group ready for … toasted grasshoppers? If they are, send them to Cultura Comidas y Bebida, a year-old Carmel restaurant specializing in light, inventive and almost-too-pretty-to-eat traditional Mexican dishes tweaked to appeal to a California palate. Chapulines, a common bar snack in Mexico City and the southern state of Oaxaca, from where they’re imported, are salty/spicy/crunchy and taste a lot better than they sound.

 

An acclaimed chef is cooking at a new indoor-outdoor spot.