Mintt, second by a nose

After hearing many positive recommendations of Mintt from friends in the southerly area of town, and discovering from their website ( 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.

MinttOne 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!

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Dead Reckoning by Charlaine Harris

I recently finished the most recent Sookie Stackhouse book, Dead Reckoning, and I’ve been debating whether it’s worth writing a review. I’ve written a couple Sookie Stackhouse book reviews before (Dead in the Family, All Together Dead and so I think my general feelings of affection for this series of books is well known and had not changed with the reading of this latest book.

Dead ReckoningSince I really have nothing new to add about my appreciation of Sookie Stackhouse, another option would be to comment on the quality of this book in comparison to others in the series. In all honesty, however, I hate when people nit-pick about how the most recent book or most recent season/installment, etc. of some line of previously beloved fiction is not as good or didn’t live up to expectations. Unless there is a serious, steep decline, or anomalous direction taken in a series, why be picky? What happens, I think, is that the first encounter with good fiction is such an unexpected and, in many ways, pure, unblemished experience that people put it up on a pedestal, and nothing can ever compare to that first, fresh encounter. I’m of the mind that good fiction is hard enough to find, and we shouldn’t nit-pick when we do.

This is not to say I found Dead Reckoning to be sub-par in any way. What I can say is that it was “quieter” than the last book, Dead in the Family, where there were a lot of conflicts crossing paths and stories coming to fruition. There are two major climactic moments in Dead Reckoning, and one, at least, is quite large in scale, but for the rest of the time this book is more mellow in terms of plot action.

A couple of things I noticed and appreciated about this book. First, the development of Sookie as a character gets more interesting and complex as the story goes forward. While the character of Sookie (and the books as a whole) don’t lose their whimsical, folksy nature, the dark and violent parts are well balanced; this point is increasingly an issue, as we would expect repeated trauma and violence to have an effect on our main character by this time in the series. Harris does a good job developing Sookie’s inner conflict of morality, without letting the story get bogged down by moralizing. Sookie struggles with, but for the most part accepts, her reality where she has become, not only a victim of the violence, but also a part of the violence. How much violence is too much for Sookie? Where does she reach her breaking point? These are major themes dealt with practically and believably.

The other thing I’ve been enjoying about the most recent books is that Charlaine Harris seems to be engaging in an odd sort of meta-fictional conversation with the television series based on her books. Sometimes it can be as simple as an inside reference (in the last book, folks in Merlotte’s bar are listening to the True Blood theme song on the jukebox), but other times she seems to be reclaiming her story as her own. Maybe it’s because she figures the TV show will never get as far as she has written now and so it doesn’t matter. The first major change was in the last book when she wrote her own version of the story of Bill being changed by Lorena, an element of back-story that the tv show had taken the liberty of making up already, and in doing so she is essentially reclaiming that plot element as her own.

In Dead Reckoning, she seems to be openly defying the show, albeit in a playful and good-natured way. One aspect of the books that was purposefully left out of the tv series was the vampire Elvis character. Supposedly, getting the rights from the Elvis estate to use his name and likeness would have been too complex and/or expensive. In the books, the character of Bubba, who acts as a body-guard and enforcer for the other vampires, is purported to be the actual Elvis brought over as a vampire right after death; however, because he was so drug-addled at the time, the vampire Bubba suffers from some mental and emotional limitations. Hearing his real name or references to his past life sends him into a state of rage and emotional distress, so people can only call him Bubba (and perhaps that’s how Charlaine Harris got around the name rights issue; I don’t believe the name “Elvis” even appears in the books, only clear, but euphemistic references like “the king” or “the man from Memphis”). While the Bubba character has always been largely cursory to the plot, in this book, he is made a pivotal and central part of the biggest plot point in the book.

Last but not least, Harris also reveals–again, in a rather quiet way–the true source of Sookie’s telepathic powers. Not only is this a major reveal for the series (perhaps the longest-awaited reveal), but it takes yet another stab at the mythology of the TV series, which has already taken the liberty of postulating the source of Sookie’s powers.