Spicy Or Mild, Mint Leaf Delivers
Visited: Numerous Times in 2015 & 2016
Restaurant Type: Indian
To paraphrase the late Mr. Rogers…”It’s another great day in the neighborhood.” That’s because we now have another great restaurant within walking distance of our house. Of course, being a Southern California native, I have driven there each time I’ve visited.
Following up on a stupendous lunch experience with my buddy Ed at the Mint Leaf (the relatively new Indian restaurant in town), Tracy and I returned to dine here twice in one week (hey, when you like something). The restaurant is just the latest opening in the up and coming North East Pasadena restaurant scene (we’re getting hip, baby!). On a Friday evening we were lucky to get the same server I had at lunch, Santos. He was personable and helped us (we dined with friends Tyler, Sayda, Karen ) navigate the rather large menu.
But before I get to the food, let’s chat about the space. Situated on the corner of Altadena Drive and Washington Blvd. across from McDonald’s, the Mint Leaf is located inside an unassuming building in the parking lot surrounded by medical buildings. But don’t be fooled…teal colored walls, red drapes, a copper covered ceiling transported us to what I can only imagine (since I’ve never been there) is a restaurant found in India (without the McDonald’s across the street). On this Friday evening the restaurant was packed. In fact, we had to make reservations a week in advance. Despite the fullness of the restaurant, it was not noisy (photos below are not in order, as it is quite dark inside…most are mine, but a few I got off their website..I hope to go back and get better shots)
The website says, “Mint Leaf offers an elevated and fresh take on traditional Indian fare….and feature an array of rich traditional favorites and vegetarian options alongside fresh and lighter takes on classic Indian recipes.”
With Santos’ help, Tyler selected something from each section of the menu for our party of six. We started with Achari Tandoori Mushrooms ($7); vegetable pakoras ($6; crispy cauliflower and potato fritters) and my new favorite corn malai tikkis ($6, savory cakes made from a dough of corn, mozzarella cheese, boiled potatoes and red onions). I could have dined just on the corn malai tikkis.
Next up we ordered the very tasty Chicken Tikka Masala ($14, Tandoor-roasted chicken breast pieces in our classic and creamy tomato curry sauce), Kashmiri lamb curry ($14; lamb simmered in light curry sauce made with fresh onions, ginger, garlic, tomatoes, cardamom and cinnamon) and Achari Tandoori salmon ($15). We enjoyed the chicken and lamb dishes the best.
From the vegetarian section we tried the Aloo Gobi ($10; cauliflower and potatoes stir-fried with tomatoes, onions, ginger and Indian spices) and Tracy’s new favorite Dal Tadkewali ($10); a combination of dal of Indian moong (When the Moong hits your eye) and masoor lentils with chopped garlic, onions and tomatoes, flavored with cumin and fresh cilantro.
We were so impressed with Mint Leaf we returned a few days later with our Supper Club friends (Andy & Leslie; Doug & Jackie). Once again we had Santos select the menu items for us. After inquiring as to any allergies (shellfish) and how much spice we liked, Santos selected dahi sev puri ($5; puff pastry shells with spiced potatoes topped with a mixture of chutneys and whipped yogurt), corn malai tikkis and potato walnut tikkis ($6) to start. Once again the corn malai tikkis were my favorite with a nice hint of heat in them.
For our entrée we once again started with the Chicken Tikka Masala ($14) which Santos informed us was actually invented in England (I looked it up when I got home…from wikipedia…“It was almost certainly invented in Britain and is among the country’s most popular dishes, leading a government minister, Robin Cook, to claim in 1991 that it was a national dish”).
Since Andy was the spice impaired person at our table, Santos recommended the Tandoori Chicken for him ($14 half order) with a side of the vegetable raita ($5), which Santos described as an Indian fire extinguisher.
Jackie had the Kashmiri lamb curry, and for the vegetarians at the table we ordered the special Cauliflower Manchurian ($10; battered cauliflower stir-fried with ground chili, onions, ginger and a touch of soy sauce) and Dal Makhni ($10; whole black lentils with fresh tomatoes and a touch of cream). We ordered the garlic naan once again as well as the Basil and Mozzarella Cheese Naan ($4). Rounding out our order, a side of basmati rice and green pea pulao ($5; basmati rice with green peas, carom seeds and fried onions).
Santos talked us into sharing two desserts for the table. The house special Shirkhand ($5; made from yogurt, saffron, sugar and pistachio nuts with green cardamom powder) and a frozen fig and almond kulfi ($7; almond based Indian ice cream mixed with figs). The guys really enjoyed the Shirkhand, while the ladies preferred the kulfi. Santos’ sweet recommendations were a nice ending to yet another excellent meal.
Next time we return we will try some of the seafood entries as well as amping up the spiciness. I think we have only reached the mild level.
There is also a very fairly priced beer and wine list and corkage is $12. There’s also a take-out menu. Mint Leaf now joins Radhika Modern Indian in South Pasadena as our favorite Indian restaurants in the area, and it’s never a bad thing to have a choice.
Maititom rating: 4.4 maitais out of 5
2535 East Washington Drive
Pasadena/Altadena, CA 91107
Parking: Adjacent Parking Lot – Free
Hours: Monday – Sunday 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. & 5 p.m. – 10 p.m.