One of the websites I browse often is http://www.chowhound.com/. Usually just the manhattan and outerboroughs boards, but sometimes I do a general search as well. Always a lurker never a poster, I've found many good places from the posters' recommendations. However, there do tend to be a few favorites, certain places that almost all the posters continue to rave about. I don't always agree with these lovefest posts, but there's been one that I've wanted to try and that was Spicy Mina.
Spicy Mina is located in Queens and is actually in the same zipcode as where I live, even though it's about a 12 block walk for me. I live right at the edge where Jackson Heights, Woodside, and Elmhurst meet. I'm within walking distance (14 blocks) to all kinds of authentic ethnic food, including but not limited to: Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Thai, Malaysian, Indian, Bengladeshi, Burmese, Tibetan, Nepali, Cuban, Mexican, Colombian, Ecuadorian, Argentinian, Brazilian, Irish.
Spicy Mina is Bangladeshi food prepared by Mina, who used to cook in restaurants around the area, and who now runs the restaurant and does most of the cooking. I decided to stop in around late afternoon, eating what I could and taking the rest home for dinner.
Atmosphere: Typical of the area, nothing fancy. There are about 8 tables with plastic covers over the tablecloths and the napkins are made of cloth. There appears to be a bar being built but nowhere near completed. I was the only one there at this time, and even though it was hot outside, she didn't turn on the old air conditioner. I got the fan moved in front of me which was nice.
Service: While I don't know how it is at night, when I went there the place was only run by Mina and her assistant, both pretty much doing everything (serving, cooking, collecting money). Her assistant was not very fluent in English, so she wasn't very helpful when I had questions about the menu. Then again, neither was Mina. When asked for recommendations, she basically went over most of the menu, and she didn't mention any of the "off the menu" stuff that I read on chowhound.
Food: No complaints about the food, which was very nicely spiced and delicious. The problem is that since everything is made fresh when you order, it took more than 20 minutes for just the appetizers to arrive. And this was with just me in the restaurant. I don't know how they do it when they have a bunch of tables at night. I ordered the pakoras, lamb vindaloo, daal fry, rose lassi, and a beef biryani to take home. Well, they gave me what I think is beef curry (it was in a lot of oil) instead of the biryani, but they also forgot to charge me for it, so I guess that was a push. (It was delicious anyway)
Rose Lassi: Nice subtle flavor although I would have preferred it iced. This was one of those "off the menu" things that I had to ask to get. Nice rec chowhounds.
Pakoras: Fantastically light, crunchy, and flavorful. Onions and I think lentils mashed into pretty big portions then fried and seasoned with some spices over the top. This was really great but did it really need 20 minutes? Did they really just cut the onions and make the mounds fresh? Perhaps I was there before they did their kitchen prep for dinner service.
Lamb Vindaloo: Another treat, with nice chunks of lamb and potatoes in a sauce where you could taste the spices and the tang just before the heat hits you. The heat does hit you though and this was great for me since I've been feeling like nearby Sripaphai has been going light on the spicy on me the last couple of times. The prices on the menu are not cheap, especially for the area, but the portions definitely make up for it.
Daal fry: I'm not really a big fan of daal, but I feel that if you're going to try an ethnic cuisine, you should really make sure to try things made with the staples of their diet. It was again nicely spiced, complex, with a mix of different flavors and ingredients that you can clearly see. Unfortunately I'm still not a fan of daal.
Beef whatever: Nice flavor though very oily, not as complex as the other dishes. I have no idea what it was since I ordered the biryani instead, but it was free.
I want to say again, nice rec chowhounds, but I think I'll be calling ahead and either picking up takeout or getting it delivered next time.