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Mar 12, 2008 10:25 AM

Review: Mint Leaf Open and Full

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.

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  1. 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 ->

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

    3 Replies
    1. re: Frodnesor

      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

        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

        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)

      3. 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. 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

            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. The original comment has been removed
            1. 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

                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

                  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

                    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)