I'm a member of the original Mina fan club. I planned my first trip to the new Spicy Mina with great anticipation. On November 4 I arrived early (5-ish) in order to avoid the wait I assumed would occur later in the evening. I was the only customer and received nice service from an actual waiter. I ordered my two favorite dishes from Mina's former location, the spinach with cheese (palak paneer, here spelled "ponir") and the moong dal fry (now called "dal fry Mina special"), both of which came to the table fairly quickly. The first taste of each dish told me something was terribly wrong. The only discernible flavor in either dish was salt -- lots of salt. The spinach was dark, stringy and dry, rather than bright green and creamy. From its current look, I would guess that the spinach is frozen rather than fresh. The cheese had a slightly sour quality to it. Both dishes contained a few hot chilis, which added nothing other than a vague suggestion of heat. Then I recalled that at the original Mina, I sometimes had to specify that I wanted my food spicy. I called the waiter over and discussed with him the fact that the food was tasteless, and asked him to return it to Mina to be seasoned. I wanted it spicy! He told Mina, and then came back and apologized to me, since he was new and hadn't been instructed to ask the customers about the degree of spiciness they desired. Then Mina came out from behind the stove and said hello, very friendly and apologetic. She asked me if I wanted the food medium spicy or very spicy. I said, normal, spicy, the way you used to make it in Sunnyside. This proved to be the wrong answer. When the food came back, it was loaded with green chilies and was hot (it made my nose run), but the underlying flavor was still just salt. I used to devour both dishes in one sitting, but now I lacked the heart to finish either one, and got the leftovers to go. At home later on they were no better.
Mina graciously gave me a free dessert, a truly delicious rice pudding sprinkled with dried fruits and nuts and accompanied by a yummy, chewy, little carrot patty seasoned with cinnamon and cloves. But this is hardly enough to make up for the deep disappointment and confusion I felt upon leaving the restaurant, having spent $23 including tip for a meal I wouldn't want to eat for free.
On my way out, I asked Mina's husband to encourage her not to be afraid to make the food spicy. I hope that this was the reason for the lousy meal I had (although I can't explain the negative transformation of the spinach paneer). Unless other chowhounds inform me that my experience was a fluke and that the food is indeed fabulous, I won't be back.
Mina, say it ain't so.