Spice 6

Indian
$$$$ ($14 and under)
Spice 6 photo
Marvin Joseph/The Post
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Editorial Review

Spice 6 in Hyattsville
By Nevin Martell
Wednesday, July 18, 2012

When Spice 6 opened at the end of May in Hyattsville, the owners of the fast-casual spot billed it as “modern Indian.” Maybe they should have gone with “Indianesque.” The decor is poppy and fresh, but not overtly subcontinental. Though there are indigo walls, funky fixtures that mimic blossoming lotus flowers and henna inspired scrollwork painted on the concrete floor, it could easily pass for a tapas joint or a frozen yogurt shop.

Behind the counter is the biggest nod to India: a tandoori oven. When it’s going full-bore, it can turn out lightly charred, slightly chewy nan at a rate of 10 per minute. A second tandoori oven in the back handles all the halal-certified meats, which are marinated for two days in cumin, coriander and freshly ground ­garam masala. The recipes were developed by chef Upendra Thapaliya, who racked up more than two decades of kitchen experience in Nepal. Fairfax residents Tony Singh and his two sons, Vik and Timpi, own the restaurant.

Standing opposite a Chipotle-style assembly line, you first choose the vehicle for your meal: a bowl filled with basmati or brown rice; a nan wrap that comes off like Mumbai’s answer to the gyro (in a good way); a nan pizza; a salad; or a kebab plate filled out with a side salad and nan. Then you slide down a step to pick your protein: garlic-and-ginger-spiked chicken ($6.94/$7.99 for the kebab plate); moist, spice-soaked lamb ($8.49/$9.49 for the kebab plate); avoidable tofu cubes ($6.65); or sauteed mixed vegetables, which should be chopped finer ($6.65).

From there, you add sauces such as the winning creamy korma masala curry made with pistachios and sunflower seeds, and sweet tamarind chutney. (If you’re really in the mood for a kick, ask for the house-made red chili hot sauce kept behind the counter.) You can finish off your customized creation with blocks of paneer cheese, chopped cilantro and shredded mozzarella if you’ve gone the pizza route (which isn’t as enticing as it might sound).

Make sure you order a wonderfully nuanced mango lassi elevated with cinnamon, vanilla and cardamom, and crafted with fresh, silky yogurt that’s made in-house every morning.