We ended-up going out for Christmas Eve and Christmas dinners.
Christmas Eve dinner was at Taix:
The restaurant was warm and lovely, with wonderfully dated and yet classic holiday decorations.
We (the four of us) were, unfortunately, seated in one of the half-circle booths: not terribly comfortable and not conducive to conversation, but not worth raising a stink over, either.
Had one of the delightful older male French servers, who was enthusiastic, helpful, attentive, and wearing a necklace of flashing Christmas lights.
I think the others had half a carafe of wine; I opted for iced tea.
Hors d’ Oeuvres:
- Galette de Pommes de Terre with Saumon Fumee (three potato pancakes, smoked salmon, creme fraiche, and applesauce)
- Moules Maison (mussels cooked with leeks, butter, cream, white wine, and a hint of chili) (also had, I think, a bit of diced green chili - or maybe bell pepper, I’m not sure)
Both were marvelous.
- Prime Rib (served with steamed green beans and something else, but was at the other end of the table and I’ve not a clue as to the “something else”)
- Fresh Salmon Filet (champagne beurre blanc, mashed potatoes, and a different green veg)
- Market Fish (skate wing, with a green peppercorn sauce, over a fricassee of mushrooms and with roasted red potatoes)
- Wild Mushroom Risotto
All plates were cleaned; the skate was remarkable (I’d not tried it before - my partner was very happy) and my risotto was very good but also very standard - and there was a lot of it. (I love risotto, but in much smaller amounts!)
- Creme Brulee
- Buche de Noel (I think there was a large number of hazelnuts involved)
- Pear Tart
Again, lovely and devoured.
I’ve no idea of the final bill; in looking at the prices on the menu, I think the prices are a bit high, especially for the risotto, but that may be just me.
Christmas Dinner was at Mint Leaf:
The small room has wonderfully high ceilings and I love the colors and decor.
(All descriptions from the online menu.)
- Vegetable Samosas (Puff pastries stuffed with a mixture of spiced potatoes, green peas, chopped ginger and cilantro seeds)
- Corn Malai Tikkas (Savory cakes made from a dough of corn, mozzarella cheese, boiled potatoes and red onions)
- Tandoori Mixed Vegetarian Platter (A mixed plate of Tandoor roasted paneer, mushrooms and tofu)
- Kadhai Scallops (Cumin and coriander spiced scallops, stir-fried with onions, tomatoes and bell peppers, in a red curry sauce)
- Paneer Tikka Masala (Tandoor-roasted paneer pieces in our classic and creamy tomato curry sauce)
- Aloo Gobi (Garden fresh cauliflower and potatoes stir-fried with tomatoes, onions, ginger and Indian spices)
- Channa Masala (Garbanzo beans cooked with freshly ground spices, onions, fresh tomatoes and ginger)
- Mushroom Matter (Fresh button mushrooms and green peas in a golden curry with kasoori methi (dried fenugreek leaves))
- Baingan Bhartha (Charcoal-smoked eggplant simmered with chopped onions, ginger and tomatoes, finished with cilantro)
Plus breads and two types of rice.
The good: as always, much of the food was very tasty. We ordered everything “mild” in terms of heat-level and that always affects the overall impression of the dishes, but everything was enjoyed.
The not-terribly-good: the booth benches are breaking down and we were all uncomfortable throughout the meal. Also, we were seated near the door - it was cold that night and every time the door opened (which was frequent), we were hit by a cold blast. There’s no real place for people waiting to be seated, so the latter third of our meal meant people staring at us eating.
Other issues included one of the appetizers arriving about 2/3rds of the way through the meal (the tandoori mixed veggies) and being cool when delivered to the table.
Our server was initially very attentive and then was given a large table and became difficult to track down.
My main issue with Mint Leaf (and it’s been a constant thing for me since the place opened) is the QPR. (With the full acknowledgement that QPR is a very personal thing.)
In general, the food is very good, based on my limited experience with Indian cuisine. It’s less oily and “cleaner” tasting than many of the other local Indian restaurants we eat at. BUT…I think it’s over-priced in terms of location (it’s in a weird area of Pasadena, at the top of Altadena at Washington Blvd) and, moreso, for quantity.
- The two medium-sized samosas were $5.50
- The three silver dollar-sized corn cakes were $7.50
- The tandoori mixed veggie platter held three button mushrooms, a couple (maybe four?) triangles of paneer (these were good!), and a couple triangles of almost flavorless tofu (I expected the tofu to have some sort of seasoning - this might have been a result of asking for it to be spiced mildly, but this was completely devoid of anything and they were the coldest thing on the “platter”) for $12.50
- The mushroom matter was about 80% mushy peas to 20% button mushrooms for $13.50
- The four scallops (medium-sized, very overcooked) were $18.50
I know from past experience that the seafood servings are small, but all the veggie dishes were also smaller than I’d expected. And two of the veggie dishes tasted “off” and did not live up to previous experience in terms of taste.
Maybe it was the “B Team” in the kitchen (as far as the taste issues are concerned)?
Maybe I need to adjust my expectations of the QPR for the place? I don’t know.
(As a side note, the hostess spent a lot of the time we were there staring at her cell phone screen and not answering the restaurant’s phone - again, possible B team on that night?)
Guests said it was the best Indian they’d ever had - and visibly winced when they grabbed the bill. I actually felt badly that they grabbed it, due to all the issues we had with the meal.
So…a mixed experience for the holiday weekend, but no food poisoning, excellent company, and some wonderful tastes.
I can live with that