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Mina Friday Night - News (longish)

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Mina Friday Night - News (longish)

bob192 | Apr 17, 2004 11:28 AM

Hoping to avoid the recently-mentioned 'meltdown' - worked in restaurants, been there, done that, it's not fun - I left for Mina right after work Friday evening. The trains are back in full-working order, the evening was lovely, and I had a double-shot of Johnnie Walker in pocket as I stepped aboard the #7's 'bar car' to the 52nd Street stop. Amply fortified, the stroll down to Mina was delightful, the door was propped open and I stepped in to an empty house. Fatima came out shortly with water and presented the menu, then her husband, one of the major partners, wished me a good evening as he departed. I asked after Mr. Khan, and he noted that Mr. Khan was now somewhat out of the picture due to his less-than-stellar customer service skills of late, and that this gentleman, twinkly-eyed behind his wire-rims, was constantly impressing the need for such stellar skills upon his son, the Waiter. (I didn't quite catch their name, it's long.) Seems that Fatima is Mina's sister, and wife of the partner, and that Mina has also taken leave, back to Bangladesh for an indeterminate period. Placing my order with Fatima, onion kulcha, fried fish with roti, baigan achar (better with fish than the other eggplant dish, at Fatima's suggestion) and two orders goat biryani, one to stay, one to go, she immediately returned to the kitchen and called out rapid instructions. After only a short wait, everything arrived at once, and have no fear, nothing at all has been lost in transition. The onion kulcha was terrific throughout the meal, even as it cooled, and in fact served as dessert too. The fish fry (tilapia this time) was superb - everything was "spicy" by the way, but I just pushed the chunks of green chile to the side - the baigan achar a revelation, not at all like 'pickles' but the very essence of 'vegetable', the biryani amazing, everything tasting savory and fresh. (I carried most of the biryani home, along with the takeout order, and felt very much the lucky guy.) Fatima came out later to see how everything was, and she is every bit as sweet and kind and generous as Mina. I asked about the eggplant, so she gathered one from the kitchen to show me - they are small, about the size of a plum tomato, "available at the Patel store, 74th or 76th Street, Jackson Heights." Discussing things with the son, formerly a waiter at the Jackson Diner, gave cause for concern however, as business at Mina has not been good. Their expenses run to several hundred dollars a day, and as only one other table came in by the time I left at 8:00, they obviously weren't going to make their nut that day. A move to Queens Boulevard was being considered, but that would drive up rent by two-thirds. Also under consideration was a lunch buffet, but Waiter and I agreed that there probably wasn't enough foot traffic at the present location to support it. Anyway you look at it, folks, times are tight for this wonderful place, but the bottom line is, Mina still needs your support, and deserves it. The food is as vibrant and exciting as ever, the service is better than it has been in a good while, and with warm weather, maybe things will improve, but 'hounds can't just take that hope as a sure thing. Flock, eat, enjoy!

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