Seafood Laksa With A Side Of French Music At Aux Epices

The name of the restaurant Aux Epices on Baxter St. (btw. Canal & Hester) translates from French into “with spices” and that was an accurate description of the riot of flavors in my lunch there. It moved from Tribeca where it was called Franklin Station Cafe, and there isn’t much on the lunch menu that tops $10, but you have to remember that this is Chinatown/Little Italy and that price point is expected. You don’t feel like you’re eating in the neighborhood as you step inside and black and white photos paired with cute cafe tables and French music contrast with the mostly Malaysian and Asian dishes on the menu. It’s a nicer lunch experience than you might find in surrounding establishments, and the seafood dish I had was delicious.

There are plates of dishes like chicken rendang and curry squid, and also “big bowls” of items with noodles like curry chicken, tom yam shrimp, and udon soup. I opted for one of the more expensive lunch items – seafood laksa ($9.95).

My food came out and it took me a while to find all of the treasures contained within the bowl. Among the seafood was some nice squid, a couple of shell-on shrimp, pieces of salmon, and a couple of mussels. Elsewhere in the tart, spicy and creamy coconut milk-laced broth were pieces of tofu, eggplant, red onion and bean sprouts. You also get the bonus piece of fried carb (which I believe is called “emping” and is essentially a chip) that softens in the broth and tastes delicious.

I chose chewy udon noodles, but you can also get thinner rice noodles. I’ve had too many sub-par bowls of deli udon soup, and these noodles did not fall apart in the fabulous broth that they soaked up the flavor of. There was a hint of heat to the dish, but nothing too crazy if you’re not into spicy foods. I was impressed with the quality of most of the seafood, and would definitely consider stopping in here again to try another dish.

Yes, you’re going to pay a couple of bucks more than many of the surrounding restaurants, but the ambiance is much more welcoming. And you can get a cappuccino or Americano on the side.

Aux Epices, 121 Baxter St. (btw. Canal & Hester), (212) 274-8585


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