BY ELENA MANCINI
A mood-lit contemporary decor coupled with spearmint hued trim lighting conspire to create a soothing, romantic vibe. As gratifying as the ambiance at Mint may be, it is an inspired palette of traditional regional Indian and Indo-Asian fusion dishes and an supremely flavorful signature mint sauce created by Executive Chef-restaurateur, Gary Sikka, that delivers a paean to the restaurant’s namesake herb and the cuisines of the Indian sub-continent.
Attentive servers welcome guests with complimentary dipping bowls of Sikka’s signature mint and tamarind sauces optimized for dipping. Both sauces pair wonderfully with a share-friendly basket of warm naan bread ($5), which can be ordered plain or herb-flavored. The rosemary naan is a personal favorite.
Vegetable samosas and Aloo Tikki (spicy potato fenugreek cakes) are excellent vegetarian starter choices. The samosas were consistently crisp to perfection and had a tasty, paste-like vegetable filling. The Aloo Tikki consisted of spicy potato fenugreek cakes were hearty and had a lovely, mild fragrance to them.
For the carnivorously inclined, the Chicken Seekh Kebab and the Jhinga Balchao are not to be missed. The Seekh Kebab consist of succulent, herb-seasoned ground chicken grilled to the point of glistening with moisture. The texture achieved delivers a sausage-like snap with every bite. The Jhinga Balchao is a dish composed of crispy shrimp coated in a spicy pickled vegetable sauce are enjoyably hot and complex in flavor, and perfect to spark an appetite.
Among the entrees, the chili fish packs a pleasurable knock-out punch. A delicate, moist white fish coated in a light crisp coat of batter is bathed in a tasty herb-infused chili sauce that delivers heat without the tongue-numbing fire that chili sauces can often deliver. On the milder side without sacrificing flavor are the Navratan Korma and the Saag Paneer. The Navratan Korma is a lovely stew composed of nine vegetables in a cashew sauce. The herbal richness of coriander, ginger and turmeric in this dish played favorably against the creamy cashew sauce and the various consistencies provided by the assortment of green and root vegetables. The Saag Paneer is a spinach based dish thickened with Indian cottage cheese. Both dishes are best consumed with a platter of Mint’s fluffy fragrant Basmati rice. All dishes are generously portioned and readily lend themselves to a communal dining experience.
To close, Chef Sikka recommended Gulab Jamun, a traditional dessert consisting of a golf-ball sized orb made of milk and warm cottage cheese, and thus light and spongy in texture, set in a bed of rosewater syrup and pistachio sprinkles. The straightforward concoction offers sweet satisfaction evocative of homespun flavors.
Armed with a full, seated bar, a respectable wine list and reasonable prices (appetizers range between $7-$14; entrees are in the $14-$22), Mint is a surefire bet for a smart-casual, palate-pleasing, non-stuffy lunch or dinner experience in Midtown East.