Just when I thought I was done with fusion, it pulled me back in. For the record, I am a fan of flavors from around the world, and I think the world is a better place now that the kaffir lime leaf, chipotle peppers, fish sauce, and garam masala are part of the international restaurant pantry. But I am always wary when a restaurant tries to build a menu on eclecticism alone—too often, you end up with an overstuffed, frenzied meal along the lines of the Cheesecake Factory. Frankly, I thought this super eclectic trend had died down of late. But then along came Spice, with a menu that ping-pongs from India to China to Mexico and back.

Spice is located in an ungainly new building in an outlying section of Belltown—far from the action on First and Second—but it seems eager to catch stragglers from the strip. Outside the door, a garish neon flame burns bright, while inside the decor hits a chicer, but super-familiar industrial Asian note—visible ducts, poppy-red light boxes built into the dining-room wall, sheer curtains and big paper lanterns suspended from the ceiling.

Somehow eclecticism like Spice's works best in a bar setting, as part and parcel of mix-it-up cocktail culture. When you're in a nibbly, cocktail-party mood, you don't need a cohesive narrative from your food—you can sit and drink, say, a dirty martini spiked with chili ($7) or maybe a kir royale kissed with rose water ($7), and nibble on spring rolls and pakoras and blue corn-crusted oysters. In this mode, Spice's duck samosas ($8) are nice: the familiar fried dumplings sexed up with the richer taste of duck meat and a decent tamarind dipping sauce. Crab cakes ($12.50) studded with corn and bay shrimp are dense but tasty in a gazpacho-like sauce, and it's certainly hard not to love naan, Indian flatbread ($2.50) cooked in Spice's clay tandoor oven, especially accompanied with a zippy mint chutney. I wouldn't even have minded the under-salted prawns ($10), served as they were on little corn pancakes, if it hadn't been for the scoop of foul over-the hill guacamole that topped them.

Unfortunately, my friends and I didn't sit in the peppy lounge, with its live jazz, but instead walked into the empty dining room. In this hushed setting, the entrees seemed kind of frantic. Each plate arrived totally full, all its negative space cluttered up with drizzled oils, swirled sauces, and sprinkled herb. For all the different components in each entrée, the plates ended up looking very similar to one another.

A monumental hunk of unsliced, rare ahi ($18) was hard to deal with on its bed of yellow curried noodles (even though I liked its sneakily spicy sauce). A piece of seared swordfish ($17) sat stranded on a pedestal of potatoes above a heavy curry leaf sauce that was too strong for the fish. And chewy chunks of wild boar ($17), served on a pile of posole, lacked the lush quality of pork shoulder necessary to pass as carnitas.

I got the impression that the kitchen is distracted by its magpie aesthetic, an opinion that solidified when I bit into an under-ripe persimmon accompanying what was actually a very nice molten chocolate cake. Most fruits have a soft window of ripeness, but certain varieties of persimmon must be entirely ripe—that is mushy—or they are excruciatingly tannic. Biting into one is like chewing on a fistful of Bayer—a lesson I learned several years ago, and painfully reenacted at Spice. It's a rough way to end a meal.

Spice's owner, Nazir Khamisa, also owns the Chutney's chain, and the Indian undercurrent is perhaps the strongest and best executed theme on the Spice menu. True to the restaurant's name, someone in the kitchen knows how to blend spices into tasty masalas, and cook succulent meats like leg of lamb ($24) in the tandoor. I wish they would run with the Indian theme, because Seattle needs a chic, modern Indian restaurant along the lines of Vancouver's Vij's. But apparently, one subcontinent is not enough for Spice. One bad persimmon, however, may be enough for me. recommended