Spicy Bite, Cairns
Last Friday night my good friend SH and I ventured out in search of some dinner. Due to some communication problems (aka my iPhone shat itself) we didn’t actually get into town till almost 9.30 at night so of course being Cairns a lot of places were shut. Ganbaranba, the place we had originally planned on going to, shut it’s door just before 9.30pm (pretty sure they used to be open till 10 but hey). So we wandered over to Corea Corea upstairs at Orchid Plaza. They too shut up shop at 9.30pm that night. SH suggested The Courthouse for dinner but I wasn’t in the mood for fried food so we headed towards the Esplanade to see what we could find. We walked past Spicy Bite just a little down from Dolce and Caffe and right next door to Coast Roast. SH reckoned that she had eaten there many times and they had amazing Butter Goat that I simply had to try. It was nearing 10pm now and although they looked like they were closing up because the waitress was removing cutlery and serviettes from some of the tables it appears that they were in fact open. We were both delighted to find a restaurant open in Cairns at this time of night so we promptly sat down and perused the menu. In all the years they have been open I have never actually dined at Spicy Bite, probably due to the location (just another tourist trap) and also the fact that I figured that I already knew where to get good Indian food (more on that later).
We both ordered a glass of wine when the waitress brought over the menus. SH had already decided on what she was having, the critically acclaimed Butter Goat. It wasn’t exactly listed on the menu but SH claimed that she had ordered it before and the waitress approved. I had a look over the menu and decided on the Lamb Buriyani with Raita. Having travelled to Sri Lanka (yes I realise that Sri Lanka isn’t India) I ate some truly amazing Buriyani’s along the way (the best in a road side ‘cafe’ in the busy city of Colombo for a mere 180 rupees) and was hoping that this one may come a little close to my previous experience. We also ordered a serve of Garlic Naan figuring we could share each of our meals. Not long after ordering the waitress returned and informed us that they had in fact run out of Butter Goat so SH and I decided that Butter Chicken would have to suffice. It was disappointing since SH had talked up the Butter Goat so much but oh well.
While we were waiting and sipping our glasses of Sauvignon Blanc (me) and Rose (SH) a few more people arrived to take up tables at Spicy Bite. Seems Spicy Bite is open till quite late on a Friday, no doubt taking advantage of hungry diners looking for somewhere to eat out when most places have closed up for the night and not wanting to stoop so low as to venture to the Golden Arches across the road. We waited about 15 minutes for our dishes to arrive. First up came the Garlic Naan, then the Lamb Buriyani and Raita, followed closely by the Butter Chicken. By this stage I was absolutely starving since I had only eaten a Som Tum at about midday and nothing since.
I reached over and grabbed a piece of Garlic Naan out of the basket. There were four triangular pieces in total and they were all as dry and hard as a piece of cardboard. No soft, warm, doughy Garlic Naan here. I was pretty disappointed because Naan is what you go to Indian Restaurants for isn’t it? Next up I put a couple of spoonfulls of Lamb Buriyani on my plate, digging out a couple of super large lamb chunks from amongst the rice. I drizzled a little bit of raita over the top and took a bite. The raita was so damn watery and flavourless I don’t know why they bothered even serving the buriyani with raita. I literally couldn’t taste it, even when I dipped the end of my Garlic Naan directly into the bowl. The lamb in the buriyani was dry and chewy. Not soft and moist like the lamb I was longing for. This dish tasted like the Lamb Buriyani that I used to make out of the CSIRO cookbook except mine was far superior. The rice that was accompanying the lamb was gluggy and horrible. I am pretty sure that it was just reheated from earlier that evening.
Lastly I fished out one of three pieces of Butter Chicken that was absolutely swimming in sauce. It was the smallest damn Butter Chicken I had ever seen! I was hoping that a bite of the chicken would save this dish but alas the chicken was overcooked and dry. Not moist and succulent like chicken pieces in Butter Chicken are supposed to be. The most disappointing thing about this dish was the sauce. Butter Chicken sauce is another food that I could literally shower in. I would be happy with a large bowl of the sauce and just some rice (or decent Naan bread) but I do exert self control and don’t allow myself to do things like that. The sauce tasted like the chef had just dumped a can of Heinz Big Red Tomato Soup in and mixed it around with the chicken. It did not taste like the creamy, tomatoey, sweet Butter Chicken sauce that we all know and love at all. How disappointing.
Well, I have to say that poor old SH definitely gave us a bum steer with Spicy Bite, that said I didn’t get to try the famous Butter Goat that she was going on about. The service that we received from the waitress at Spicy Bite was friendly and efficient and I really cannot say a bad thing about it. However, the same cannot be said about the food. It was tasteless, dry and disappointing with a distinctly Heinz flavour about it. I know where I will be going if I want good Indian food and it certainly isn’t Spicy Bite or Haveli. After the good wrap that I gave Haveli earlier this year seems their standards and food portions have gone down while their prices have gone up. Looks like it’s back to tried and true Cairns favourite Marinades on Spence St where you simply can’t go past the Lunch Thali’s for around the $13 mark. MS and I had a fantastic meal there recently and the host even served us with a friendly smile this time around.
Note: I didn’t get to take any pictures of the food because if you were paying attention my iPhone shat itself earlier that evening. A quick visit to the guys under the stairs at Cairns Central fixed that and I am up and running again.
Shop 6/52 The Esplanade, Cairns
Ph: (07) 4041 3700