Well, even though there are a few more weeks left, we're willing to wager that nothing, not one of the 223 lunches/dinners/snacks of 2005 ( yes, we keep track of these odd things...) will top last night's meal at Mina's. In a word; outstanding! Extreme accolades, I know, but no hyperbole here. I went in actually kind of skeptical, b/c quite frankly what have always appeared to me to be the Sacred Sites of the Chowhound Outer Boroughs Empire( Difara's and Kebab Cafe) have always left me a bit cold. A lot of conflicting reports had been posted as of recent, my husband was pushing to satisfy a Liberty Avenue roti/doubles yen at Singh's, and our chowpup was wailing for "dumps!" but I perservered and we found ourselves on a somewhat desolate stretch of Broadway at 7:30.
The place was pretty much full during our meal; a few Bengali/Indian/ Pakistani (?) families, two tables with groups of what I knew had to be definite ChowHounds (my husband insisted that I NOT stand up and bellow "Jen Kalb is that you? John K? Lambretta? Squid-un? Brian S?" as I so desperately desired. Do any of you fellow 'hounds have to quell the urge to do just this when you know you are among your peeps or is it just me??? On second thought, don't answer that... :))
A lovely gentleman who I thought might be her husband but said he was a friend of Mina's and was "so, so proud of her" along with her son who proclaimed somewhat sheepishly that he didn't
"understand why every one likes my mom's food so much. I eat it all the time. It's ok." were our waiters. We asked if it was reasonable to be in and out in an hour (my husband is a big Desperate Housewives fan; Very annoying. We have to compromise though) and were assured it wouldn't be a problem.
Our samsosa chat was awesome and definitley not microwaved. Absolutley greaseless too and a cut above what used to be our favorite at Maharaja Sweets. The paneer with spinach was not the gloppy mess found in most restaurants; the cheese was firm and browned beautifully, the spinach leaves intact and not pureed and the fresh spices out of this world. My husband imitating a celebrity chef we all love to hate proclaimed, "It'a a party in my mouth!" He was dead-on right. The Spicy Mina dal fry was SUBLIME....I was disappointed it was so dim b/c I really wanted to be able to see all of the redolant, vibrant herbs and spices I knew were generoulsy scattered about this dish. It reminded me in a strange way of the mujjarda (sp?) I used to love at Kalyustan's. Lentils married to a grain I don't remember, boldly seasoned and completley greasless. OH MY LORD!! I loved this dish and scooped it up with our order of nan. It was unbelievable. The dish, however that will leave me hungering for Mina and totally despondent should she ever go away, was the Chicken Jhal Fry. It was between that and what I think was called Chicken Dopieanga. Her son pushed for the jhal fry and we went with it. I had seen something about raw chicken posted by one of the naysayers and I specified to cook it "well-done" which probably sounded a bit odd, but whatever- I have a two year old to worry about these days....A lovely portion of boneless, hunks of chicken (completley lean, well-cleaned, no gristle- I am fanatical about chicken and generally don't eat anyone's other than my mom's who I trust to clean it perfectly)tender beyond compare in the most piquant, spicy, sauce. It was literally bursting with flavor from the dazzling array of freshly-ground spices. Also not heavy-handed with the oil/ghee which I appreciated.
I was saddened to learn that they had run out of my coveted Garjela Halwa (carrot pudding) but the kheer, as so many of you have stated, was sublime. My little boy entreated repeatedly as he pointed,
" More...this...." It was studded with half a violet-colored gulab jamun (?) and two egg-shaped mini confections that her son described as "marshamllows" that were definitley not. Burfi? Not sure, but very familiar. The rice pudding, while, only 3 dollars, was too small a portion; I definitley needed about three more bowls.
The gentelman friend was thrilled that we loved our food so much and he and Mina herself kept peeking over the counter by the register smiling at how delighted we all must have seemed. It felt as though we were eating in a friend's home. My son, while perfectly behaved and not disruptive in any way, did not want to sit down for what ended up being a 90 minute meal (no prob- food so perfectly prepared to order would have been worth a three hour wait; forget Terri Hatcher and Eva Longoria :) and wanted nothing more than to walk around and explore the tiny restaurant. Our waiter saw he was interested in their specials of the day chalkboard and brought him a piece of chalk and allowed us to move it near our own table so we could better enjoy our food whilst keeping an eye on our Little Man. Very gracious.
At the end of our meal, he brought Mina out to meet us. She was so tiny and adorable. "Slight" was the word that came to mind. I wanted to hug her. She asked if everything was ok and of course we told her "ok" was the understatement of the millineum! She had such warm, kind eyes. If they truly are the window to her soul, she should be sainted :) Like all good cooks who enjoy preparing food to feed, nourish others, I'm sure that love is her secret ingredient- it just shines through. I'm envisioning renting out the place for Christneings, b-days, office parties. LOL!
We sure were happy that the group of eight ChowHounds at the table next to ours placed their vast order AFTER our meal. As Mina's son proclaimed after going over the myriad dishes aloud, "I got it all, but I don't know how long this will take?!" And to his mom in the kitchen: "No break tonight!!"
I don't know how she'll be able to do it alone seven days a week from 11:00 am on...But I do know I'll be back often. Even her inconsistent "off" days have to be pretty good.
That Spicy Mina sure is a sorceress!