We discovered Mina about a year ago through Chowhound, after reading the many raves here. We've gone about twice a month ever since. We have loved Mina every time - that is, until tonight. It's such a shock, we are posting moments after arriving back home.
First to make clear, Mina's weaknesses have always been (a) the generally terrible service, which was always outweighed by the out-of-this-world food; and (b) its consistency, which we also ignored because the same dishes were delicious - if prepared very differently - every time.
Tonight, the service was SO TRULY AWFUL, bordering on offensive, it was hard to overlook. There were three other tables of two or three people each when we walked in, which apparently is more than this place can handle. It was 15 minutes before the waiter took our order and then another 35 minutes before we got our food. Once the food came, the waiter brought the wrong rice and served the roti, a bread that should come first or with the meal, last, after we ate most of our entrees.
To make matters worse, the staff sprayed tables with Lysol while we were eating -- no excuse for Lysol when several tables of diners are eating and it's well before closing. (PS We've noted that a some other Chowhound faves, including a few we love, do this - what's up with that?) When we asked for the Lysol spraying to stop, the Glade spraying began to cover up the Lysol smell.
As for the food, it was average - well, maybe above average, a 6 to 7 on a scale of 10, but that is not the usual Mina. The somosas were outstanding as usual, among the best we had. But the spinach-chick peas-and-potato dish was a heap of oily glop, nothing compared to its usual Mina deliciously and delicate subtlety. Worst of all were the two whole-fish dishes we ordered. The pan-fried whole fishes at Mina are our favorites, usually out of this world. Our most favorite has always been the Tandoori Tilapia. Tonight it simply had no flavor and was overcooked to the point of all dried up. Ditto for the second whole fish we ordered, in a usually-sweet-but-not-tonight tamarind sauce.
Well, we looked at the kitchen, which you can see from the tables, and noticed it wasn't the same chef. We asked the waiter if that was Mina herself and he said, no, Mina was on vacation in Bangladesh and that the chef tonight was Mina's sister, Fatima. Okay, we'd have breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that once Mina returns, things will be better. But the waiter, a very charming if overworked guy who happens to be the brother of Mina and Fatima, said the two sisters alternate doing the cooking.
Ah ha - so this may explain that even when Mina is delicious, the same dishes have always varied from visit to visit. If you're ever in the restaurant, Mina looks much older and shorter than Fatima, almost as if she could be the mom of Fatima and our waiter.
At least we know now to call in advance and ask whether Mina or Fatima is doing the cooking.