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Mina's back -- with her A game

j
Jack Barber Jan 19, 2008 03:04 AM

At least last night she was.

Between Mina being away and a couple middling meals (there and takeout), I hadn't been to Spicy Mina in months. Last night though had a craving for Indian food, called to verify she was cooking, and put in a big takeout order.

Everything was *fantastic*, as good or better than ever. (We order pretty basic stuff -- a couple chk dishes, palak paneer, chana masala, raita, garlic nan, etc.)

Also at 9p the place had two tables of 4+, and apparently had been very busy earlier, w/ 2 tables of at least 10/12. Which I was glad to see.

This is just one data point, of course, but thought I'd throw it out there since there's been some recent talk about inconsistency etc. Based on last night's performance I'd encourage any doubters or fence-sitters to give Mina another try.

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  1. NYJewboy Jan 19, 2008 06:14 AM

    Well Jack, I have heard this song many times before. My problem with Mina is that in the 13-16 times I have been there only a couple meals have been great, more than a couple were attrocious (really bad meat), but most were just OK. Not even good, but just OK. Is it worth those odds? I think not. I would have to hear about more than just "she's back on her A game" to go back into Queens. Her place is really dingy, not condusive to a nice night out. I am not convinced.

    16 Replies
    1. re: NYJewboy
      d
      david sprague Jan 19, 2008 11:21 AM

      you've posted these doubts many many times, and they're completely contrary to my experience at mina. out of two dozen visits, i'd say one was completely substandard. i've had disappointing dishes a handful of times, but out of the 24-ish meals i've had there, i'd say 20 were "A" grade, 3 "B" and one "C" or "C-minus."

      i also don't think her space even approaches "dingy." is it glamorous? nope. cute? nah. cozy. hardly. but "dingy"? not at all...clean, spartan, utilitarian space. and i will trade designer setting for this kind of food 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, rather than be scammed by a place like, say, ninja.

      1. re: david sprague
        NYJewboy Jan 19, 2008 11:28 AM

        If I have repeated myself, I apologize. I got so fed up with Mina's that I felt that I had to shout it from the rooftops, considering how much adulation is directed toward the place.
        Dingy is just my aesthetic take, which is subjective of course. Even so, I would not be deterred by such an issue if the food was better more often. It only becomes a concern when the grievances are ready for a full on parade.

        1. re: NYJewboy
          d
          david sprague Jan 19, 2008 11:34 AM

          there's certainly no need to apologize for stating your opinion, be it once or two dozen times. i just find that your take -- that mina's food is inconsistent and almost always sub-par -- is so different from mine, and that of the many friends who've become mina regulars after my introducing them to the place, makes me think that (no offense) you may be offbase in your antipathy towards the place.

          i'd have the same argument with those who'd denigrate a donovan's burger and (to some degree, since i haven't been in a year or so) a luger's steak. i'm not one to buy into hype -- discovered (original) mina and sripraphai many many years back because they were within walking distance of my home, not because i'd heard anything about them.

          curious what south asian place you'd recommend for a consistent, superlative experience..

          1. re: david sprague
            NYJewboy Jan 19, 2008 01:20 PM

            South Asian is hard. I am not sure why. But I do like Chola, but it is far from perfect. My favorite ever was in Ann Arbor Michigan in 2003, a place named Madras Masala, which has since gone downhill into mediocrity. The chef was a big smiling genius who began letting the assistants cook way too often.

            1. re: NYJewboy
              j
              josh L Feb 7, 2008 08:32 AM

              its vegetarian and from the south, but saravanaas in manhattan has been consistently good since its grand opening.

      2. re: NYJewboy
        j
        Jack Barber Jan 19, 2008 11:27 AM

        Well NYJ, upon consideration (and after eating some leftovers), my order from Mina last night might be the best South Asian food I've ever had. (To be fair I've never been to South Asia to eat, only London and major US cities.)

        Sounds from the tone of your post that it's just as well that you're "not convinced," and I agree that you probably shouldn't "go back into Queens." (And definitely feel free not to "listen" to my "songs" in the future!)

        I absolutely encourage others with more affection for the restaurant and/or less fixed opinions than yours to check back in.

        1. re: Jack Barber
          NYJewboy Jan 19, 2008 11:31 AM

          I shall return, just not to Mina's.

          1. re: NYJewboy
            s
            stuartlafonda Jan 19, 2008 03:17 PM

            I love Spicy Mina and will shout it from ther roof top next to yours. If the only place you can name that is better then Mina is Chola, sometimes, and a joint in Michigan then Mina remains the champ in these parts. I have been to Mina's more times then I can count and have had mostly good meals with a few great ones but never, and I mean never, a bad one. Mina is no more dingy then our beloved DiFara's and like that joint, I keep going back because of the food and in spite of the decor. Stay away from Mina's, that is fine with me, at least I won't have to worry about you pushing ahead of me for a table. Samosa chat,lamb vindaloo,sag paneer,onion kulcha and a rice pudding washed down with a couple of beers, heaven on mismatched plates.

            1. re: stuartlafonda
              NYJewboy Jan 19, 2008 04:19 PM

              Beloved Di Fara's is 99% consistent and reasonably priced. Mina's is wildly inconsistent and too expensive for what/where it is. Why don't you like Chola stuartlafonda? And I only named the joint in Michigan because it was the best I ever had (I have never been to India). I thought that was the question, maybe I misread.

              1. re: NYJewboy
                s
                stuartlafonda Jan 19, 2008 04:41 PM

                DiFara is the best pizza in the world but it is not nearly as consistent as you believe. Dom regularly burns pies. If Mina is to expensive for this type of cuisine(I am referencing our previous disagreement) then Chola, an even more expensive restaurant should not be on your list of favorites. I happen to like Chola very much, particularly the lunch buffet. The question posed by "David Spraque" was " what south asian place you'd recommend for a consistent, supurlative experience". Namimg a mediocre place in Michigan does not provide much guidance to Mr. Spraque and others.

                1. re: stuartlafonda
                  NYJewboy Jan 19, 2008 05:35 PM

                  A little Dom burn is a plus, in my opinion, not an error.

                  Chola is expensive, it is true. But considering where it is it makes sense, in addition to the fact that it is a comfortable aesthetically pleasing environment. When Jackson Heights charges Manhattan prices something is wrong. THAT is what I meant by 'too expensive for what it is". In Chola's case the rent they are paying commands it.
                  And I never cut you in line stuartlafonda.

                  1. re: stuartlafonda
                    j
                    JFores Jan 19, 2008 06:45 PM

                    I think Mina does some Bengali fare very well when she's there. I've only eaten with her there and I had very good solid food except for one time which was AWFUL. Absolutely awful. However, her food is only a TINY bit better from my favorite spots in Jamaica and it is RETARDED expensive for Jackson Heights. South Asians regard Jackson Heights as the cheap place to go. It's supposed to be cheaper than anywhere else. I like Mina, I like her food quite a bit, but I don't think it's worth it given the prices. I enjoy my meals many times more at Ghoroa which I will support and frequent no matter what anyone says because I can have an absolute feast for 7 dollars and the quality can border on home cooking at times.

                    But uh... What's wrong with Mina's decor? I think the decor is great there. My usual eating establishment is on par with a Chengdu Heaven interior or a street cart so I don't really care.

                    Oh and don't bother with non Bengali stuff from Mina's. My only luck has been with specifically Bengali dishes. Home cooking blows her out of the water still though. By a whole lot.

                    1. re: JFores
                      n
                      NancyC Feb 6, 2008 12:46 PM

                      How do you know when she's there? People seem to mention this a lot, but is it just luck or do you call ahead or do you know she is there on certain days of the week?

                      I have only been once--been wanting to go since it was just Mina's but Queens is just a pain in the ass from Brooklyn--and I remember a sweet, very small lady hovering about but not serving us...maybe middle-aged. Definitely not grandma-age but not young. Was that her?

                      1. re: NancyC
                        NYJewboy Feb 6, 2008 06:25 PM

                        The one fantastic meal I had there she definitely cooked. It was great. I regret being so harsh, but I think my reasons were explained on this and other posts. Having said that, if I heard more good feedback about consistency I would try it again. It really does revolve around her doing the cooking though. When the other guy cooks it has never been good, in my opinion.

                        1. re: NancyC
                          p
                          Pulpio Feb 7, 2008 06:36 AM

                          I read something recently that indicated that Mina is still cooking in, or at least supervising, the kitchen at Angon on Sixth Street in Manhattan. Anyone have any idea how she's splitting her time between the two joints?

                          That being asked, I'll also note that I've never had a bad meal at Mina's no matter who's cooking.

                  2. re: stuartlafonda
                    p
                    pynchoff Feb 6, 2008 04:47 PM

                    I agree completely with David and Stuart. Never had a bad meal at Mina's and have had many many good ones.

            2. j
              JulesNYC Jan 19, 2008 05:05 PM

              I too had a fabulous Mina meal this week!
              My husband called in a delivery order for me because I was under the weather. This was actually our first Mina-via-delivery - and it worked out great. The perfectly spicy chicken soup cleared up my stuffy nose and fulfilled that need for chicken soup that you get when you are feeling yucky. The dishes we ordered were tasty and fresh. Ironically, the dal fry, which I like precisely because it isn't soupy, was a little on the soupy side but it suited me perfectly in this situation.
              I wish I could say that it was as good as my mom's cooking...but my mom's cooking isn't nearly as good!

              1. f
                foodforthought2 Jan 19, 2008 08:42 PM

                I had Mina's several times, I believe, a fairly good sampling of the menu. I found it to be very spicy, hot,and fresh. however, nothing particularly special about the taste above that. At least from my experience. Not that it was inedible or atrocious, simply nothing that melts in one's mouth. I guess we all just experience things differently. I wouldn't dissaude anyone from going there either. As per the decor, it was a little on the dark side, and perhaps, rustic. I think seeing Mina in the kitchen adds a certain charm to the place, after all, she does look like someone's mother (if you're Bengali). It's very homey (not homely) place.

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