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Spicy Mina? Am i missing something

I am very confused by the positive reviews i have heard about this place.. Not just positive but, like glowing. I feel like this place is considered the best Indian Restaurant in New York on Chowhound..

Last night we went there and had a truly disappointing and lack luster meal.. With a place like Spicy Mina, one expects some sort of spice.. Whether it's in heat or just seasoning, the name evokes ideas of flavor.. Our dinner last night was very bland.. I understand subtle,I appreciate subtle, but, this was just plain under seasoned..

A mustard fish we ordered tasted of nothing... Steamed fish were the only flavor notes in the dish.. Bryani had lots of ginger flavor and some sweetness from Onion and Rasiins but, again, flavors were muted and nothing exciting..

Naan was excellent.. Airy and just so impressively light.. This was wonderful..

Another enjoyable thing was the Fuksha..

The appetizer, Fuskha, was easily the best thing we ate here.. Cold crunchy chat with lots of flavors and textures..

We also had a plate of oil spinach with some pieces of mushy cheese curds on the plate.. Oily, burnt, and just not exciting.. A plate of mush..

I dont know if it has been so built up on this website for years, or they were having a bad night but, we were really unimpressed.. What was particularly sad was knowing how many places that we wish we would have eaten at instead of coming here.. We passed Zaab and Sripraprhai and so many other options that Woodside and the surrounding area offer,.

Please someone tell me where we went wrong?

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Spicy Mina
64-23 Broadway, Queens, NY 11377

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  1. I heard through the grapevine that Mina isn't there anymore, as of early December 2009. Too bad, it's one of those places that was always on my list of things to try, but it seemed she was the heart and soul of the place.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Chris VR

      wait, really? you mean that she is no longer cooking at the restaurant? that would be a big deal. is there any way to confirm this? I did think previously that she wasn't there every day... so maybe that's it?

      1. re: apossibleworld

        I read it here http://www.chow.com/restaurants/4976/..., the one from early December that says "Mina Azad is being terminated from her job & replaced by a renouned chef at Spicy Mina." but it could be things changed if she was cooking there around Christmas.

      2. re: Chris VR

        I went three times around Xmas; she was there twice. I have never had a bad meal; once, when she was not there, everything took awhile, but the food was always fresh, well spiced, and thoughtful.

        This place is not for everyone. It reminds me of eating in someones home in Delhi. I will keep coming back, but I am careful who I recommend this place to.

        1. re: driggs

          My bf and I have gone to Spicy Mina several times. It's really a hit or miss.. guess it depends on if Mina herself is there or not.

      3. Out of the 12 or so meals I had there, only 1 was great. Mina cooked it herself. The rest were mediocre or inedible. I am sorry to say that Mina also cooked some of the mediocre ones as well, so she is highly inconsistent. This is a problem, considering the location of the place. Most people will travel there. With these odds it is just not worth it.

        1. Too bad you didn't ask about the place, either here or on MF, before you went. I would have warned you off. I've had her food 5 or 6 times. One meal was excellent; the rest were no better than decent. At 6 to 1 I don't like those odds. In Manhattan I like Dhaba very much. We've had a bunch of very successful meals there in the last 6 months. (Go at dinner - avoid the lunch buffet.)

          Mina's is 2 blocks from Sripraphai where the food is consistently great. That's where I go when I'm in the neighborhood.

          20 Replies
          1. re: Bob Martinez

            Without denying your personal experiences, I frankly find it borderline bizarre. (11 out of 12 of your meals were mediocre or worse and yet you returned 12 times. Makes me laugh out loud every time you roll out your statistics!) In our experience Mina's has ranged from quite good to superb in the course of multiple visits. I do agree that when Mina herself is cooking things are at their best and in her absence things can vary. But overall it's a place that offers a quality rarely found elsewhere. By contrast, Sripraphai has trended slowly but steadily downhill in recent years to the point where I no longer bother. Not to say they are not capable of quality dishes - they absolutely are - but the seeming indifference to anything but expanded commerce and the lack of consistency have led to frequent disappointment, making Chao Thai, Zabb and others all the more irresistible.

            1. re: burton

              "11 out of 12 of your meals were mediocre or worse and yet you returned 12 times. Makes me laugh out loud every time you roll out your statistics!"

              What I said was that I had her food 5 or 6 times. How you read that as "11 out of 12" is beyond me.

              Outside of my one great meal the others we OK. Not bad by any means but I kept expecting the celestial choir to sing and rainbows to appear. They didn't.

              As for the supposed decline of Sripraphai, this gets floated every couple of months. I was there twice in September and 8 other times in the past year. Every meal has been great.

              Every time I go to Sri I drive past Mina's - it's always empty. Sri is always full.

              1. re: burton

                It was me who had 1 great meal out of 12. I said 11 varied from inedible to just OK. You obviously didn't read carefully.

                A return after mediorcity, or a simply 'alright' meal, was warranted because most Indian places are just alright anyway, and I did have 1 outstanding meal I was waiting for her to duplicate. Now I just go to SOUTHERN SPICE where every meal is outstanding. Why wou7ld anyone go to Mina's where there is Southern Spice?

                1. re: NYJewboy

                  NYJ - Actually, what you said was that 11 out of 12 meals at SM 'were mediocre or inedible'. I assumed inedible was worse than mediocre. My bad apparently. Will resolve to brush up on my reading skills at the first opportunity. Thanks for the tip. But back to the original topic, I still cannot for the life of me fathom returning repeatedly to a place that was inedible or worse 92% of the time when consistency is your highest priority. McDonalds is nothing if not consistent. Oh - and totally agreed re Southern Spice. Great place; have never been disappointed.

                  BM - Sri is merely a pretty good place these days. Nothing like what it once was. My frustration at the incidence of dull, careless dishes (admittedly somewhat offset by some good ones) has finally gotten the better of me. This is true despite the ample availability of tables unlike previously. Hmm. Perhaps others have also moved on.

                  1. re: burton

                    "Sri is merely a pretty good place these days. Nothing like what it once was."

                    Last September you also reported that Spicy & Tasty is slipping, something that other people also haven't noticed.

                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6518...

                    1. re: Bob Martinez

                      I confess to feeling at least a bit flattered you opted to cite my post of so long ago. I had long forgotten it. Shucks. But on the subject of Spicy and Tasty, you're right that at some point their quality began to vary noticeably, one time great, the next a major disappointment. Regrettable for sure. But why subject oneself to the frequent heartbreak? Given the fine alternatives including Little Pepper and Sichuan Heaven in Golden Mall, Hunan House, etc, I am once again content.

                      PS Though disappointed in S&T such that I no longer go there, I see no need to actively dissuade others who might want to give it a try. Come to think of it, I find most orthodoxies a hoot.

                      1. re: Bob Martinez

                        Just for the record, I have been going to Sri about 10 times a year a for the last 6 or 7 years.. I have been to Sri 4 times in the last three months.. I have not seen it slip at all..

                      2. re: burton

                        Burton: The one great meal I had at Mina's was truly outstanding. I mean REALLY great. I went with 6 people and we got almost everything that people rave about on this board. The unique thing was that there were no halfway good items that night, everything was spot on.

                        After such a meal, of course I am going back. I had already been there a few times and it was mediocre. Upon returning there were a few more mediocre ones. One night it was just awful, the meat in particular was just about the lowest quality I have ever seen. Still, the one great meal was calling. I knew she had that in her. I did go back for a few lackluster meals until I decided to give up forever.

                  2. re: Bob Martinez

                    I have held back from posting on Spicy Minas because I thought everyone loved it; Guess I was wrong. I generally agree with you Bob on food (at least last few years, and I do love love Dhaba), so I just got to go with; different strokes for different folks. Only other thing I can think of is, I have never been here when it was busy. I go for lunchs, and am generally the only one here. I could easily see quality suffering if she gots to much to do.

                    I have had nothing but great food here. Great, fresh, homemade food. If there is a weakness, its that Spicy Minas is not really what people now expect from a restaurant. Its certainly not a full service type place.

                    My worry used to be that this place gets overrun with wide-eye bushy tailed types. I was wrong about that.

                    1. re: driggs

                      I keep quiet about my Mina opinion because I don't want to detract form other people's enjoyment of the place. I do understand that opinions can vary. I speak up when someone has an experience like Daniel's because I want to let them know that they're not alone.

                      1. re: Bob Martinez

                        I only have a sample size of 2 (once with Bob M. & a bunch of other CH friends). We all knew the pedigree and had been to the old Mina's, heard the Leff accolades, been to Angon when she moved there, then came to this place. The time I went with Bob and other CH'ers (last year), we had a thoroughly non-impressive meal. She cooked, she was friendly, she recognized several of us and she made mediocre food. Lots of it. Maybe one or two outstanding plates out of the dozen or so ordered by our group. The other time I went (a couple of months later) there were just 2 or 3 of us, she was cooking and the food was similarly mediocre. I guess I've just never gotten there at the right time. I gave up. I still need to try Southern Spice and get back to Dhaba (which I really liked). I cant always spend the bucks at Devi (remind me to write up last week's meal for 8... Hemant made some truly great food).

                        1. re: Steve R

                          we have always had very good food from Mina, mostly when the house is empty. it delivers in a genuine way a particular type of very simple homestyle bengali food which is not very spicy (Spicy Mina is a bit of a misnomer) - if you like your food highly spiced ask for it.. It is very unlike the robust punjabi style and it is humble fare (no fancy inggredients except the bengali fish) and the prices are a little high.
                          If you accept it for what it is and dont expect to be blown away it works.

                          1. re: jen kalb

                            Jen; You said it better than I could. I don't recommend this place to many people, especially those looking for a restaurant experience. I love it on a quiet afternoon.

                            1. re: jen kalb

                              Jen, since I know from the homecooking board that you cook Indian food well, I'm curious as to what you might get at Mina's that is different/better than what you can make at home.
                              Also, is Mina better than some of the bangladeshi places on mcdonald ave?
                              I haven't been to Mina's, because I resist eating out Indian food unless it's completely different food than I can make at home--southern spice being a good example of this. But if Mina's offers some truly unusual or hard to find dishes, I would venture there.

                              1. re: missmasala

                                diff to answer. I actually havent eaten at the Kensington places - until recently, when I found Bangla Nagar for shopping, I didnt think much of that area's shopping offerings and figured the cooking was mostly cheap steamtable glop. (I have liked the food at Kasturi, in Manhattan so I dont totally reject steamtables))

                                I think that it makes a difference that a woman is cooking in a very simple way out of her own home tradition. Even with simplicity there is finesse. And it is fresh, scratch cooking, almost always. I like the fact that her bharta or saag paneer differ from day to day. I mean cooking from a limited palette of food choices, I would vary the dishes a bit too. The breads are excellent) an area I wouldn't even try. In the end, I have bengali cookbooks and most of her dishes are pretty simple ,I think its more of a hard to find kind of eating experience that draws me.

                                1. re: missmasala

                                  My wife also cooks a lot of Indian food at home; having worked with Julie Sahni. In our trips to Spicy Mina she has echoed a lot of what Jen has said.

                                  In my wifes words going to Spicy Minas is like being invited into a friends house who cooks a meal for you. Everything is thoughtful, fresh, and usually pretty damn good.

                                  Once again, I don't view it as a full restaurant experience. We only go when we think it will not be crowded.

                                  I hope you go and like it!

                                  1. re: driggs

                                    hmm, thanks for the input guys. Part of my problem is that I don't love love bengali cooking and that is scaring me away a little.

                                    Jen, where is Bangla Nagar? I would love to find good indian shopping in kensington so I don't have to go to JH all the time.

                                    1. re: missmasala

                                      its at 87 Church Ave. Not at all the match of Jackson Hts places but good for Desi Dahi, vegetables, mangoes in season, etc. Sometimes they have fresh parathas. One or two doors away is a store with halal meat and big tanks for fresh fish in the back. Kabir's has milk sweets but look out - they may not be fresh.

                                      1. re: jen kalb

                                        thanks. dahi, veggies, and parathas would be great. do you know if they also have chucklees (or other bagged fried snack items) i need them for school lunches.

                                        also, do they have curry leaves? if so, that would be exciting.

                                        i don't buy milk sweets, so no worries there. but how is the halal meat? i'm looking for a reliable place to get boneless lamb shoulder for curry--i find boneless leg doesn't make as good a curry.

                                        1. re: missmasala

                                          I havent tried the meat - they butcher the whole animals there, of course . Have had good luck in past wth the butcher in the turkish store at 5th and 60th, also Atlantic Ave . Probably Eagle Provis, for that matter.

                                          Dont remember curry leaves - less signif in Bengal - they may have sometimes. Do have snacks not sure id the ones you like.

                      2. Daniel, I had the exact same experience as you, with the same reaction: what am I doing wrong? I even felt intimidated about coming on to the boards to report it, given the reputation.

                        I've been to Mina's only once (about a year ago), and that was because it was so bad that we could never possibly risk going there again. It was, quite simply, the blandest Indian food possible - not only a lack of any noticeable Indian masala, but also of salt, pepper, anything. It was a shock.

                        I rationalized the reviews on here like this: it certainly was fresh food, freshly prepared - this may be the home-style food that folks are referring to. But food like that would never, ever be served in an Indian home. I don't know, however, who was cooking that day, so maybe that explains it as well.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: ngdinerboy

                          For the record, Mina was cooking last night.

                          1. re: Daniel76

                            The last two meals I've had at Mina's, both within the last three months, were among the best I've ever had there.

                        2. I also like Dhaba a lot but, that is in Manhattan.. Amma as well. But again, I was talking queens. Just went to Coahtzinga for lunch today.. Now that was a lot better than dinner.