Spice – Lakeland, FL
It seems like some of the most delicious and memorable foods I’ve had, for the most part, have been the least complex. A few choice ingredients given proper respect can linger in your brain forever. This happened on a recent lunch visit to a local Thai/Sushi restaurant simply called Spice. Not to beat a dead horse, but in my opinion, the local food scene here in Lakeland is suffering from rigor mortis. I struggle to think of even five restaurants I’d recommend to a curious visitor. Spice, however, makes the cut. Granted, making the cut in Lakeland isn’t necessarily a glowing endorsement. I will tell you though, judging from specific menu items, Spice is a must for locals. If you go, and you should, you will find yourself dodging the obstacles of house fraus in large SUVs trying to make their way through the parking lot of the encapsulating strip mall that Spice calls home.
Before you even look at the menu, commit to asking for this one thing. As part of my lunch, I was given a bowl of liquid with cubes of non identifiable vegetables. When I quizzically asked what it was, they simply called it vegetable soup. What strikes you first is its amazing clarity. You can see straight to the bottom. I really thought that was visually appealing. It tasted like someone was giving my tongue a big hug on a cold day. The broth had such clean flavors, so distinct and straight forward right off the bat. You got a slap of what tasted like tomato water, which I love, with a soothing bit of lemongrass at the finish. As your spoon dives down into the broth sea like a submarine, you find little cubes of perfectly cooked celery and tomato. To add a final touch of textural composition, there are slices of fried shallot along with raw green onion floating to the top, waiting to be whisked away.
Calling this masterpiece “vegetable soup” is an enormous understatement. That’s like sweeping aside Ben Savages’ defining opus, Boy Meets World, as just another show. Tomato and celery consomé, with lemongrass and crispy shallot is a more appropriate description. It’s more attractive than the underwhelming title given to it. I’m not knocking the waitress, as it’s probably easier for a novice of Thai food or sushi to order vegetable soup. This is what makes Spice a success, it’s a great starting point for beginners. People just starting to explore the boundaries of what their palate feels is tasty. The Thai selections are all the ones you’d expect. nothing that pushes the limits, that goes for the sushi as well. The majority of the menu is what you’ll find at any similar place in the area. Lots of rolls that cater to the American sensibility, with about 20% more tradition thrown in. They execute this balancing act extremely well. They are one of the few places in town I can be confident of having a memorable evening with delicious food. What say you?Spice – 3615 S Florida Ave. Lakeland, FL 33803 – (863) 709-8321