A relatively new addition to Huntington's large roster of established eateries is Spice Village on the corner Wall and Main streets.
The building has seen changes in the last few years. Before becoming Spice Village, it was home to a hookah bar, a 30-minute photo development shop, and to a Buster Brown shoe store in the early 1980s.
Owner and entrepreneur Ali Tabassum has been a mainstay in Huntington since 1986, turning the one-time shoe store into a long-standing camera-supplies and photo developing establishment.
In December 2009, he opened it as its current incarnation.
"Cooking has always been my hobby," said Tabassum, who said he has close to 200 dishes that he can prepare.
Despite the relatively late hour that this reporter entered the restaurant, it had a good crowd, and the outside seating that lines Wall Street had several tables filled. One of the best aspects of Spice Village is the setting: the large windows look out over the hustle and bustle of town, and one has the feeling of being in the middle of it all.
The menu at Spice Village is diverse but not overwhelming, especially to those who may not be familiar with South Asian cuisine. The prices are reasonable, as well.
I decided to start the evening with a sweet Lassi – which is yoghurt-based drink , a side of Aloo Tiki – which were patties of seasoned grilled potatoes, and some nan, a type of flat bread that is standard fare in all South Asian restaurants. The contrast in tastes worked very well together.
One look at the menu at Spice Village, and you can tell that the emphasis is on grilled meats. Kebabs, and tikkas – which are minced meats – are the mainstay of the dinner menu. If you're looking to try different types of beef, lamb, and chicken dishes in the "South Asian" culinary tradition, Spice Village should be on your radar.
On another note, do not go to Spice Village expecting traditional East Indian fare. Tabassum has created a menu that concentrates on traditional Pakistani/Afghani dishes. Those who are looking for a lot of curried dishes may be disappointed.
The wait staff at Spice Village was helpful, friendly and quick.
I decided to order the beef tikka, which came with basmati rice and salad. I enjoyed the seasoning of the beef, and was struck how the contrasts in tastes enhanced the overall dining experience.
As lamb is also one of the specialties at Spice Village, I decided to also try some of it, as well, and found it prepared well and very tasty.
While dining, I met Jackie Herndon of Huntington, and Jacklyn Zepernick of Northport. Both were veteran "foodies" who knew their way quite well around Huntington's many restaurants. They were sharing some avocado chaat - which is a mixture of bits of potato, crispy fried bread and tangy-salty spices - and spring lamb, among other assorted dishes. Both said that they had visited Spice Village before, and enjoyed it, and had looked forward to coming again this evening.
My thoughts then turned to desert: some sooji halwah, which is a mixture of sweetened semolina with almonds and raisins, and a spot mint-flavored green tea. Again, the contrasts in sweet and salty worked wonderfully.
All in all, I would heartily recommend Spice Village to those who are looking for slightly different food experience. There is no other restaurant in Huntington quite like it.
Spice Village is located at 281 Main Street, in Huntington Village. They can be reached at (631) 271-4800. The menu, times of operation, and the ability to make reservations (although not necessary) can be made on their website: www.spicevillagegrill.com.