Archive for October, 2007

Spicy Mina: Porn Star Name, Rock Star Food

October 18, 2007

5 Reasons to Follow your Cabbie to Queens (and bring your baby with you)

1) Humble, homely and homey space: Mina’s third and most compelling venture offers all the pleasure, immediacy and intimacy of eating in someone’s home, provided that someone is the brilliant Bangladeshi Lidia Bastianich ur-grandma of Southeast Asian deliciousness. The minuscule kitchen would fit comfortably in your first sketchy Manhattan walkup; the pots and pans are sub-prison issue; the results are extraordinary.

2) Old classics re-spelled and respun: For vegetarians, the Saag Paneer ( “Shak Ponir” here) tastes nothing like the goopy ersatz creamed spinach Gerber baby pap that lesser restaurants serve. And for incorrigible carnivores, the Lamb Vindallo (not “Vindialo” here) is revelatory. The latter dish tastes more of each part and more of the sum of its parts than I’ve ever experienced before: lamb is intensely lamby but works with–not against–the sauce. No diva ingredients. No dud sides.

3) Unhurried excellence: The kitchen doesn’t rush the food to you, and the food’s flavors don’t rush into your mouth. Heat, smoke, tartness and earthy umami take minutes, not seconds, to reveal themselves, opening, evolving and circling back on the tongue. It’s like drinking an old red wine by the magnum and requires the same kind of time commitment, if not the same budget.

4) BYOB Budget Bliss: Speaking of wine…no liquor license means you can carry in the beverage of your choice, but please don’t make it a Methuselah of Margaux. A six pack of simple cold lager from the adjoining bodega cools down the mouth and lets the food stand on its own. Save the noble grape for another night.

5) Tabla’s better half: Time and budget permitting, give this itinerary a whirl: Go to Tabla and and Jean Georges one weekend and Spicy Mina and Sripaphai the next. My bet is that your appreciation of the the former is enriched by the muse, foil and complement of the latter. Just get off the island and go soon. Even Chowhound’s army of web-nerds is unlikely to sustain Mina forever.