Last week, I went to visit Noah in New York, and when I got off the bus I needed somewhere to eat. Simple, right? Well, not so much. See, the trouble is that it's Lent and so until Pesach (it was going to be "until Easter", but I'm visiting Noah for Pesach and plan to go back to eating meat then instead, plus it's the week before Easter anyway so really I'll just be celebrating religion in two different ways) I'm not eating any meat.
Okay, we're in New York, the center of food life, so this still wasn't really that hard. It's just a little trickier if you're not already aware of where the good vegetarian food is in the city. I don't think I've ever consciously eaten vegetarian in NYC, so I had no idea. So I called Noah at work when I got off the bus and asked him to suggest something. I believe I used the approximate words, "anything between Times Square and your work [on the Upper East Side] is fair game". Noah pointed me to a little Indian restaurant near Times Square called Minar, and I set off to find it.
First things first: this place is small. And unassuming. How do I know? I went to the street it was on, and walked right by it because I was on the wrong side of the street. So I crossed the street and accidentally walked right by it again. Then I almost walked by it a third time before catching myself and going in. It's a small storefront on a street packed with small storefronts. The inside is pretty small, too--a couple rows of little tables, the front counter, a fridge with drinks (and pitchers inside; if you order water to drink you go and get it from the pitcher chilling in the fridge).
I ordered the saag paneer, because it's something I've gotten before at my favorite Indian place (Bollywood Masala in St. Mary's City, MD; I have eaten a ton of Indian food in my time and never will there be a better Indian restaurant) and I wanted to compare, and also because I believe that, unless you're someplace that has a very specific specialty that is highly publicized as The Thing To Get, you should start with something basic when you're trying a new place. If they care enough to do that well, they care enough to do everything well. It's why I always order fries with my meal when I go to a new BBQ place--if they put in the effort to do good fries as well as good meat, I respect them just a little more. The saag paneer was great, and fascinating because it was so different from the saag paneer at Bollywood. They're both spicy, but Minar's is differently so--a little smokier, deeper in different places. Very very interesting. I also had a samosa, which was good too. It had a nice dipping sauce, though at the moment I don't really remember anything about it except that it was delicious. The samosa was a little spicy as well, which was nice because some restaurants can make samosas kind of bland (it's the same "do the small things well and you can do the big things well" principle).
I would definitely recommend Minar to anyone in the city for a meal. I will, in fact, probably go there again if I'm back visiting Noah in the city and need lunch. The food is great, prices are good, atmosphere is good, people at the counter are friendly (I think it helped that I apologized profusely when I had to take a very important call while I was paying at the register).
138 West 46th Street
New York, NY 10036-8506