Indian cuisine in Howard County can be an emotional thing for most residents, people have their places and they defend their honor like a knight would his lady. And I was no different, for years I represented House Akbar, Sigil Chicken Tikka Masala (that’s a Game of Thrones reference by the way), but alas like all great restaurant kingdoms they eventually closed and I was left to roam the Howard County countryside in search of a new Indian restaurant to call my own. There’s a wide variety of options in Howard County, Royal Taj has its band of zealots, Curry and Kabob is my current favorite, and Ananda in Maple Lawn with its fusion/seasonal menu tends to attract a different crowd all together. With that said a new restaurant has joined the fray, Mint, located in Clarksville right off of 108 near the Highland border.
Mint’s location was formerly Pudgie’s Pizza a chain sub shop from New Jersey which was never able to fully take hold, Mint is hoping for a different fate. When you first walk into Mint you are awestruck by the gaudy yet beautiful decor of the restaurant. Murals and gold inlays are ubiquitous in the restaurant, especially in the main dining area, one can’t help but be impressed by the well crafted decor.
I came for their lunch buffet on a Saturday afternoon, which I think in hindsight was not the best decision. Buffets can be a double edged sword for the diner and the restaurant. For the diner you get to stuff your face with everything the restaurant has at an affordable price. Meanwhile, the restaurant is able to fill their restaurant at an hour that typically would not have many customers coming in. But on the flip-side of that, as a diner you often eat way too much feeling uncomfortable and distended, while the restaurant isn’t able to fully put their best foot forward having to prepare a variety of dishes and keep them warm for several hours. The end result is usually a mixed bag and that’s what happened to me during my visit to Mint.
The service at Mint is very friendly and attentive, it’s clear that they want you to have a good experience. We started with mango lassis, the serving size is very generous and the lassis themselves felt more like a milkshake than some of your typical mango lassis. I enjoyed it though, if lassis are you thing I would still recommend you try it (if you’re with someone, one is more than enough for the both of you).
The buffet has practically anything you could want or crave from a typical Indian restaurant menu. Like a kid in a candy store I packed my plate with as many of the options as I could. The veggie pakoras and fried bread are divine; they’re warm, flavorful, and they melt in your mouth. I then made my way to the Palak Paneer which was also very good, the spinach based was flavorful, creamy, and had just right amount of seasoning to balance with the perfectly prepared paneer in the stew.
After that the food went a little sideways, the Chana Masala and Dal Makhani both fell flat as they lacked any spice and didn’t have enough seasoning (I recommend Mango Grove which is nearby if you want some truly exquisite Dal). From there I moved to the tandoori chicken and Chicken Tikka Masala, the tandoori chicken while juicy had an odd texture which seemed to be from too much yogurt marinade I couldn’t put my finger on it but either way it wasn’t exactly what I hoped for. The Chicken Tikka Masala again lacked flavor and didn’t have enough cream to balance the dish, I agree that you don’t want too much cream/yogurt in the dish but not enough will also cause the dish to be a disappointment. The biggest dichotomy in quality for me was between their Naan and their rice. The Naan was magical, warm, buttery, and served to you table-side, meanwhile the rice which is available in the buffet wasn’t steamed long enough causing into to lack the fluffy bounce and texture that great basmati rice needs to have.
After the main dishes I sought out their dessert in hopes of a little redemption and luckily they didn’t disappoint.
No Indian meal is complete without dessert and for me that dessert is always Gulab Jamun. If you’re not familiar with the dish, it’s basically fried balls of milk solids soaked in a very sweet syrup and it’s heavenly when done right. Luckily for me the Gulab Jamun at Mint was crafted perfectly, the texture of the little balls (pause for laughter) was fantastic while the sweetness of the little balls (again pause for laughter) was accented with a subtle hint of rosewater and just right.
Overall, Mint doesn’t do much to separate itself from the herd of other Indian restaurants, the food is average but nothing I would crave and seek out again. With that said, I hate to judge a restaurant solely on their buffet efforts as Mrs. Unmanly Chef told me while we ate, no restaurant is without sin in the buffet world.
Final Grade: C+/B- with room for improvement
Parking: It can be tight but plenty of parking in the back as well.
Service: Friendly and attentive.
Ambiance: Decor is fantastic.
Price: Average, buffet costs 15 dollars a person.
Food: Average, not bad but not fantastic either. Would try again for dinner.