Coral Gables restaurant to cater Pop Bollywood
The word is out – Mint Leaf Indian Brasserie, the chic restaurant on Alhambra Circle in Coral Gables, is providing the food for the Museum of Contemporary Art’s POP Bollywood on Saturday, February 28. To grab a sneak peak, MOCA’s Bonnie Clearwater and Valerie Ricordi, Mint Leaf owner Ranjit Sood and I enjoyed a sampling dinner at Mint Leaf.
Bonnie first learned of Mint Leaf when she heard Ranjit on a radio talk show. With plans for POP Bollywood already underway, she knew that Mint Leaf was perfect. So Bonnie, with the help of POP Bollywood chairwoman, Lourdes Jofre-Collet, reached out to Ranjit, who was more than willing to help.
“I was honored to be approached,” he said, “and I knew that no other Indian restaurant would accommodate them. So I had to contribute.”
Ranjit has a successful history as an international restaurateur, with establishments in London as well as Coral Gables. He moved to South Florida to be near his daughter and she challenged him to open Mint Leaf. His philosophy: to gradually educate the public about Indian food and to adapt his recipes to fit the demographic.
“We keep the spices moderate so we do not alienate those people who may not be familiar with Indian food,” he explained. “If we add too many spices, it will cause a person to sweat and they will not enjoy their meal, so we use precise recipes to keep the food consistent. Although, each meal is prepared to order and we can spice a meal accordingly for those who enjoy more.”
Ranjit’s recipe for success has worked well. Mint Leaf is continuously triple booked, turning tables over three times on weekend nights. Mint Leaf also enjoys a healthy lunch crowd.
The aesthetic is open and lively with high-definition, muted monitors elevated on either end playing Bollywood films. Indian art hangs on the walls; stylish Indian lamps, hand chosen by Ranjit, hang above each table; and a fashionable bar is situated at the dining room’s far end.
For starters, our table shared several items. The tandoori paneer tikka – homemade cottage cheese cubes marinated and skewered with onions, tomatoes and bell peppers fired in a tandoor oven – had a unique texture and consistency that was delicious. The tandoori murg tikka – tandoor roasted, boneless chicken marinated in yogurt, spices and red chili – had a distinct flavor with a slight kick. The keema samosa – spicy minced lamb encased in a crispy homemade pastry – was also delicious. Ranjit referred to the samosa as an Indian empanada.
The main course consisted of vegetarian, lamb and chicken dishes that were presented on sampling platters with rice specialties. Two types of fresh clay oven baked bread accompanied the platters. The traditional nan was warm, soft and excellent. The onion kulcha was also soft and stuffed with onions and coriander leaves – excellent as well.
For desert, we enjoyed carrots and ice cream and gulab jamun, a soft yet consistent donut-type pastry made of deep fried milk powder and marinated in a sugar-syrup consisting of rosewater, saffron, almonds and pistachio. It’s unbelievable, really.
Mint Leaf is truly a treat and their association with POP Bollywood is exciting. With many of the attendees having already chosen their authentic Indian garb and authentic Indian delicacies generously underwritten by Mint Leaf and Ranjit Sood, Miami’s contemporary art museum is sure to have another fantastic themed affair that will raise much needed funds that support MOCA’s permanent collection as well as MOCA’s programs, including outreach programs for at-risk teens. Additional catering will be provided by Sonesta Coconut Grove and Shiraz Catering and Le Basque.
Tickets to POP Bollywood start at $150 per person in advance. For more information call 305-893-6211, Ext. 36, or visit mocanomi.org.
Aaron Glickman is a writer, actor and filmmaker. Through his contributions to SocialMiami, he has had opportunities to document many fascinating people and organizations in the fields of philanthropy, the arts, fashion, design and real estate including Carolina Herrera, James Rosenquist, Baroness Philippine de Rothschild, Russell Simmons, Nicole Miller, Christian Louboutin, Lin Arison and many more. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Miami Theater Center (MTC) and is on the Executive Committee of the National YoungArts Foundation.