Summer days are long and filled with BBQ cookouts and picnics, sometimes it’s healthy to branch out and try something a little different. Luckily, Albany has your pick of intercontinental cuisine.
Spicy Mint is tucked into Shopper’s Park, one of the many strips of Wolf Road, and it should not be overlooked. The buffet and sit-down restaurant is minimalist and cozy, bathed in warm colors of burgundy and beige. There is no campy decor–save for a trifold painting of the Taj Mahal–that other international eateries tend to display to help guests feel like they’re in an authentic cultural atmosphere. Here, the savory flavors do the hosting along with the incredibly friendly and welcoming staff–willing to offer up suggestions, pairings, quick refills and light conversation.
You can come for the hearty lunch buffet from Tuesday to Sunday (11:30 AM to 2:30 PM) or get right down to your favorites by choosing off their massive menu.
If you don’t know what you’re looking for it can almost be overwhelming. The restaurant offers a full vegetarian friendly appetizer and entree list in addition to chicken, lamb and goat if you so choose. Dive into a plate of rice-based on the biryani list or choose from a dozen dishes from the smoky tandoori oven that go above and beyond the usual picks of chicken and lamb. It features mildly spicy, yogurt marinated, thick cubes of cheese of the tandoori paneer tikka ($13.98), as well as fish tikka and jhinga dilruba, or shrimp, tossed in freshly ground spices and baked to perfection.
It seems every page of the menu lists unique flavors and new spins on classic dishes like masalas, daal and curry dishes. Spicy Mint’s take on the basics certainly don’t disappoint.
The vegetable samosas trio ($4.98) is one of the best. The perfectly fried dumplings are packed to the brim with potatoes and peas in a slightly spicy mixture. Paired with the refreshing cilantro chutney that comes with your table’s basket of complimentary papadum (a thin lentil cracker that nearly melts in your mouth), they’re bursting with flavor.
With any entree, be sure to pick out a bread basket or paratha–a wheat flatbread, often stuffed with potato (aloo) or onion–for dipping. A server suggested the garlic naan, at $3.95. It was surprisingly buttery in the most pleasant way, with garlic and herb sprinkled on top of the thick bubbled slices. It was incredibly filling and good enough to have on its own. The aloo paratha ($3.98) was almost better for entree pairing. There was a relatively thin layer of potato inside and it was sturdy enough to hold up the palak paneer ($12.98) piled high in all of its cheesy cubed, thick laden spinach glory.
If you’re dining at a spot like Spicy Mint that specializes in South Indian eats, including a dosa in your order is almost mandatory. The filling rice and lentil crepe-like dish is filled with flavorful vegetables that taste like they came right off of the grill. There is also a plethora of uthappam–light and airy pancakes made of lentil and rice–topped with a sprinkling of veggies, seasoned onions and/or chiles. I went with the Special Spring dosa ($9.98) packed with seasoned onions and veggies in a tomato chutney. It is a treat of varying flavors and textures and the crispy dosa holds the chunky filling like a champ. The dish is served with a side of sambar, a spicy lentil soup with chunks of potato, curry leaves and whole chilis that bite you back. Team the dosa up with a traditional Indian brew like the Kingfisher to balance out the spice that heats you to your core and refresh for the next helping. Save room for the Medhu Vada ($5.98), a couple deep fried lentil donuts with sides of chutney and sambar for dipping.
If you start waving the white flag before dessert–which is hard to do when faced with a plate of gulab jamun (deep fried dumplings in a sugar syrup) and assorted kulfis, or cream sorbets, like mango, pista (pistachio) and badam (almond)–you will still leave with a mango custard to cleanse your palate. The vanilla pudding is blended with mango puree and is the perfect summer treat that leaves you refreshed and content, dreaming about your next visit.
Spicy Mint, 145 Wolf Road, Albany. (518) 407-5999 Lunch buffet: Tues-Sun 11:30AM-2:30PM; Dinner: Sun-Thurs 5:30-9:30PM, Fri-Sat 5:30-10PM