Full disclosure, when I recommended this restaurant to my partner, her brother, and her father, I thought I was actually recommending Spicy Joint. Spice, it turns out, was a completely different, if mostly similar, restaurant in the same general geographical area.
Spice World’s physical footprint, unlike that of Spicy Joint, is quite easy to miss, inhabiting the first floor portion of a building on Sussex St with only a little bit of street-level signage that was obscured by a group of Chinese women on my first walk past. The interior of Spice World is quite well-adorned and opulent compared to its relatively nondescript entryway, with high ceilings, living crustaceans in tanks, a high degree of cleanliness, and numerous booths alongside large windows with a view of the street below. There were also two or three private dining areas on the interior of the room with larger tables.
We had a shared large hot pot with mushroom and tomato soup bases. It’s only now while writing this that I am realising the major difference in my childhood hotpot experiences to my adult ones. Hailing from the North, hotpot in our home was always cooked in plain water, with flavour added through the use of personal dipping sauces primarily composed of sesame sauce (麻酱) and fermented bean curd (酱豆腐) or other flavourings. Ever since I’ve been with my current partner, from the first time I sat opposite her mother at family Christmas and kept getting splashed items thrown into the hot pot that was placed far closer to my side of the table (I don’t distinctly remember being told to just keep quiet about it and suck it up, but it definitely felt I was meant to) to all the times we’ve had hotpot at restaurants in Sydney as well as at home just with the two of us, we’ve had a completely different form of hotpot with, different, flavour and sodium laden soup bases in which to boil our ingredients. This is a fundamental change in my life that I’ve been living with for seven years and only realised now.
Digression complete, the soup was ultimately fine, and I think the consensus around the table was that the mushroom soup base was superior, though we did not regret getting two different bases for a few extra dollars. There was an extra charge for sauces (which I, as a later arriver didn’t know about), so we didn’t get any of that.
We watched semi-excitedly as these automated vehicles carried orders to other customers, though when it came to our food it was all delivered to our table by regular humans. We did order a lot of food, perhaps too much for it to make sense to fit onto multiple robots.
The greens and shrooms were not cheap. The basa fillets ($18.90) I felt had a bit of a taste to them, but no one else found this problematic. The pork and chive dumplings (6 for $8.90) were enjoyed.
The meat was fine, but I wonder if it was better and better value at the Dolar Shop. I don’t think there was any clear guidance about the masses of each portion (“1 metre of lamb brisket” isn’t the SI unit for meat measurement). The wagyu striploin dressed barbie, for example, was $45.90 for an unknown quantity of meat, though stated to be 150g in one of their online menus. For reference this was probably the 2nd cheapest beef available on the menu. I didn’t feel particularly fulfilled by the meat, but the abundance of vegetable offset this a bit.
Oranges were exciting, but more exciting were these allegedly savoury peas that were made sweet by the orange juice. They were actually pretty yum.
OVERALL We paid $270 for 4 including 3 beers (teetotal life), which was significantly cheaper than we paid at The Dolar Shop the previous week, I think mostly owing to the significant cost savings of not having to spend $25 per person on soup base alone. I was less impressed by the meat options at Spice World, though the service was good and ultimately the meal was fine.
In summary, Memory Tongue ($45 pp in 2021) was better value for similar quality, whilst Dolar Shop ($85 pp in 2022) was slightly more money for better food. Based on these comparisons I would not go back to Spice World
405/411 Sussex St, Haymarket NSW 2000
0406 697 900