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Where the HELL can I find some decent saag paneer in this town?

Yaqo Homo Aug 29, 2008 07:07 PM

Please pardon my cursing, but every curry joint I try produces truly a repulsive version that resembles nothing so much as microwavable creamed spinach like what you can buy in the frozen section of Western Beef.

I like my saag very dark, glistening with ghee and reeking of cardamom.

I'm not after some mythical, sublime or superlative preparation, but I have standards!!

I'm sorry I sound so angry. I've had a bad food day.

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  1. kissy28c RE: Yaqo Homo Aug 29, 2008 08:44 PM

    Go to curry hill. 27th and lex -ish area. A few good spots there. Chenai Garden... whatever - here are a list of restaurants: http://events.nytimes.com/2005/09/04/...

    1 Reply
    1. re: kissy28c
      Yaqo Homo RE: kissy28c Aug 29, 2008 08:49 PM

      I go there for dosas and stuff, but isn't saag paneer more of a North Indian dish?

    2. jakew8 RE: Yaqo Homo Aug 29, 2008 08:56 PM

      TOO VAGUE! Spices aside, saag paneer preparations differ wildly in the ratio of spinach to cheese and oil, and overall texture. You need to set a baseline. What do you think of some popular places' preparations of the dish: Tiffin Wallah, Whole Foods Union Square, Chola, Dawat, etc.? How can anyone recommend something if we don't know what you've already tried!

      4 Replies
      1. re: jakew8
        s
        Simon RE: jakew8 Aug 29, 2008 11:45 PM

        true, it's good to have some references of other places the OP has tried, but the OP did give a reasonably evocative description of his/her ideal saag paneer...

        personally, i don't like my saag paneer very buttery, so a ghee-laden version wouldn't do it for me, and i actually find the canola-oil Whole Foods Union Sq version ok in a pinch (though not spicy enough)...i've cooked saag paneer myself many times and use olive oil, onions, and huge amounts of turmeric...

        When i went to Chola years ago, i found the food both too rich and not spicy enough...it was like they merely used an extra stick of butter per dish to justify the high prices...

        the OP might want to try the taxi stands on First St, near Ave A...i remember having some yummy saag paneer from there once...

        1. re: Simon
          jakew8 RE: Simon Aug 30, 2008 08:57 AM

          (Shhh... I also like Whole Foods' the most.)

          I've had excellent saag from Punjabi (one of the taxi stands you referenced) but since it's vegan, there's no paneer.

          1. re: jakew8
            a
            acidity RE: jakew8 Apr 30, 2009 03:33 PM

            nor ghee I assume, it's a butter variant.

          2. re: Simon
            Yaqo Homo RE: Simon Sep 5, 2008 08:59 AM

            Your homecooked version sounds pretty good. The turmeric-heavy quality is nice; when I eat good saag paneer, I expect my lips to be yellow afterward.

        2. p
          potluck RE: Yaqo Homo Aug 30, 2008 01:32 PM

          You must make the trek to Spicy Mina in Queens. Hands down the best Saag Paneer I've ever had. Made fresh, the spinach is cooked perfectly (not a sludge of mush) with great homemade cheese and yes, glistening w/ ghee. Please try it and report back!

          http://www.spicymina.com/

          2 Replies
          1. re: potluck
            Miss Needle RE: potluck Aug 30, 2008 02:08 PM

            I love Spicy Mina's palak paneer -- the best I've ever had. I generally wasn't too fond of the dish because all I've had was dark sludge. But Spicy Mina's version is a revelation.

            Have you been there recently? I've seen a couple of recent blog entries for palak paneer and the dish looks different. They used to sear chunks of paneer, but now it seems that they crumble it into the dish.

            1. re: Miss Needle
              n
              Nehna RE: Miss Needle Sep 4, 2008 06:37 AM

              I third the fact that Spicy Mina makes the best Saag Paneer I've ever had in here or abroad. I didn't even know I liked the dish til I had it there.

              But that said, I haven't been recently...

          2. a
            anil RE: Yaqo Homo Aug 30, 2008 05:35 PM

            Saag is a bit vague. A real desi houshold would be specific - i.e paalak (spinach) or methi (fenugreek) are the two common daily greens.... Having said that, you are unlikely to find fresh cooked stuff at the run-of-the-mill take out indian.

            Dawat and Whole Foods Columbus Circle hot steam table.....

            1. Yaqo Homo RE: Yaqo Homo Sep 1, 2008 07:45 PM

              thanks for the replies. To clarify, I guess I have been scouring, as anil puts it, "run-of-the-mill take out Indian" places looking for what I reiterate should be *decent* (as opposed to sublime or nasty) saag paneer. Everything I've tried recently is reprehensible. There used to be a Pakastani joint across the street from where I work in the Financial District that wasn't even a particularly good take-out venue (e.g., they served the worst samosas in the history of the world) yet produced a reliable and tasty saag paneer. Alas, that place closed years ago, and I've been looking for a substitute.

              This substitute wouldn't have to be across the street from where I work, but hopefully it wouldn't be as fancy as Chola nor as far as Spicy Mina (btw, I'll be going there for the first time next Thursday, but even if I decide to order the palak paneer, there's no way I can make it my regular spot). Whole Foods might be more my speed; I'll check it out.

              Please keep the suggestions coming.

              1. JungMann RE: Yaqo Homo Sep 2, 2008 07:31 AM

                Whole Foods is fine, albeit a little bit on the bland side. IIRC they also do the dairy-less version of saag paneer. Tiffin Wallah makes a similar version. When I'm looking for the full-fat experience, I head to Minar.

                4 Replies
                1. re: JungMann
                  LNG212 RE: JungMann Sep 2, 2008 07:42 AM

                  Really you find WF version bland? I've always considered it excessively salty. But I've only had it at the Columbus Circle location.

                  1. re: LNG212
                    JungMann RE: LNG212 Sep 2, 2008 07:44 AM

                    That's the same WF's I go to. I don't recall it being salty, but thought it was pretty mellow on the ginger-garlic and spices.

                    1. re: JungMann
                      LNG212 RE: JungMann Sep 2, 2008 07:46 AM

                      Oh yes. I agree with you there. In fact, I'm not sure I've ever tasted garlic in their version. But I know when I've gotten it I always get a really big bottle of water too! :)

                      1. re: LNG212
                        l
                        Liquid Sky RE: LNG212 Sep 3, 2008 07:37 PM

                        Whatever you do... DON'T GO TO JOY CURRY in midtown ( 46th St). Horrendous Indian/Bengali food! I don't know how people could ever recommend this place.

                        I know CAFE SPICE (on University Place) gets attacked a lot, but I always find their saag dishes to be consistently good. Unlike these low-brow Indian places that keep popping up everywhere, Cafe Spice atleast always uses fresh ingredients and doesn't OVERSALT and OVERCOOK everything to death. I stand by them!

                        WHOLE FOODS isn't bad, but it is too salty in my opinion.

                2. Yaqo Homo RE: Yaqo Homo Sep 5, 2008 08:49 AM

                  Thought I would drop by with a saag update.

                  We went to Spicy Mina last night and ordered several dishes, including what they call sakh ponir. Here's my review

                  Pros: Flavorful, fresh, beautifully bright green, light and flawless prepared. Damn tasty.
                  Cons: To my amateur palate, it didn't taste remotely Indian (yes, I know Mina is Bangladeshi, but you know what I meant)! It was very much like a superb batch of garlicky sauteed spinach (not unlike the kind Yaqo whips up at home when he serves steak) with a bit of crumbled paneer stirred in at the end--other than the wildly intense garlic, I couldn't detect any spice at all. It was certainly not the rich, exotically-spiced (perhaps low-rent) Saag Paneer I've been craving.

                  I give it two thumbs up for being delicious, unexpected and wholly different from any saag paneer I've encountered.

                  But if anyone knows where I could get a heavier, spicy, cardamom-laden version (however inauthentic or low-rent my idea might be), do speak up.

                  Other fun facts about my visit to Spicy Mina:

                  * Spicy Mina has the most delicious lamb Biryani I've ever encountered in this country. Heavenly! I want some more.
                  * Mina was not cooking last night, and the place was deserted! We were the only diners
                  * it took me *2 hours* to get home on the subway (it would have been much closer to 90 minutes, but silly YH, full of Indian food and beer fell asleep and missed his Brooklyn stop). That decent Indian food requires such a long commute is a minor tragedy.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: Yaqo Homo
                    JungMann RE: Yaqo Homo Sep 5, 2008 09:12 AM

                    Are you sure you're looking for saag paneer with cardamom or are you just approximating what spices you think might be in an Indian-tasting saag? Generally cardamom isn't the type of spice you'd throw into saag paneer.

                    1. re: JungMann
                      Yaqo Homo RE: JungMann Sep 5, 2008 09:32 AM

                      The kind of saag I used get all the time had a great deal of spice. I would even find fat-almond-shaped pods in the dish that I would have to spit out. It certainly *smelled* like cardamom, but I'm no spice expert, and it could have been something else.

                      But if your point is that I was craving *any* type of "eastern" spice in my saag paneer (not necessarily cardomom) and didn't find it last night, you are correct. i'm sure any competent blend of Indian spices would do the trick

                      1. re: Yaqo Homo
                        a
                        acidity RE: Yaqo Homo Apr 30, 2009 03:38 PM

                        It might help somebody if you mentioned generally where you used to get it, what city or what neighborhood or what decade... I'm just sayin.

                        I used to enjoy the saag paneer at Pongal back when I liked Pongal, and I never like any saag paneer I had before that. But I suppose I have not helped here.

                        oh, I see below that you did find what you were looking for. [sniff] I still feel the need to leave up my demand for more information :)

                    2. re: Yaqo Homo
                      Miss Needle RE: Yaqo Homo Sep 5, 2008 10:36 AM

                      Oh, that's so sad! I'm totally bummed about this! It sounds like the dish has changed a lot. Spicy Mina's used to be very spicy and very flavorful -- much more than the standard palak paneers at other restaurants, including Whole Foods, Minar, Chola, etc. That's the reason I loved it so much! But it's been a while since I've had it, and I've had it at both the Sunnyside and the current locations. There used to be whole dried chili peppers in the dish as well. The paneer used to be pan-fried and developed a nice spicy crust.

                      Here is a pic of the current dish:

                      http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2028/2...

                      And here is what it kind of used to look like (I couldn't find an old pic from the Net):

                      http://bp0.blogger.com/_csqjfkhrfUo/R...

                      It looked similar except that the greens were brighter green, there was more creaminess in the spinach, there were whole dried chili peppers in it and there was a greater ratio of spinach to cheese than depicted. And it tasted very "Indian!"

                      Oh well, I guess it's time for me to try to recreate the dish at home.

                      1. re: Miss Needle
                        Yaqo Homo RE: Miss Needle Sep 5, 2008 10:48 AM

                        That 2nd pic looks very, very similar to what I've been craving. I love the taste and feel of large cubes of seared paneer and should have mentioned that before

                        And to reiterate, Mina's sakh ponir *tasted* good, so I don't fault it on those grounds, it was just not what I had in mind.

                        1. re: Miss Needle
                          n
                          nativeNYer RE: Miss Needle Apr 13, 2009 08:51 AM

                          that 1st pic is sad.

                      2. Yaqo Homo RE: Yaqo Homo Apr 13, 2009 08:44 AM

                        Here's a second saag update....

                        Since my OP, my job has transferred me uptown from the Financial District to an office near Rockefeller Center. I am a few short blocks from Minar and have found its Saag Paneer to be EXACTLY the reliable preparation for which I had been pining. I eat there twice a week now.

                        I've also been back to Spicy Mina. This time, I steered clear of their postmodern re-imagining of sakh ponir (no, I don't really think that was Mina's intent, it was just fun to say), and was blown away by their food.

                        samosa chaat; kashmiri chicken; some sort of potato and panir dish..... wow, wow, wow. And their biryanis are quite simply out of this world.

                        Unfortunately, once again, it took me 2 hours to get my drunk ass on the subway (yes, I got drunk at Spicy Mina; that was me loudly slurring they lyrics to "Visions of Johanna" to the chagrin of the taxi drivers seated next to us; I'm very, very sorry). Mina, could you move to 6th Avenue, or maybe to Prospect Park or something? Thank you.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Yaqo Homo
                          d
                          david sprague RE: Yaqo Homo Apr 13, 2009 04:59 PM

                          thankfully, she remains where the people are.

                          doggone i love that whole fish...

                          thanks, mina, for not relocaitng to the middle of nowhere (meaning park slope)!

                          1. re: Yaqo Homo
                            JungMann RE: Yaqo Homo Apr 30, 2009 01:58 PM

                            Glad to hear you're enjoying Minar. You should try their malai kofta, Desi spicy. Theirs is my favorite.

                          2. f
                            FrankieLymon RE: Yaqo Homo Apr 30, 2009 03:00 PM

                            chola is ok

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