After hearing many positive recommendations of Mintt from friends in the southerly area of town, and discovering from their website (themintt.com) that they operate a lunch buffet every day of the week, Sabrina and I decided to venture out to Banksville road to see what all the fuss was about.
One thing that struck me about Mintt when we first walked in was the more upscale decor. Delicate track lighting, dark wood shutters, shiny wood tables… Mintt is perhaps the more chic looking Indian Buffet we’ve been to (though, oddly enough, nothing like the picture of the interior on their website. A stock photo, perhaps?).
The buffet was quite large at first glance, to the point where it nearly has its own room at Mintt. As it turned out, many items on the buffet were dishes and accompaniments that Sabrina and I had not encountered often or at all, such that I ended up having to taken some notes and do some online research when I got home. The first item on the buffet was one such mystery: paani puri, which I can only describe as a puffy cracker, literally fully puffed up nearly into a ball with an empty center. As I gather, they are meant to be filled with items such as vegetable bits and chick peas, but Sabrina and I ate them alone, and used them as scoops for the curry.
Next up was tandoori chicken, offered freshly sizzling on some sort of plate overtop a brazier. I don’t go in for the tandoori chicken myself, but Sabrina was impressed with the heating system, and later confirmed that the chicken was quite juicy. Next came pakora and bhajis, both relatively crispy (buffets may be the fried appetizer’s worst enemy), followed by naan and idly, a type of bread I had not seen before. It is something of a dense, thick pancake made from lentil and rice flour, apparently for sopping up sambar (which came later on the buffet). They were tasty enough, but given the choice I preferred the naan. Sabrina enjoyed some in a small bowl of sambar, which she found pleasantly thick, as opposed to more watery sambars she has encountered in the past.
From there, Mintt offered an assortment of meat curries. There was an Achari chicken curry that, for once, I did not pass up. It had visible seeds (that’s a good thing) in the sauce, and so looked more intriguing than the ubiquitous orange chicken curry that seems to find its way to every buffet. Indeed I found the Achari curry tasty, but ultimately the Butter Chicken far eclipsed it. The latter turned out to be my favorite item on the entire buffet. There was no lamb, but a goat curry was offered. Both Sabrina and I passed it by, however. I have decided that I don’t like goat curry, not because of the taste, but because it seems to be served everywhere with a wealth of bone pieces in the sauce. Sabrina simply had visions of cute, furry goats and opted to walk by. Rounding off the meat dishes was the chicken biryani, which I found tasty enough, but Sabrina found a bit off-putting, as she found bones in that dish as well.
Off to the vegetable wing of the buffet for many pleasant surprises. Here was served the sambar, as well as peas pilaf and an Indo-chinese dish of noodles. I don’t believe that Sabrina or I tried either of these two–there were just too many other great options and they were the most boring looking items on the buffet. This vegetarian portion of the buffet offered some typical items, some interesting twists, and some things we’d never seen before. There was Saag Paneer, and I loved it. Sabrina, being consistently skeptical of saag, admitted it was good, and credited it with being non-greasy, but cited its favoring of creaminess over vegetable-ness as the reason for it not being her favorite saag ever. There was an Aloo Tikka Masala, which we both enjoyed, but found to be very little like any Tikka Masala we’ve had in the past. There was a dish that appeared to be something of a banana pepper curry. We couldn’t puzzle it out at the time (the handwriting on some of the labels was difficult to read), but after coming home to research, I have determined it is most likely a Bottle Gourd Kadi. Neither of us had tried such a thing before. Apparently it is a yogurt and turmeric based sauce (it was neon yellow, after all), with bottle gourds (shrug?) and green chilis. I liked it well enough, and I trust that it is a shining example of its sort, but given the choice, I would pick other curries–however, I’m glad I got a chance to try it via the buffet. One standout among the vegetables was the Channa Ponyal, a dry-ish mix of chick peas, green beans and spices. It also had visible seeds (mustard, perhaps?) and I enjoyed its rich flavor of spices, among which I could swear I detected the piquancy of clove. Finally, on the vegetable bar, was a Carrot Halwa, a sweet-ish, curry-like mixture of pulped carrots with nuts and golden raisins and a strong cardamom tone; it added a nice variety to the flavors on our plates.
For dessert, there was the requisite rice pudding, of which Sabrina never partakes, but I always do. This one had a good cardamom flavor, my primary requirement for a good kheer. Additionally, there was hot chai, which both of us enjoyed.
On the ride home, we faced a tough decision. Mightily impressed with Mintt, we had to weigh our experience against the other buffets on our list. The buffet at Mintt received substantial points all around for rich and surprising flavors, for variety and unexpected offerings, and for amenities such as the tandoori chicken sizzler and the chai. Weighing it against all of our top choices one by one we did not find a rival for it until we reached our sitting second place buffet, People’s in Bloomfield. The food was of comparable tastiness, we decided, allowing for the possibility that People’s might be just a little bit better (it would have to come down to a taste test of greater proximity to tell for sure). However, in the end, the larger size of the buffet, the variety of dishes, including many we had not tried before (I had almost forgotten that was one of the reasons I like going to buffets to begin with, such have been my same-old-same-old experiences of late), and the extras and amenities offered by Mintt tipped it just over the edge into the second place slot!