I feel as if it's been a minute since I've done a restaurant review here on the blog. In fact, it sort of has. Let's change that.
I was recently given the opportunity to have dinner at a fairly new restaurant named Spiegel, which is located in NYC's East Village. I wasn't sure what to expect from this little corner restaurant. From the outside, this little place looks chic, yet cozy. I'm in love with the floor-to-ceiling windows because in my opinion, natural light is amazing. Even if you visit at nighttime (which is when I was there) these windows still offer you the best view for people-watching. The inside of the restaurant is quite warm and inviting. The owner, Shmulik, actually designed the restaurant himself, going so far as so even build the tables and banquettes.
You may have suspected this already, but Spiegel is named after the famous film producer Sam Spiegel. Schmulik's love of films has led him to organize movie nights at the restaurant. Starting pretty soon, classic movies will be shown on Monday nights at 8pm in the restaurant on the large screen overlooking the bar.
To be honest, I didn't quite know what to expect from Spiegel. In an effort to not be swayed by any other reviews out there, I simply hadn't read any of them. I did have a preview of the menu so I knew I stood a good chance of enjoying this meal.
My party was seated at cute little booth in a corner of the restaurant. Spiegel serves up a mixture of exotic dishes with a heavy Moroccan and Israeli influence. There are also your typical American dishes such as a classic burger or pan-seared tilapia. This is a great option if someone in your party isn't so adventurous food-wise. Luckily for me, there was nothing holding me back from this amazing ethnic food. Let's start with the appetizers.
We ordered three of the appetizers because sometimes you just have to try them all. First up was the baked feta. I had to start with this because warm cheese is simply one of my favorite things. Spiegel makes everything fresh and onsite. Delicious pita points were toasted up so we could dip them into the baked feta and that amazing tomato-pepper sauce.
My second favorite appetizer were the stuffed mushrooms. These contain cream cheese and smoked salmon in a deep fried mushroom cap. I loved them, but I'm going to say the baked feta won me over since I typically stay away from fried food. (Don't worry. That didn't stop me from eating a mushroom. I'm not crazy!)
We also received an order of the zucchini fritters. I adore zucchini and the tzatziki sauce was quite tasty but if I have to compare them to the baked feta and the stuffed mushrooms, I just wasn't as blown away by it.
Can we just take a look at the gorgeousness of this food? This picture was taken after we had to bring another table over just to hold all the dishes. And I still couldn't fit the sweet potato fries in the picture frame.
Let's quickly go over each dish so that this blog post is not ten million words long. Here's the skinny:
- The Spiegel Chopped salad: This was my favorite! It's so weird to me that my favorite thing was a salad! I like salad but I usually eat it because I'm guilting myself into eating healthy food. This salad though. It's comprised of cucumber, tomato, pepper, onion, celery, carrot, broccoli, cauliflower, and chickpeas, hearts of palm, avocado, fried Halloumi, and a lemon dressing. Did you get all that? My favorite items were the hearts of palm and the fried Halloumi. I will never say no to cheese. The lemon dressing was simply out of this world.
- Schnitzel Plate: If you are in the market for schnitzel, I think this could be the dish for you. The meat came out perfectly, with a beautiful golden brown color. I believe the meat in this entree was veal. I'm not entirely sure. It was quite tasty though. This dish is served with a side of jasmine rice and a choice of sides, which ended up being marinated beets. FYI, I would like an entire platter of those beets. I don't know what they are marinated in, but please deliver those to Hoboken. Please and thank you.
- Couscous: The couscous was insanely delicious. This recipe happens to be Shmulik's mother's recipe. You can just feel the love in this entree. In addition to the couscous (obviously), there is the addition of chickpeas, zucchini, cauliflower, squash, carrots, fennel, and celery. I'm hungry just thinking about this again.
- Tunisian Sandwich: Marinated tuna, chickpeas, potato, preserved lemon, pickled onions, kalamata olives, harissa, hard-boiled egg, cucumbers, brioche roll. This sandwich was OK for me. I loved the fresh, soft roll and also the spiciness of the sandwich; however, in comparison to the other dishes before me, I wasn't bowled over by it.
- Moroccan carrots: This side dish was another beautiful set of vegetables. Carrots are one of my favorite veggies and I don't even know what they did to these things but they were divine. Do yourself a favor and order these stat!
- Fire Roasted Eggplant in Mayo: This was a great side dish. I would even consider this to be a potential appetizer. I'm a sucker for dips and this was no exception. I liked it even though I'm not a huge fan of eggplant. Don't even get me started on the toasted pita points that come with this. So good!
- Crispy Cauliflower: I love cauliflower! Can you sense a theme in the food that I like yet? I enjoyed this side dish, especially when I sprinkled some fresh lemon juice over the cauliflower. I didn't eat a lot of this only because I was truly starting to feel pretty full at this point. And we weren't done yet!
- Sweet Potato Fries: I had a few of these. Personally, I found the ethnic dishes to be more interesting. I love sweet potato fries, as anyone who reads this blog will know, but I eat them all the time and they can be found at most restaurants.
Now. Did you take note of these portion sizes? Spiegel's prices are very reasonable ($10-$15 for most items) even if you were getting a regular portion size but this, this was a crazy amount of food. Even though we were stuffed to the gills by the time dessert came around, we didn't let something like that stop us from enjoying a few sweet treats.
We got a flan, a chocolate mouse, and a vegan peanut butter parfait for dessert. They were all delicious! My favorite was the chocolate mousse, but that's just a matter of personal preference. Don't worry, I made sure to try them all. For you guys.
I've referred to Spiegel as a restaurant, but you could just as easily call this place a cafe or a bar. Regulars stop in to get a cup of the excellent coffee and a pastry fix in the morning on their way to work. They also stop by on their way home to grab a drink. There is a large, beautiful bar in the center of the restaurant which promotes a communal atmosphere. I also spied a few people working on their laptops at night. If I lived closer to this place I would definitely work from here. It has that feeling of a calm, laid back cafe. When it gets warmer next year, probably around April, Spiegel is going to have wraparound outdoor seating areas. I don't know about you, but I can't wait!
Spiegel also delivers and offers takeout, in case you don't want to leave the comfort of your place or if you don't have time to sit down for a meal. I truly enjoyed my experience here and I cannot wait to come back and taste everything else on the menu. I want to try so many things that I may just order an extra meal to take home with me. Yes, I am plotting my return already. If you're in the area (or even if you aren't!) you should make a trip to Spiegel. I promise you that you will not be disappointed by the sights and sounds, aromas and tastes.
**Disclosure: I was provided this meal free of charge. However, all opinions are my own!