Friday, June 26, 2009

It’s a good thing Sudhir Seth says he needs fewer than five hours of sleep a night. In March, the owner of the popular Passage to India in Bethesda took on a fresh responsibility: this curry-fragrant addition to Rockville Town Square. Created by Seth, who starts each day by preparing food for the $7.95 lunch buffet, the menu focuses on small plates and occasionally ventures beyond the borders of India for inspiration. One snack we keep returning to, tandoori wings, sounds ordinary but delivers a fiery punch. Seth practically gives the recipe away when he details how the wings are rubbed with salt and chili powder, then marinated for a day in garlic, ginger, lemon juice and vinegar before hitting the clay oven. Tamarind-glazed prawns, anise-spiced scallops, “baby” dosas (a shrunken version of the usual log-size rice-pancake rolls): Diners navigate two dozen appetizers before they read about the main-course choices, which include a glossy toss of bell peppers and cauliflower seasoned with wild onion seeds and a gingery lamb curry with bites of meat that are a tad tough. Spice Xing’s design is in keeping with the theme. Silk sails dress up the ceiling. Blown-up photographs of spices (cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg) hint at some of the flavors to come. A wall in the back is devoted to a shimmering “wishing” tree fashioned from plastic gold beads.