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Spice 8’s Better Than Pizza was served on naan, with a tikka tomato sauce. Photo by Velton Hayworth.

Spice 8 Indian Fusion Grill

5633 N Tarrant Pkwy, FW. 817-849-9004. 11am-9pm Sun-Thu, 11am-10pm Fri-Sat. All major credit cards accepted.

Most restaurants serving Indian food tend to be a little more formal in appearance than Spice 8 Indian Fusion Grill. Inside its small, brightly lit storefront in a Keller strip-mall, there’s no elaborate buffet setup or white tablecloths. The service model could be described as Desi meets Chipotle – order at the counter from a pre-set list of ingredients and build your own bowl or wrap. But Spice 8 diverts from the fast-casual model thanks to an additional entree menu (a choice of protein plus two sides) and a limited selection of beer and wine. 

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The menu (and the name) derives from the eight traditional Indian spices used in most of the kitchen’s fare: cardamom, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, clove, cumin, fenugreek, star anise, and turmeric. Pizza, rice bowls, wraps, and Himalayan dumplings (known as momo) aren’t usually featured on an Indian restaurant’s menu, but they’re welcome entry-level dishes for someone new to the cuisine.

Momo immigrated to India when the Dalai Lama and his followers were expelled from Tibet by the Chinese government five decades ago. Spice 8’s version of the pan-fried appetizer tasted cool and a little bitter, like egg rolls without the crunch of cabbage and a dunk in the deep fryer. The slightly damp, gooey wrappers didn’t crisp up much during the pan fry and only became soggier the longer they sat. 

The veggie super bowl was a delight. The flavor of the sweet, smoky elixir that enveloped the tofu was reminiscent of a good barbecue sauce. The chunks of soy were cooked so artfully, I might have thought I was eating chicken – even my guest who seems genetically programmed to dislike tofu liked what he tasted. Chickpeas sitting on a bed of lightly spiced jasmine rice rounded out the bowl.

Spice 8’s take on pizza was genius. Called Better than Pizza, naan flatbread and a tikka tomato sauce arrived topped with lamb (or your choice of protein), and the whole thing was covered in mozzarella cheese and sliced like pizza. The bite-sized chunks of lamb were thankfully bereft of any trace of a gamy taste. The tikka sauce was inventive, and the crunchy garlic naan proved to be a sturdy, flavorful base. Be warned: One of my dining companions was disappointed by the sweetness of the tikka. The more cloying qualities of the cinnamon- and cardamom-spiked sauce dominated the flavor of her dish. 

Samosas are like empanadas, if the empanadas were stuffed with potatoes, onions, and chickpeas. Spice 8’s piquant, crispy-crusted savory pastries were presented halved, topped with more chickpeas, and served with a cooling mint sauce that beautifully balanced the after-burn of the cayenne. Samosas may be street food, but the presentation here definitely needed a knife, fork, a bunch of napkins –– and frequent helpings of naan bread to cool down the intense spice sting.

On the creamy butter chicken entree, the cayenne was the most assertive seasoning, but a refreshing hit of cinnamon and clove balanced the heat. The poofy naan bread and more jasmine rice helped sop the gravy and further dulled the heat. A chickpea side flavored with tomato, cumin, and cardamom was so inspiring that we all wanted a little more.

Spice cowards take heed: Even when we attempted to order a mild dish for the heat-averse diner, most of the meal was fiery. Vegetarians and vegans will find a lot to enjoy here, and, although there’s no beef on the menu, so will carnivores. 

Spice 8’s counter presentation, fusion of traditional Indian cuisine and Western presentation, and modern industrial vibe make it a welcome addition to the neighborhood. There’s no need to stand on formality here. 

Spice 8 Indian Fusion Grill

Veggie super bowl $5.25

Better than Pizza $11

Pan-fried chicken momo $11

Butter chicken $13.50

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