The Monster wants to love you. He really does. With your Little Tokyo location in a dark, hip space with concrete floors, distressed brick walls, and delightful light fixtures in antique bird cages (The Monster is enamored immensely). Your space features loud music pulsating (The Rapture, Bob Marley) and a menu inspired by Vietnam and Singapore that should tickle the taste-buds and enliven the senses…
And yet The Monster has heard many who are thoroughly underwhelmed by The Spice Table. How did TST fare on this evening…?
The menu is divided into snacks, satays, vegetables, meat and poultry, seafood, rice and noodles, extras and dessert. While that may sound comprehensive each only has a few items on offer so it is easily manageable. Equally so is the beer and wine list which is short and to the point.
The first order of business is the fried cauliflower with spicy dipping sauce. The Monster wishes the fried coating is lighter and the dipping sauce has more heft. It’s not the best use of frying but as The Monster says, fried is usually good.
Next up, the curry fried chicken wings which feature a deep flavor in the dry rub but because they are sauceless you end up with one bite of flavor, one bite of flavorless chicken. Meh.
Black pepper crab toast is next out. The essence of crab is lost in this dish between the toast and the overpowering black pepper. It tastes like pulled chicken might on top of toast with just a hint of the sea (or conversely like a chicken that has hung out a lot with crabs). It’s the most expensive item on the menu and a miss.
Chile prawn satay is also part of the night’s eating. That might sound wonderful but so do most of our politicians until they reach office. Steam rooms sound great until you see the other people using them. Half off coupons entice until you realize why they are needed. Once you get the shrimp de-shelled (not a Monster favorite and hugely messy) they are thimble sized and suffer the same fate as much of the food. They have one overarching taste and not much in the way of nuance or varied and developed flavors.
The laksa (spicy noodle soup) with seafood is the last order out of the gate. The soup is wonderfully spicy without adding the accompanying chile paste. The broth is rich, pungent and while it is stingy with shrimp (two, really?) it is filled with calamari and noodles. It is luckily served at the end of the meal as it blasts the mouth and leaves little room for other tastes. It proves the highlight of the night though the competition to this point has been flagging so make of that what you will.
The lowlight? If you are going to have a peanut sauce, and charge for it no less, it better be stellar. Here, it is not. Not even close. That they also charge for the accompanying bread is just utter and blatant poppycock. There, The Monster said poppycock.
Kaffir lime custard with lychee for dessert is the call which cuts nicely against the noodle soup. It’s slightly sweet, citrusy and has a pleasing texture. That being said, kaffir limes have not, nor will ever hold a candle to The Monster’s beloved key limes.
All in all it’s a decent enough meal with friendly service in a hip environment. It’s not amazing eating, it’s not a revelatory night, and it’s not a place The Monster plans to return to soon.
Why go? You love poppycock.
Monster rating: 2½/5 Monsters
114 South Central Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90012