Given the recent praise heaped upon Our Lady of Bengali cooking, this is probably a somewhat dull post. However, I feel the need to clarify a statement I posted last winter/fall. Allow me to explain:
Late last year, my girlfriend and I had eaten at the much-vaulted Mina in Sunnyside, Queens. We found the food to be nothing special--downright atrocious in spots--and I posted a message to this board (subject: mina malaise). Jim Leff responded and came to the kitchen's defense, basically saying that different people like their Indian food prepared different ways.
Well, having eaten at Angon twice this week, I have come to a startling revelation: There was no way in hell that Mina could have been working the kitchen last fall when I ate at her old namesake place in Queens! (And this was well prior to her departure from that establishment.) I am so glad to finally taste this woman's food. Whoever was cooking last year must have been some substitute hack. The real Mina nearly lives up to the hype.
Angon is a terrific addition to the neighborhood. If you order everything extra spicy and avoid the tandoor dishes (Banjara is the place for those), you will be rewarded handsomely. Perfect, tender, flavorful lamb. Bold meat that is all about flavor, rather than about neutrality. Comforting but never dull potato croquettes called aloo fry. Extreme attention to detail, as shown by the frequent appearances of very fresh chilis and dollops of browned onion. Samosas were lukewarm when they arrived, but decent enough. Everything else was nothing short of outstanding.
It's too early to tell if Angon will be the equal of Queens' "old" Jackson Diner (prior to its move up the block five years ago or whenever). Of course, it's also apples and oranges--Mina cooks Bengali-style, whereas the original JD specialized in vaguely Kashmiri cooking plus South Indian appetizers.
I suppose the need to compare comes from my hope that Angon will churn out consistently excellent, fairly authentic food for many years (although their planning/course timing skills could be refined). The best South Asian in the city right now? Probably. Let's hope they can keep it up and meet with the demand sparked by the NY Times piece and by posts like this one.