INDIAN COMFORT FOOD DONE RIGHT
A good friend of mine lives in Altadena and I knew as soon as he moved there that I wanted to introduce him to Mint Leaf, a comfy and cozy Indian restaurant that serves top notch Indian comfort food.
Located exactly on the border of Pasadena and Altadena, Mint Leaf is technically an Altadena property voted the Best Indian Restaurant in Los Angeles by USA Today’s 10 Best. With a menu that serves traditional Indian fare as well as vegan options, the menu is kept current and selections rotate based on seasonal ingredients.
At Mint Leaf, the kitchen is run by Jayanta Paul, the former chef of Tanzore, and Paul has created dishes that highlight traditional Indian spices such as cinnamon, cumin, turmeric and cardamom.
“Indian cuisine is built around magnificent spices, which lend themselves beautifully to dishes that are simple and light yet still flavorful,” Chef explained.
In a previous Mint Leaf dining feature, we feasted of more non-traditional items, this time we went for the fan favorites. Again, we ate family style and shared several dishes, which I find is the way to go with Indian food.
We started with delicious vegetable samosas—puff pastries stuffed with a mixture of spiced potatoes, green peas, chopped ginger and cilantro seeds. This is a great starter dish. Likewise, the Corn Malai Tikkis—savory cakes made from a dough of corn, mozzarella cheese, boiled potatoes and red onions—is a winner. I think of this dish as classic Indian comfort food; probably because of the starchy potatoes.
If you’re ravenous, the Tandoori Mixed Meat Platter is highly recommended. A combination of tandoori chicken, lamb kabobs, and tender pieces of chicken tikka, this appetizer is big enough to be a meal on its own. And a great one at that.
Another must-have is the classic Chicken Tikka Masala—tandoori roasted chicken breast pieces in a divine creamy tomato curry sauce. There’s a reason this is an Indian staple and at Mint Leaf, it is a first-rate dish.
If you’re looking for cool curry goodness, the Goan Shrimp Curry is a winner. In this dish, shrimps are slowly simmered in a traditional Goan curry sauce made of a coconut milk base and flavored with curry leaves and tomatoes. You will want to soak up every drop of curry with your naan. Speaking of naan, I recommend the feta cheese and olive naan as well as the chicken keema naan. They’re hearty and tasty and perfect to soak up all the savory sauces.
Because we didn’t get our fill of meat with the amazing meat platter we also ordered the Tandoori Lamb Chops—New Zealand lamb chops marinated in black pepper, ginger and a special blend of spices, barbequed in a Tandoor oven. This was a big hit at our table. At Mint Leaf the drinks are simple: beer, wine and basic cocktails. The lamb chops goes nicely with a glass or red wine or even Indian beer.
If you save room for dessert, the Blueberry Rasmalai—steamed paneer (mild cheese) dumplings tossed in a blueberry Rabri—and the Halwa and Kulfi Palte—a plate of fig and almond kulfi served together in a signature carrot halwa—are the way to go. I’m a big fan of figs so the Halwa and Kulfi Palte was a winning one-of-a-kind dessert.
With Mint Leaf, along with Carmela Ice Cream, there are now good reasons to venture to Altadena. You’ll be hard pressed to fine better Indian food than Mint Leaf so if you’re in the San Gabriel Valley, make this your go-to spot, and if you’re further out in L.A. like me, a field trip to satisfy any Indian cravings you may have is well worth the effort.
Mint Leaf is located at 2535 E Washington Blvd in Altadena. Call (626) 460-8776.
Story and Photography by: Jose Martinez
Some Photography Courtesy: Mint Leaf