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Review: Mint Leaf Open and Full

Icantread Mar 12, 2008 10:25 AM

We made it over to the Mint Leaf on a whim yesterday and found it quite full. We were quite excited about having an Indian restaurant nearby with pedigree. Unfortunately, the meal fell quite short.

The place itself is nice, being the previous Restaurant Brana space. Clean white with a high sloping ceiling and some dark wood accenting the wall I faced. Also some "tapestries" (for lack of the right word. . .those small carpets people hang on walls) added to the look. More of a modern design than cozy: copper tinged concrete floor, sparsely decorated,very clean, and you're cocooned in the noise from all the conversations going on around you.

Service itself was subpar. Sloooowwww. We asked for the bill after the main course and wrapped that up quickly but were still there close to two hours. The server brought me a bucket for my wine and then told me I could stick it in there if I wanted. I proceeded to dig it in. That being said, the servers were very friendly and some were on their A game as far as etiquette is concerned.

The meal was the worst part of the whole experience. I can forgive just about anything barring outright rudeness for a good meal. We started with an order of the Keeba Samosas (Lamb stuffed), which came with chickpeas in a sauce. The samosas had a good thin, crispy dough but were stuffed pretty much just with ground lamb. The biggest comment I can make of the food overall was that it was all one-note. That complexity of spiced and aromatic flavors key to Indian cuisine was completely missing from start to finish. Chickpeas were good though.
Mrs. ICR chose the Mint Leaf Kofta and I chose the Lamb Rogan Josh for dinner. The lamb tasted very familiar, like a cross between a Cuban Carne Asada and Cuban Lamb shank in a wine sauce. Cilantro sprinkled over the top was the only difference. again, no depth of flavor. I will say that it was good, but not something you would order from an Indian restaurant. The rogan josh's I've had were intensely flavored and spicy. If Indian food tastes Cuban, it's missing a whole lot of peppers. The Kofta sauce was sweetly aromatic, but the balls themselves tasted of freezer. I will leave it at that. we also had a bread basket with the meal (originally asked for two naan and the server said he'd bring the basket instead. did not realize it was $10, but that was on the menu so mea culpa) and rice was also separate (a whopping 3.50 for a bowl of nondescript white. they made 3.49 on each of those).

Basically I won't be going back. Indian food will be limited to Northward hikes or the home kitchen. Very unfortunate and disappointing. A good Indian restaurant so centrally located would do great. For now, House of India ranks above, because even if the food is not consistently great, at least you feel like you ate Indian food when you left.

  1. MGTico Jul 29, 2008 06:33 AM

    I decided to try Mint Leaf for the first time about a week ago. I have not had the pleasure of eating a lot of Indian food, but we were pleasently surprised at the great menu offerings there were. To start off I will say the service was VERY poor. It seemed like the entire staff were kids on summer break from Coral Gables High.

    My wife loves curry dishes being that she is from Peru (Ahi Amarillo) To start we had a combo of the lamb and vegetable samosas. The were good but the accompanying sauces really made the dish. For the main we got one of those "pancakes that was stuffed with what seemed like slow cooked lamb, as well as a coconut curried dish.all of which had good flavors. We did as well learn that we needed to additionally get some bread and rice which was fine because my daughter of 20 months happily assisted us with those carbs.

    I was dissapointed by the lack of wines by the glass (One red and One white) but I did find a nice Austrian Gruner Veltliner. We were too full for dessert so we declined, even though my wife told the waiter it was my birthday, no offerings were brought.

    We will enjoy going back for the food, hopefully the front of the house can catch up.

    1. tarepanda May 7, 2008 06:45 PM

      Glad some of you had a good experience. Mine was disappointing, both service and food wise and it's unlikely we will be going back any time soon.

      First we arrived, glad to see that we had made reservation as we spotted the only empty table with a reserved sign on it. Sure it was ours, but it took a long while before a wait staff paid us any attention as we stood there. Then it was another very long wait before we were even offered the menu.

      The bread basket was pretty good and we also enjoyed the chaat - I forgot the name but it was the one in a potato basket with fruits, It was good but rather over priced. (especially since they mentioned that it's supposed to be street food...)

      The dosa was a major disappointment, compare to the excellent samples from Woodlands and Udipi. This one was salty and not as light and crisp. (House of India does it worse, btw... greasy and hard). My hubby ordered a lamb dish which he wasn't happy with either.

      24 Replies
      1. re: tarepanda
        lax2mia May 29, 2008 07:00 AM

        Looks like the Herald's Victoria Pesce Elliott got talked into ordering the tokri chaat as well. She gushed over this place as if it were the be all, end all Indian restaurant. I'll admit the food is good, as she goes on and on about, but she doesn't mention anything about the service quirks that have been so prevalent amoung hounders.

        http://www.miamiherald.com/1010/story...

        1. re: lax2mia
          Frodnesor May 29, 2008 07:42 AM

          Actually last paragraph does say: "It's easy to run up a big tab here when sampling so many lovely dishes. And servers, though pleasant and handsome, are sometimes bumbling."

          I was back for another take-out order recently. Again, even though they said it would be ready in 20 minutes, I showed up after 20 minutes and spent another 15-20 minutes waiting at the restaurant.

          Vegetable samosas were pretty good, clearly made in-house, with a pleasingly rustic pastry with a nice crispy crumble to it. Did a whole tandoori chicken this time which was again done well. Chicken jalfrezi was decent but a bit bland. I did not like the way that they do their sag paneer, the spinach is pureed so far that it's basically spinach soup with no texture to it whatsoever. Also got the dal makhani (black lentils) again, which I like quite a bit, and a bread basket.

          Ordering a la carte does get quite expensive quickly, though, particularly if you want some variety (which I think is at the heart of a good Indian meal). The foregoing, whch was for 2 of us with enough for one more meal of left-overs the next day, was nearly $90.

          1. re: Frodnesor
            Icantread May 29, 2008 08:53 AM

            and no mention of wine in that tab. . . really have to try it again though

            1. re: Frodnesor
              Miami Danny May 29, 2008 08:56 AM

              $90 for takeout Indian. That just about says it all. Please, Frod, white rice is not a 'side'-if Wong's charged extra for rice you'd be outraged. And especially $3.50! This place is getting a free ride from Lee Klein and VPE because its owners have places in Britain and they are Euro-trash suckups. Also, bread/crackers, etc., at least the last two times I ate at a restaurant, ought to come gratis with the meal. Unless I order a special bread basket. If someone dropped off something on my table without asking and then it appeared on my bill, there would be blood. Raja's is still excellent as is Asia Grocery for takeout. And dirt cheap.
              And Taj Mahal is still open-there is new mgmt.

              1. re: Miami Danny
                Icantread May 29, 2008 10:06 AM

                Asia Grocery should open a full fledged restaurant. Love the family.

                1. re: Miami Danny
                  Frodnesor May 29, 2008 10:22 AM

                  I was doing take-out so supplied the booze myself. My impression from my one meal at the restaurant was that the wine list was pretty decent and fairly reasonably priced - though it's hard to beat a cold Kingfisher beer.

                  MD - truth is, I used to have bills of $70-80 at Renaisa / Taj Mahal for comparable orders - which I also thought was crazy expensive, particularly given the dump they were operating out of. But w/ meat entrees running close to $20 and vegetable dishes in the teens, it gets pricey quickly if you get a couple meats and couple veg like we usually do (and those kind of prices are similar at Heelsha, Ishq, Imlee, etc. at least on the menus at menupages).

                  Where is Asia Grocery?

                  MD - when were you last at Taj Mahal? The signs are down, new signs for "Monarch Bay" are up, say it's a "steaks and seafood" place, yet I saw an ad in New Times saying it was "Asian fusion".

                  1. re: Frodnesor
                    Miami Danny May 29, 2008 10:41 AM

                    Asia Grocery www.miamisunpost.com/archives/2008/03...
                    6727 S.W. 56th St., Miami
                    786-268-7700
                    Hours: Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; closed Monday
                    I was at 'Monarch Bay' the other day and spoke to the 'new management'. It appears to be the exact same menu as previous incarnations. Literally. Right down to the stains.

                    1. re: Miami Danny
                      advisor_Girl May 29, 2008 11:47 AM

                      Bang Zoom Danny!

                      <<If someone dropped off something on my table without asking and then it appeared on my bill, there would be blood. >>

                      <<It appears to be the exact same menu as previous incarnations. Literally. Right down to the stains.>>

                      What if someone dropped off a blood-stained menu?

                      Seriously - that place is a petri dish with papadams.

                      You kill me! Yo = LMAO y pp tambien.

                      AG

                      1. re: Miami Danny
                        Frodnesor May 29, 2008 12:13 PM

                        That is really bizarre. I wonder what's up with the "steaks and seafood" and the "asian fusion."

                        1. re: Miami Danny
                          m
                          miamisweet Jun 20, 2008 08:35 AM

                          Is Taj still open? Aside from Mint Leaf, Ishq, Imlee, and Heelsha are there any other decent Indian restaurants for dinner. Would like to go tonite but def. not to Mint Leaf.

                          1. re: miamisweet
                            Frodnesor Jun 20, 2008 02:48 PM

                            Taj Mahal has now resurfaced yet again as "Monarch Bay" - MD said a couple weeks ago they had the same menu as Taj Mahal (which was basically the same menu as Renaisa) but I've seen ads and/or signs for everything under the sun - Asian Fusion, steaks and seafood, Thai, Indian, Vietnamese, Cambodian ... have not been in to figure out what it really is.

                            1. re: Frodnesor
                              m
                              miamisweet Jun 20, 2008 02:57 PM

                              Sounds Interesting. If anyone goes let me know what it's like please!

                      2. re: Miami Danny
                        johnmlinn May 29, 2008 12:15 PM

                        Haven't been down that way, but there's no way I would pay $90 for takeout Indian either. My usual spot runs me about $30-$40 and I get a feast that lasts for at least a few meals. You have to ask why these dishes run nearly $20 when their ingredients are very basic. Either they're overpaying that head chef or the markup is obscene.

                        1. re: Miami Danny
                          m
                          mialebven May 29, 2008 05:20 PM

                          Actually, in Indian cuisines, rice is a prized commodity much more so than in Chinese cuisine. It's supposedly more specialized - basmati, jasmine, or whatever than your standard long grain, medium grain or short grain rice. I would expect rice to be "extra" or a side in Indian restaurants.

                          1. re: mialebven
                            johnmlinn May 29, 2008 09:21 PM

                            I don't know, I've never encountered it anywhere, but maybe it's a practice in some places.

                            1. re: mialebven
                              Miami Danny May 29, 2008 09:30 PM

                              Rice is a "prized commodity"? Rice is dirt cheap. To charge for plain white rice is outrageous. In any cuisine. Go to any Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, etc., etc., restaurant and let them dare charge for plain white rice. You are getting ripped off, plain and simple. And your comparison of Indian and Chinese is wrong. Rice is part of the meal in both cuisines, and should be a free accompaniment.

                              1. re: Miami Danny
                                Frodnesor May 29, 2008 09:54 PM

                                At Tamarind Thai on Normandy Circle, plain rice comes w/ entree but any other rice (garlic rice, coconut rice) is extra ->
                                http://www.tamarindthai.us/menu-Accomp.html

                                Just one example. Perhaps not coincidentally, another place with roots in London.

                                Here's another Thai place, Siam River, where menu lists a charge for a side order of rice ->
                                http://www.siamrivermiami.com/home2.htm

                                (though you've got to be wary of any place whose website says "Thai cooking is a mix between two Asian cuisines, Chinese and Indian". WTF???)

                                1. re: Frodnesor
                                  Miami Danny May 29, 2008 10:07 PM

                                  I agree-extra rice may be extra, just like extra bread. I don't have a problem with that. (But the garlic and coconut rices you site from Tamarind Thai are $1-2, not exhorbitant at all.) Charging for something that is traditionally free is just a plain rip-off. It's like charging for a napkin.

                                  1. re: Miami Danny
                                    lax2mia May 30, 2008 07:16 AM

                                    MD - Shhhhhh! Don't give them any more ideas.

                                    1. re: lax2mia
                                      jmdhsmiami May 30, 2008 07:21 AM

                                      This could be a reason for the charging for rice or it might not have anything to do with the topic, but NBC Nightly News and I believe local news did a piece about how rice in bulk (Costco, etc.) has a limit on how many bags you can purchase. I guess people were hording it so a limit was put on purchases. Anyone got the actual % that rice has gone up in price because it had to jump, in addition to less domestic farmers actually growing rice. Some of us (me included) may still eat big, but the rest of the world is cutting back.

                                      Or I could be completely wrong! : )

                                      Sorry to be a Debbie Downer!

                                  2. re: Frodnesor
                                    taiga Jun 20, 2008 11:14 AM

                                    In response to Frod's comments about Siam River, that flimsy geographical description might cover Burmese, but even this is a stretch. If anyone were to charge for rice, it should be Japanese for the cost is generally highest, especially if authentic Koshihikari or Hitomebore. I expect Mint Leaf to have a short dramatic run like Shaquille O'Neal before heading off into the sunlight.

                                    1. re: taiga
                                      m
                                      mialebven Jun 21, 2008 09:09 AM

                                      I doubt Mint Leaf is going to go away anytime soon - they're still packing it in, and it's still a decent place for Indian in Miami. Unless if we get some sort of Indian Shangri-La to open up from a notable chef, and a large Indian community to boot, then we're not going to get anything much better and Mint Leaf is going to stay in the game - especially with its financiers from London in tow.

                                      1. re: mialebven
                                        taiga Jun 22, 2008 09:25 AM

                                        You are probably correct, but we've heard this before here. Time will tell!

                              2. re: Miami Danny
                                johnmlinn May 30, 2008 10:54 AM

                                No doubt, you're going to pay more for a pilaf. But $3.50 for plain white rice, even basmati, is exorbitant. The only motivation that could drive that is to milk more money from the already overpaying punters.

                        2. Frodnesor May 6, 2008 09:29 PM

                          Report on my visit #2 - OK, not really a visit, actually a take-out pick-up. Called in an order, they took it without delay. Unfortunately there was delay once I got there about 20-25 minutes later, when I waited at least another 20-25 minutes to get my food. When I called they didn't let me know how long, if they had just said 45 minutes I could have planned accordingly. Anyhoo ...

                          We had a tandoori chicken, a bel poori chaat, chana masala, dal makhani, a dosa, a mixed bread basket and a raita. The chicken was tender and delicately spiced. The chaat was sort of like an Indian rice krispy treat, little puffed rice thingies mixed w/ peanuts, potato, and some spicy and some sweet tangy sauces. Unusual - perversely appealing to me, not a hit for Mrs. F. The chana masala (chickpeas) was delicious, redolent w/ spice but not overly spicy. The dal makhani (black lentils in creamy stew) were also delicious, slightly smoky and creamy. The dosa was good and not as salty as the last time I got it. The breads never travel well but these were OK after a half hour ride home.

                          I thought everything was quite good and I could easily see this becoming regular rotation take-out for us - particularly with Taj Mahal now closed (sadly Heelsha is too out-of-the-way from my regular commute to make it into regular weekday rotation for the Frod household).

                          Given that I was ordering take-out, I could not bear witness one way or another to the complaints from several others about upselling and/or surreptitiously offering things and then charging for them. I hope this is just a matter of poor communication and not intentional deception.

                          While I don't at all agree that it's unheard of for rice to be included with an entree nor do I think there's any reality whatsoever to a post above suggesting that Mint Leaf's entree prices are $3-4 cheaper thanks to a la carte rice options, I think it's largely a matter of communications and expectations. If you've been to a steakhouse before, you generally know that all sides or veg are a la carte (and cost extra). If you order a steak and the server says, "Would you like a potato with that?", you don't expect the potato to be gratis (even if the server doesn't say "The potato's $10"). An even more ubiquitous example of late is the now-typical "Would you like flat or sparkling water?" query at the start of the meal. Nobody says they're charging for the water, but you quickly learn.

                          OTOH, bringing something to the table unrequested and then charging for it seems uncool under any circumstances. The whole "trust me let me order for you" thing (which has been reported by multiple posters) does not seem to be going over that well, at least not among 'hounds.

                          1. h
                            heathera May 5, 2008 06:00 AM

                            Ate at Mint Leaf on Sat. night w/ a friend and had the same upsell experience. Coconut rice for 12.95? Charging for bringing more naan bread when you never asked for it? Oy. Won't be going back!

                            1. lax2mia Apr 28, 2008 07:29 AM

                              Finally got around to trying Mint Leaf. Enjoyed the food but hated the service. Here's why:

                              - Wanted to order bhel puri as a starter but waiter/host suggested we try the Mint Leaf tokri chaat which we did. We later saw about 5 orders coming out to other tables. Must've made too much and they were pushing it. Also waiter/host never came by to see how we liked it. Usually when a dish is recommended the recommender (sp) comes by to see if his/her recommendation clicked. This guy didn't and the dish didn't click either.

                              - Ordered channa masala and dal makhani. Asked which bread (singular) would go with our meal and he said quickly "well, nan with the lentils and bathura with the chaat, I'll bring you both." We figured he's but in a half order or something of each. No. He put in two full orders of each. Asked if we wanted rice, I said just plain rice and bam! an extra $3.50 was added to our bill. Also added to our bill was a charge for the papadums which arrived without our asking. On the menu it says there's a charge for papadums of $1.95, but we figured it's if you asked for seconds. Nope.

                              The food was OK, nothing revelatory. I'm not a complete tightwad when it comes to dining out, but what ticked me off about the place was the nickel and diming and upselling. It was freaking annoying. I felt like I had to keep an eye out lest I get charged for wiping my mouth more than 5 times with the napking. And the lack of attention from the waiter/host was pitiful. We saw him when we ordered and when he gave us the check. That's it. I liked the food enough to go back, but because of the service and the used-car-salesman pricing tactics I'm avoiding this place. It's all about Heelsha for me now.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: lax2mia
                                Frodnesor Apr 28, 2008 08:35 AM

                                For whatever reason, I have always experienced the same kind of upselling at virtually every Indian restaurant I've been to - some more aggressively than others, and this sounds pretty aggressive (I didn't get the bill when we went so couldn't see whether or not we got the "polyglycoat finish" and "dealer prep" or not).

                                1. re: Frodnesor
                                  Icantread Apr 28, 2008 11:48 AM

                                  Went to Imlee this weekend and they charge you $13-$17 dollars for rice. I agree, most everything in an Indian restaurant is a la carte to the extreme. It does annoy me, but yes, upselling is still worse.

                                  1. re: Frodnesor
                                    ankimo May 5, 2008 07:11 PM

                                    i've liked the food, so i've gone back even though i've experienced Mint Leaf's aggressive upselling as well...
                                    another example--the owner wanted to give us extra dessert by saying "let me surprise you; I know you're gonna love it, trust me" (and not revealing what it is, but of course adding it to the bill)

                                2. Frodnesor Apr 4, 2008 02:25 PM

                                  I went to Mint Leaf last night with a small group. We got there around 8:30ish and it was about half full (small space, the old Brana / Darbar / I forget what was there before space). We started with a Mint Masala Dosa to split for the table; several folks got a combination plate for about $35 which came laden with lamb rogan josh, several small bowls of various vegetables (sag paneer, aloo gobi, etc.), lentils, rice, nan bread and raita, etc.; and we added on a malai shrimp (w /coconut curry) and a lamb biryani (baked rice dish).

                                  The dosa is a fermented chickpea flour crepe stuffed with fluffy mashed potatoes and onion, here flavored with some mint chutney and accompanied with lentil sambal and coconut chutney dipping sauces. Very nice texture and the coconut chutney in particular was delicious, but I thought the dosa was overwhelmingly salty.

                                  I only got nibbles of the items on the combination plates, not enough to form an opinion; the lamb biryani was pretty tasty but also seemed overly salty to me; the shrimp were nice fat jumbo shrimp, the sauce was fully-flavored but not overly spicy and also laced w/ coconut. Breads were hot, tender and fresh from the oven.

                                  If I had been thinking a little more clearly we probably would have ordered a little better (and I would have gotten to try more things), but this dinner visit came after a wine tasting, so I wasn't focused as much as I may have hoped. Speaking of wine, they had a pretty nice wine list and seem to have done a decent job finding things that will match up with the food - we had a Proidl Gruener Veltliner for $27.50 which seemed like a very good price, and really worked. A cold Kingfisher worked pretty well too.

                                  Service was a little bit shaky but not unforgivably so - one server poured wine into a (full) water glass, another knocked a glass off the table - but the food got to the table, all orders were filled properly, and nothing seemed to take too long.

                                  I didn't get to try enough different dishes to make any kind of pronouncement, but my experience certainly wasn't nearly as bad as those described here. Indeed, I'm looking forward to going back. The menu has a good bit more variety than any other Indian place I've visited in Miami - the aforementioned dosa, which comes in several different variations, several different variations on chaats, a type of Indian street food that usually combines elements of crunchy (crushed somosas, puffed rice, papdums, crispy vermicelli, etc.), creamy (yogurt), spicy and sweet notes (chutneys).

                                  I wouldn't write it off quite so soon - though the salt was off to my taste on a couple things we had, I thought it was good enough, and the menu has enough of interest, to be worth another visit. Especially given the paucity of good Indian restaurants in Miami.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Frodnesor
                                    ankimo Apr 7, 2008 09:07 PM

                                    I actually enjoyed the food as well and would go back, especially given the paucity of options in miami, plus this place gives you some common northern and southern styles.
                                    I liked the Tandoori Murg Tikka (chicken) -- great flavor, moist
                                    Murg Zafarani Biriyani (rice) -- was ok, meat was a little dry, raita made it better
                                    Channa Masala (chickpea) -- fine
                                    mild garlic naan
                                    since they are new, they are still working out the kinks in their service, but I think this place will do pretty well.

                                  2. Icantread Mar 18, 2008 09:01 AM

                                    Just wanted to add rather reluctantly that an Indian couple friend of mine recently went (before I could advise them not to) and they declared it the best Indian food they've had in South Florida.

                                    It wouldn't be the first time I went somewhere Indian and discovered the double standard. Many Indian restaurants I've gone to, I've gone to first with Indians and returned later to find the food not quite as stellar as I remembered. This however would be the most blatant example of this. Have not yet asked them what they ate, but wondering if no one else has braved the restaurant?

                                    1. Frodnesor Mar 12, 2008 11:02 AM

                                      How disappointing, I had high hopes, particularly given the London pedigree. Without a doubt, Indian food should not be reminiscent of Cuban food. Ranking it below House of India is about as damning as you can get - "not consistently great" is being pretty generous to HOI. Though there's not a wealth of great choices, there are definitely better options than HOI though ->
                                      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/417297

                                      I'm still going to have to try for myself, but I'll go in with expectations tempered now.

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: Frodnesor
                                        Icantread Mar 12, 2008 11:13 AM

                                        Definitely better options than House of India in Dade. Heelsha's very good, though if you ask for ultra spicy, they layer everything with habanero, which to me interferes with the taste and affects the experience. Anohka (in the area) on their good days is great, on their poor days can be pretty horrible, over-salted, tasteless, everything out of harmony. My complaint with this however was that, at least at House of India or Anohka (when the mom's not in the kitchen) tastes like bad Indian food. This just didn't taste Indian. At first I was open to maybe not knowing enough about Indian food and the differences in regions, but freezer taste is never NEVER acceptable.

                                        Please let me know what you think of it, maybe it's better on the weekends. there was actually a couple next to us who had been there before and thoroughly enjoyed it. When I saw them, they did not look like they'd know cultural cuisine if it hit them in the face (judging, judging, I know) but the wife snipped at the server when he finally showed up to take their order and was up in arms with the host by the end of the meal.

                                        1. re: Icantread
                                          t
                                          tangelo Mar 12, 2008 05:32 PM

                                          Ohhh, this is grim. My friend went the other night and had the Rogan Josh, and phoned me from the table enraged. I was waiting to try it myself (lunch special, not a spendy splashout) before posting a thread but since someone else has, I might as well chime in. To help my friend assuage her grief I've promised to go to Madras this weekend, and since I'm going to be in Broward I might also try Woodlands.

                                        2. re: Frodnesor
                                          Icantread May 5, 2008 07:04 AM

                                          did want to apologize, as I went recently to House of India for a lunch buffet and wondered why they even bothered to open. It was an unfair comparison for Mint Leaf. (i remember better dinners there though, but that was long ago)

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