Since i live close enough to go relatively regularly, Mina is a two/three times a month destination for me. That makes for good eating, of course, but also results in a slight muting of enthusiasm over just how good -- and unique -- the place is.
The cure? Go with someone who hasn't been before, as i did last night. Although my friend was a little put off by the lack of other customers -- at one point asking "are you sure they want us here?" -- he was quickly won over by the amazing folks in charge.
I've learned to forewarn first timers that food would be a while in coming, so the lag time before appetizers arrived was not a surprise. Papri Chat, one of my faves on the menu, was unusually heavy on the hot peppers (fine by me) and veggie pakora were swell, as usual.
Since my friend is a strict vegetarian, we stuck to that end of the menu. Made sure to put in for my South Asian standby, Palak Paneer. As many others have mentioned before, preparation styles at Mina are extraordinarily fluid, but this time, the lady in charge really outdid herself; the paneer browned just so, spinach in several stages of doneness, finished with what i think was frizzled, ginger-fortified onions. amazing.
we also went with the pickled eggplant dish (forget the name), which i devoured, but my friend was put off by -- something about warmed pickle, i guess, and the dal makhni. again, something a little unusual, perhaps more chilis? astounding.
and, just to prove that the pendulum swings both ways,we got an onion kulcha -- usually a staple here -- was oil-sodden and bland. all in all, though, a reminder that we have a treasure in our midst that we need to keep close to our hearts. and to that end, i made a convert who promises to be back again soon.