This is a long one, sorry, but it's also my first post . . .
For several months now, I've been reading great things about Mina, the Indian/Bengali restaurant in Sunnyside. Like so many folks on this board, I was a devout devotee of the old Jackson Diner, but I began to notice a general decline in its quality a year or two after it moved to its current location. After reading months of rabid posts about Mina, I had really high hopes about the place.
We arrived just a bit after 8pm, on a Saturday. Ramadan was obviously in full swing, but it was well past dark. We realize that it might have been tougher than usual for Mina to get supplies during the holiday (assuming they're Muslims; not sure), but we figured that all would be fine if we arrived at night.
We emphasized to our server that we wanted our food spicy, and we asked that she bring us whatever dishes she recommended that night. Well, for starters, the food arrived with alarming speed. There was no way that anyone could have fussed over anything (save bread) in such a short period of time.
A pair of samosas, one with minced beef/lamb/maybe goat, and another with chicken, started us off. The poultry was quite good, though nothing stellar, while the red meat option was flavorful and garlicky, but was marred by grease. In fact, the majority of the whole meal was far too oily and not remotely piquant enough, akin to takeout or cabbie fare. Great dipping sauce, though.
Things were looking up when the piping hot paratha arrived, but the curiously gummy and overcooked basmati (tasted like Indian Minute Rice!) put a damper on things. Our fish dupaiza (sorry if the spelling's off) was clearly frozen, smacking of both a dry fishiness and mild iodine flavor. The sauce was decent, and the carmelized onion was a nice touch, but otherwise, this dish was seriously off. The same can be said for the bland aloo gobi, which seemed simultaneously watery and oily and featured undercooked potatoes. A goat curry special redeemed the place a little, though it couldn't touch a good day at one of the better steam-table joints, like the Pakistan Tea House.
Overall, our food was nowhere near as adequate as even the worst meal I've had at the new Jackson Diner (and there have been some stinkers). We were thoroughly let down. The overall quality level was closer to E. 6th St. in the '80s.
My question is this: What gives? Obviously, some very smart and discerning people love Mina. The place does have a homey/anti-slick charm and sweet service, but we just couldn't get into the bland, oily food. Was it Ramadan's fault? We were wrong to go with our server's recommendations? Has the place gone totally downhill?
To compensate, we dropped by Mavi (formerly Nazar) for a quick firin sutlac desert. Their rice pudding is still some of the best in town, though we noticed that it was not served hot nor with cream on top, as it was in the days of Nazar. I've read that Mavi can't compare to the old place, despite retaining its chef. Is this true? And can anyone recommend a really, really exceptional Turk (we've spent time over there)? Or for that matter, an Indian place that equals the old Jackson Diner?