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It’s been a long, long time since Jaime and I had a nice meal out. At the start of 2012 we moved into a new house which had considerably more room, with a loftier price to match. So we’ve been working more, and having less fun. We have a set of rules for saving money to follow (One meat meal per week, frozen, bulk, and canned whenever possible, only eating out once a month, scrimping and pinching wherever we can) This arrangement isn’t really working out for us, because, in spite of all of this space, we have a lot less privacy than our old place, due to the nosy landlady. It’s also noisier, with the landlady and her small child constantly banging about, making noise, and disrupting us when we’re trying to study, sleep, or socialize. Living in the suburbs is ill-suited to us as well, we greatly miss living further north, in the countryside, where we could walk for five minutes and be surrounded by farms, forest, and wildlife, rather than tract housing and shopping malls. Worst of all, the larger space cannot compensate for a fatal flaw: The internet is exceedingly spotty, which is highly problematic for the two of us, who use the internet for work and as our primary source of recreation. So we’re planning on moving out in August or September, hopefully moving into an entire house and sharing the rent with another couple, cutting down the price to about $300 a month for each of us.

In the meantime though, we still need to save money and not have much in the way of luxuries until we actually do move out. So when we do dine out, it’s very precious and we try to make the most of it. Which is why I am very glad that we decided to spend our monthly dinner out for April at The Spice Jammer, a wonderful Indian restaurant in Victoria’s downtown which delighted our palates.

It had been an exceedingly bad day for us, and I had a hard time locating the restaurant we’d originally planned to go to, which was a French restaurant, Brasserie L’Ecole (I forgot the address) so, hungry, tired, and badly wanting a drink, I recalled that a Desi friend of mine had recommended Spice Jammer as the best Indian food in Victoria. I knew where that was, right on Antiques Row, where we were close, so we dragged our weary bodies over there and practically collapsed into our chairs when we arrived.

I am not all that familiar with Indian food, as a disclaimer. There were no Indian restaurants I was aware of when I was growing up on Maui, and the one Indian restaurant in Missoula (Tipu’s Tiger) closed down shortly after I arrived in the city! My first experience with Indian food was on Kauai, during a visit to my friend, and I’m of the opinion that it’s among the best cuisine types out there, and make a point to seek out Indian food now whenever I can. I’m still a novice about what constitutes “good” Indian food, but I know good food in general, and the Spice Jammer is quite excellent.

The service was very warm and welcoming towards two very tired students, and we were seated in the middle of the restaurant, surrounded by people smiling and enjoying libations and samosas, plus really beautiful, understated, cozy décor. I immediately ordered a mango Sassi Lhassi, an alcoholic version of a Lhassi. It was delicious, easily my second favourite hot-weather alcoholic beverage now (Sangria will always be my first) and we started off with samosas and naan. The samosas were lovely, crisp and brimming with flavour, but the naan stole the show. It was delicate, rich, buttery, and could easily have been my entire meal if I’d had more than one plate’s worth. The dipping and spreading sauces which they came with were an absolute delight, and I could easily picture myself licking the bowl they came in clean, if I were less than uncouth.

For the main course, I opted to be different, normally I order lamb when I go to Indian restaurants, since lamb is difficult to cook at home and Indian restaurants are only topped by Mediterranean/Greek restaurants when it comes to lamb preparation, but they had a special dish, a type of coconut chicken in a rich coconut sauce, which sounded too good for me, a great coconut lover, to pass up. I know my limitations, so I ordered it medium, rather than spicy, the menu comes with the option for mild, medium, hot, or extra spicy, for the daring. It was everything I could have asked for in a chicken coconut dish. The sauce was creamy and light, with the perfect amount spicing in it to complement the sweet, rich aroma and flavour of coconut, coating chicken which was tender, moist, and perfectly cooked, rather than depending upon the sauce to hide any cooking imperfections. For a side dish, we had rice mixed with saffron, cardamom, and cinnamon. Saffron is one of my favourite spices, and it was really quite fun and challenging for me to try to get equal amounts of coconut chicken and saffron rice in my meal, since I didn’t want to miss out on either!

We were both pretty full by the time dessert rolled around, but we still decided to order a dessert, because they offered house-made ice cream, and Jaime had decided to order her dish hot and was in need of something frozen and sweet to cool her down. We opted for the mango-passion ice cream, which was different from typical ice cream- not heavier like gelato, but lighter, less sugary, and more driven by the flavours of the fruits. It was the perfect ending to the meal.

We were expecting the bill to be extravagant, since for our special “once a month” restaurant meals, we throw caution to the wind and order appetizers, drinks, and dessert, but it was very affordable, which pleased us greatly. My mother will be visiting in a few months, and this place will be on our list of restaurants to take her to, since she’s never had Indian food. It’s a perfect introduction, since they offer such a diverse range of food and drink, including a “non spicy” section of the menu, and cook it with obvious care and skill. This will be our go-to restaurant when a craving for Indian food strikes.

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