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Spicy Mina and SriPraPhai

Will be eating at these two restaurants in the next week and would like some suggestions for our meals - appreciate recommendations for appetizers, diner and dessert - thanks to all

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  1. http://www.chowhound.com/topics/444697

    start with the thread above for many posts detailing their favorite dishes at SRI. Do a seperate search on the outer board for Spicy Mina and you will come up with tons of info on her best dishes...but be warned it is highly inconsistent. Try to avoid SRI on the weekends, it's a madhouse, and it's also closed on Wednesdays.

    12 Replies
    1. re: janie

      Spicy Mina's is SO inconsistent that I don't think it is worth it. I have been there about 14 times and had only one great, and about 3-4 good meals. The rest were inedible to mediochre.

      1. re: NYJewboy

        What were you ordering? I've been there 8 times and I have 7 good meals sticking to only Bengali or fish specialties (and during Ramadan I only ordered stuff that I knew would be made because it was Ramadan like Halim.) The 8th was so bad that I sort of don't want to go back. I can cook half of that stuff and spice it my own way anyway, but even ignoring that, Jackson Heights is regarded as the cheap place to go by Bengalis. My ex-GF was Bengali and she was appalled by Mina's prices. She liked the fuska there, but that's about it. The prices really blew her away. Her mother cooked waaaaay better anyway.

        In the end I like Mina, but going back is eh... I honestly enjoy my meals at Ghoroa more. Even the time I accidentally ordered heart, kidney and liver curry (it was excellent) because I was practicing my Bangla and she wasn't with me.

        BTW, my 8th meal was an embarassment to mustard fish. I could honestly have made a better whole tilapia than that. I was really not a happy camper. Every other one was pretty damn good though.

        My ex also regarded Ghoroa and Sagar as being more authentic, more home style and closer to her mother's cooking (oddly enough.)

        1. re: JFores

          funny
          the few times I've been to Mina(enjoyed it each time) I found the cooking to be very much like my mother in laws cooking.She's Guyanese.
          Yet my wife doesnt like Minas, go figure

      2. re: janie

        I went to spicy mina's for dinner in July with my boyfriend. Totally disappointed. I prefer the great buffet at Indian Taj. Also, really disappointed with SriPraPhai (though would give it another chance)...if you can stand spicy (i mean SUPER spicy) food, try Zabb Thai. Delicious.

        1. re: ainslie

          what did you order at Srip that disappointed you?

          1. re: janie

            it was a while ago...but i think i ordered massman curry or perhaps a jungle curry.

            1. re: janie

              usually im more adventurous but im vegetarian and there was not much for me on the menu...i have many more choices at arunee and at zabb.

              1. re: ainslie

                SPP has an entire vegetarian menu, just ask for it. They have veg versions of their famous watercress salad among other things, using a really tasty fake ham. It's hard to beat Zabb's mock duck though, I get the real duck but often dine with people who get the fake duck and sometimes it's hard to tell the difference.

                1. re: Widmark

                  Do they use soy sauce instead of fish sauce for their vegetarian items?

                  1. re: Miss Needle

                    I'm going to guess yes only because they're pretty aware. Like when I've seen people order Veggie Pad Thai they ask if egg is ok. Still, it's worth asking.

                2. re: ainslie

                  Wouldn't shrimp paste be essential in a jungle curry, hence making it non-vegetarian?

                  1. re: JFores

                    I don't know whats in a jungle curry or if jungle curry is on their vegetarian menu, I'd ask for the menu and ask them...

          2. "Will be eating at these two restaurants in the next week and would like some suggestions for our meals..."

            Eat at Sri twice and skip Mina's.

            6 Replies
            1. re: Bob Martinez

              A rarely disagree with Bob M. but I do so here. I think that mboxermd was looking for a variety of tastes that chowhounds have recommended. I think that Spicy Mina is worth it and that the one would have two good but different experiences even if the second meal at Srip was better than SM. At SM have the Samosa Chat and any of the following: the Tilapia, the Palek Paneer, the Dal Fry, the Achar Goat.

              1. re: bobjbkln

                Thanks and I will let the hounds know what I think!!!

              2. re: Bob Martinez

                Ha! I'd say the exact opposite. I've never had a bad meal at Mina's (lucky I guess...), and 2 boring ones at Sri that left me wondering what all the fuss was about.

                mboxermd -- def do report back!

                1. re: oolah

                  "I'd say the exact opposite. I've never had a bad meal at Mina's (lucky I guess...)"

                  Wow. I've had 7 meals at Mina's that were solid "OKs" but nothing more. Let me explain. It was actually one meal last March but I went with a seven member CH all star team - people who've been posting on the boards for 5 or 6 years. Heavy hitters. We ordered a ton of food and the plates were passed around continuously. Nothing was bad, most dishes were solid but not particularly special, and one or two were sort of nice.

                  After about 90 minutes we were done eating; we all just sat there and I finally said what a number of us were thinking - "Is it just me or was that meal just OK?" It turned out I wasn't alone although one member of our party thought it was a bit better than that.

                  We went there expecting to be struck by culinary lightning. "My God! This is wonderful stuff! I'm going to come back next week and bring 5 other people!" Nope. It was too bad because we all really wanted to like it.

                  As for Sri, I must have eaten there 20 to 25 times and have always had great meals. Most of the time we go on Saturday or Sunday afternoons at around 1:30 when the lunch crowd begins to tail off. Perhaps the kitchen does better when it's less stressed? On the other hand I've eaten there 4 times in the evening, twice on weekends, and had good meals every single time.

                  Inconsistency is a constant theme in posts about Mina's and some posts are even more negative. Sri occasionally gets dinged for the same thing but much less. Based on that and my own experiences that's why I suggested hitting Sri twice.

                  1. re: Bob Martinez

                    I'm probably a little biased because I love Indian food and not as crazy about Thai in general, but it could also just be my luck.

                    I've been to Mina's about 4 times and enjoyed every visit -- always very delicious food that tastes miles better to me than any other Indian I can get elsewhere in NY -- just extremely well-crafted food with subtle spicing and flavors that really pop.

                    Meanwhile, the stuff I've had at Sri has never risen above standard Thai fare when I've been there. Slightly spicier maybe, but nothing exciting.

                    I don't at all doubt your experiences, rather it sounds like both places have inconsistencies and we've just had different luck! My advice would be to not give up on either :) I'll def be back for more at both places.

                  2. re: oolah

                    hey, me too (like mina's / didn't like sripraphai)! i was starting to think it was just me...

                    at mina's, the saag paneer is WAY different and WAY better than any other restaurant's version. it is made with fresh spinach and little chunks of paneer rather than the usual pureed stew. i thought it was awesome.

                    there are two dishes on the apps menu that i dream about, but i'm sorry i can't remember their name. one is samosas in a yogurt sauce... the other was a chaat-type thing.

                2. At Mina, for appetizers I like the samosas, the chicken lollipops and most of all, her chicken soup (kind of like egg drop soup with chicken, cilantro and spicy peppers). We usually order the chicken tikka masala, beef curry, shrimp dopeja, dal fry, palak paneer, and/or whatever eggplant dish she is making that day. For dessert, she usually brings out little bowls of her yogurt-y rice pudding - very tasty.
                  I've never had an inedible or mediocre meal there, fwiw - we did have some samosas once that were a bit off, but we talked to Mina about it and she made new ones for us that were fine.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: JulesNYC

                    We must have had 12 dishes at that meal. I refuse to believe that we just ordered wrong. Look, I'm not saying Mina's is bad. Far from it. But for a really long time there has been a sizeable minority of posters who have reported decent but not stellar experiences there. I'm just adding my voice to that group.

                  2. I love Spicy Mina more than I love Sri, which I think is not much different from other decent Thai places except for one dish--the crispy watercress salad, an oustandingly delicious revelation that is different from any other food I've ever eaten. It's probably worth it for that one dish, especially since the rest of the food is fine. I've never had a bad meal at Mina (been there maybe 8 times over the last 2 or 3 years) and have found that the most surprisingly delicious and carefully made things have been the vegetable dishes. Sometimes there are special veg dishes if you ask. Do give it a try.

                    1. Any report? I've had some bad dishes at Sri and never Mina but both are excellent restaurants. At Mina, order a vegatable dish and the mixed grill or the same grilled fish that is in the mixed grill.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: KateC.

                        I've never liked Mina's vegetarian stuff actually. I just stick to very Bengali or very North Indian items (her halim is quite good for ei.)

                        1. re: JFores

                          See I'm no huge expert, but what sold me on Mina's was the veg dishes. I didn't think the meat dishes were anywhere near as interesting, full of spice complexities. I would therefore advise anyone going there to steer veg, and perhaps as others are saying, fish.

                      2. I'll be in Queens for a few days in December, and probably will have one shot at Spicy Mina. Any tips on when Mina is most likely to be at the stove, and is there anything that could be considered a "signature" dish of hers?

                        I hit Sripraphai on the last trip, incidentally; great stuff, as good as we have in San Francisco.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Xiao Yang

                          Busy times are the most likely. The standard Fri, Sat, etc night sorts. At the same time, I have almost always had her during off hours. I've never had a meal not made by her, but I feel like disrupting her little break period in the middle of the day might screw with your meal. The last one I had there was at a random mid day time and it was the only bad one I've had there.

                        2. Underwhelming Mina's experience last night. I've been twice, and both times I wanted to love it, but it hasn't happened yet. Had the Achar something or other, which I really liked. Friend had the Kashmiri Chicken (rec'd by waiter) and it was un-interesting. The appetizer platter was so...fried. That is really the only taste I remember from it.

                          The last time we went, had the Achar and the mustard fish, the latter I was not all that into, despite the good things I've read. The chana chat (sp?) was ok, but it was oily and sweet and didn't do anything for dh or me.

                          Owners are lovely, but I don't think I'll go back. I keep hoping I'll have an 'experience.' Am I just ordering all wrong?

                          10 Replies
                          1. re: orzabelle

                            "Am I just ordering all wrong?"

                            Nope. I had the same experience.
                            http://www.chowhound.com/topics/46037...

                            1. re: orzabelle

                              I have to disagree with Bob M and say yes, you did order wrong. (we can hash out the whole thing about how everything on the menu should be wonderful, blah blah blah later...). I would recommend the basics and those dishes that are written about lovingly here again and again - dal fry, palak paneer, shrimp dopeaja, etc. I've never had good luck with their specials.
                              BTW, if the mustard fish was anything like what my Bengali MIL cooks, it was frozen for a while and then thawed out. Also, the fish often used in Bengali home cooking is a smelly oily freshwater fish that my very American palate is not into - possibly yours as well (?).

                              1. re: JulesNYC

                                You don't like ilish? But why? Ilish is awesome! It's the national fish!

                                I agree with all of that. Stick to the basics and order ONLY BENGALI ITEMS. Only fish for entrees. She does her chats and street food style items really well, those are good too. Mina does her mustard fish with tilapia, unfortunately seeing as it is possibly the most boring fish ever created by God. I'd much prefer ilish.

                                Basics at Mina's. Don't treat it like an Indian restaurant. It's not. It's Bengali/Bangladeshi. The exception to the fish rule is her halim which is very good.

                                1. re: JFores

                                  Call me a bore, but I really like Mina's chicken tikka masala - a totally non-Bengali dish, but always tender and nicely flavored. And I mentioned it before and I'll mention it again - if Mina is there, the chicken soup is a really good bet. It is what I want to eat when I have a cold - spicy and flavorful. But if Mina is not there, don't get it - the other cooks don't have her touch with it.

                                2. re: JulesNYC

                                  You know, one of my criteria for a good restaurant is consistency. Based on the information on this thread the menu at Mina's is a minefield. You've got to tiptoe through it carefully, avoiding the mediocre dishes to find the great ones.

                                  I'm sorry - I don't buy it. Lets compare this place to Sripraphai since that's the subject of this thread. At Sri you don't need some type of secret road map to get great food. You can open up the menu and order pretty much at random, certain that you're going to have a great meal.

                                  That's what makes Sri an outstanding restaurant and why Mina's is hit or miss.

                                  1. re: Bob Martinez

                                    The subject of this thread is actually the OP's request for suggestions of what to order at each place - not comparing the two and deciding which is "better"...
                                    I agree with the poster below - apples and oranges!

                                    1. re: JulesNYC

                                      There has been plenty of comparisons between the 2 restaurants on this thread and it's a very useful discussion. The nice thing with Sri is that the recommendation is "Order pretty much whetever you want. There are tons of great dishes."

                                      With Mina's the menu is a minefield. "Don't order this, watch out for that. Sometimes this other dish is really good but don't order it if there's a full moon or in months that end in "r." "

                                      If I'm in that neighborhood I'm going to go to Sri where I know I'm going to get a great meal. If I want to gamble I'll go to Vegas.

                                      1. re: Bob Martinez

                                        We should start a thread about Mina's versus DiFara's - that should light up the board!

                                        1. re: JulesNYC

                                          "We should start a thread about Mina's versus DiFara's - that should light up the board!"

                                          Lets add in the Arepa Lady and go for the hat trick. :-)

                                  2. re: JulesNYC

                                    thanks, Jules. OK, next time! I took the waiter's rec both visits, which maybe wasn't the right thing. The saag paneer (sp?) that is not the expected creamed spinach sounds pretty heavenly. :)

                                3. Two totally different cuisines.

                                  Apples and oranges.

                                  Why are we debating?

                                  1. My advice: "skip Mina's go to Sri", as one Chowhounder wrote above. I have gone to Spicy Mina's about 12 times. Many of those times it was OK, nothing special. A few times it was inedible, truly bad, as if the chef was drunk, sick, or blindfolded. Having said this, I must add that one meal that I had one night was spectacular, and I understood why the place has such a following. In the final analysis I cannot travel all the way into the depths of Queens to gamble with these odds. It is just not worth it. The place itself is a dump, and not really lending to a nice night out. I have stopped trying to catch that one great meal simply out of frustration. And it aint cheap. For what it is (based on ethnicity, location, and physical surroundings) it should be dirt cheap. Therefore my wife and I will pass on Mina's forver, knowing what we are giving up and being unwilling to take the risk of more mediocrity or bad meals.

                                    5 Replies
                                    1. re: NYJewboy

                                      Mina's is OUTRAGEOUSLY expensive for Jackson Heights South Asian. My ex-GF (Bengali) was astounded at the prices; things in Jackson Heights (according to her) are supposed to be cheap.

                                      Oh well, that's why I go to Ghoroa. I got a naan, 2 sikh kebabs, and a tea for TWO DOLLARS!

                                      1. re: NYJewboy

                                        "For what it is (based on ethnicity, location, and physical surroundings) it should be dirt cheap."

                                        Mina's is not cheap, but that doesn't stop me from going every couple of weeks. I've NEVER had a 'bad' meal there (out of at least 50 in her three different restaurants), and, as far as the 'Mina's-not-there-cooking-today' issue, people should know that she was gone for the last few months (visiting Mecca in Saudi Arabia), she is now back. I ate lunch there Thursday (Samosa Chat, Palak Paneer, Muglai Parantha, all wonderful).

                                        But here's my problem: why does Mina's need to be cheap "based on ethnicity"? Good lord, what does that possibly mean? Would you EVER say that about a French restaurant?

                                        I find Mina's pricing to be perplexingly expensive, but less perplexing than the hyperboles you've now used in several messages to describe the 'timeS (as in plural!!!!) that you found the food to be "inedible, truly bad, [as] if the chef was drunk, sick, or blindfolded". Why would anyone (who wasn't like, um, blindfolded himself and forced to visit a Bangledeshi restaurant in another borough at gunpoint) possibly even think of returning to such a place?)

                                        1. re: JRogan

                                          JRogan: "Would you EVER say that about a French restaurant?" Yes, I would! Indian food should be cheap because of the cultural context it arises from. When you go to India food is cheap (with the exeption of the western tourist market and new 'upscale' tech money). French food is established culturally in different catagories, which includes a high end that Indian does not historically have.
                                          In addition, I think that the politically correct idea that all cultures are equal is nuts. On some abstract level they might have some equal import, but that does NOT mean that they are all the same!!!

                                          1. re: NYJewboy

                                            The price of a meal should not be based on "cultural context". It should be based on cost and what the market will bear. French food should not cost more because some people believe that French food is more culturally established. Mina does not purchase her ingredients at the prices charged in Bangladesh nor does she pay the rent she would in Bagladesh, so she should not charge the same price she would in Bagladesh. It is not correct to say all things being equal a French restaurant should charge more then one from South Asia. See attached link for the Big Dog's view on this.

                                            http://www.chowhound.com/topics/21337...

                                            1. re: stuartlafonda

                                              I disagree respectfully stuartlafonda. We are not paying for ingredients. We are paying for a chef's lifetime of experience within their art. Cultural context ALWAYS factors in, how could it not? We are paying for a highly evolved process, not some raw vegetables and meat. An example is this: when asked how long a certain rather spare gesture drawing took to make, Henri Mattisse responded "my whole life". That's what we are paying for. Since that life is attached to a culture, it becomes an extension of its cultural context. This, in my opinion, cannot be swept under the rug of political correctness.