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Spicing Up Tamiami

Chef Asif Rasheed Syed is blazing a trail with progressive Indian fare at 21 Spices by Chef Asif.



Paneer cheese, slightly charred inside a tandoori oven, is elegantly skewered with colorful bell peppers, sweet chili and microgreens.

Photos by Dorothea Hunter Sönne

 

There are savory curries and traditional foods aplenty, but beautiful presentations plus a wall of wines and soaring ceilings also distinguish this new restaurant. 

When I think of Columbus discovering America, I now imagine him on a race to find 21 spices—a number that connotes fun and, dare I say, daring. And it’s because a clever chef, Asif Rasheed Syed, has chosen it as the name for his new restaurant on Naples’ East Trail.

21 Spices by Chef Asif opened in December, and it’s now complete with a fully stocked bar, live sitar and a loyal following (witnessed by how it is packed almost every single night). To say its success is predicated on the fact we have only one other Indian restaurant in Collier County would be a disservice—it’s not just a good Indian restaurant; it is an excellent restaurant, period. Serving what the chef describes as “progressive” Indian dishes under dancing flecks of light emanating from subcontinent-inspired lanterns, it’s a perfect spot to indulge in favorites like curries, daals and biryanis, but it’s also where you can experiment with the chef’s modernizations of traditional cuisine: an organic quail with lime juice and garam masala, samosas with jicama slaw and a sea bass with chai beurre blanc.

It’s that type of forward thinking that landed him a spot on an episode of the Food Network’s Guy’s Grocery Games in October. He made an impression on the panel of judges before ultimately bowing out—thankfully for us so that he could get back to launching this restaurant, one of my favorite recent discoveries.

 

To plan a visit:

21 Spices by Chef Asif

Sugden Park Plaza

4270 Tamiami Trail E., Naples

(239) 919-8830

21spicesdining.com

 

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