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Minerva and Minerva Express, Now Open in Five Area Locations


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Weekend buffet. Mmmmmmm goat biryani.

Honestly, off of the dinner menu, I've never had anything that was at least level for the best executed example of <whatever> in the area. The biryanis are particularly fragrant (though I don't think you can order a goat biryani; it only comes out on the weekend buffet, which is spicier and more native-targeted than the excellent-if-you-work-close-by weekday buffet).

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I admittedly have not been to many of the Indian restaurants listed by others on dr ... especially the one in MD, but I have been to a bunch of them in the 7 corners area and around Ashburn/Sterling/Herndon.

Minerva in Herndon has had the freshest and best tasting Naan as well as great butter chicken and tandoori chicken. The chicken has been very moist and juicy vs. dry and overdone which is what we normally find at most of the other local indian restaurants.

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Got takeout from the new Minerva in Chantilly, just west of Rt. 28, and it was not on the level of the other outlets. Dal makhani was less rich, less well-defined, and less hot, lamb biryani was not nearly the layered masterpiece it's been many times at the Fairfax location, etc etc. Word to the wise.

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I would like to add to the love being expressed for Minerva.

It isn't mom's cooking, but when I am craving some good Indian food, it hit's the spot.

I do prefer the one in Herndon to the one in Fairfax for some unknown reason.

(excuse me while i go wipe the drool off my shirt)

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I would like to add to the love being expressed for Minerva.

It isn't mom's cooking, but when I am craving some good Indian food, it hit's the spot.

I do prefer the one in Herndon to the one in Fairfax for some unknown reason.

(excuse me while i go wipe the drool off my shirt)

I went to the Chantilly location yesterday, and the buffet was pretty good, and great deal at $8.95. I have been on a mission to find good lunch food in Chantilly and this is one of those places.

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Minerva in Fairfax has been my new fave Indian for awhile now, causing me to abandon my former local standby, Mehak. However, I drove by Mehak on Lee Hwy yesterday, and could have sworn that the location now houses a Taco Baja. I'll miss their Butter Chicken.

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Minerva is great, I don't know why Tom Sietsema hates on it. I've only been to the Fairfax branch however.

She Who Must Be Obeyed and I are BIG fans of the Fairfax branch...never even knew that there were other branches.

Many of her cow-irkers are Indian of varying flavors, and they think well of the food - and since most of them are young, single men, they eat out A LOT. Fairfax is overrun with good Indian places, but Minerva is our favorite.

Rob

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A buddy and I tried the Fairfax lunch buffet on Friday. Not as spicy as the buffet in Herndon but almost as good. Chicken makhani is definitely a top 5 candidate for my hypothetical "death row" last meal.

Next time, must eat slower so I can try the gulab jamun. Which, by the way, is one of the most fun things to say. Gulab jamun!

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Every time I go to Minerva (Fairfax), my usual order comes out slightly different. The eggplant bharta two times ago was out of this world, lick-the-bowl-as-my-mouth-is-on-fire, fantastically good. This past time it was just, "pretty good," with less heat and a little too much grease. The lamb korma/pasanda has ranged from "turkey-gravy-like and oversalted" to "delicately spiced, creamy yumminess," generally leaning towards the latter. The vegetable samosas are usually decent, but this time they were dry and hard, with little filling. The naan is always great.

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Every time I go to Minerva (Fairfax), my usual order comes out slightly different. The eggplant bharta two times ago was out of this world, lick-the-bowl-as-my-mouth-is-on-fire, fantastically good. This past time it was just, "pretty good," with less heat and a little too much grease. The lamb korma/pasanda has ranged from "turkey-gravy-like and oversalted" to "delicately spiced, creamy yumminess," generally leaning towards the latter. The vegetable samosas are usually decent, but this time they were dry and hard, with little filling. The naan is always great.
The last couple of months the food has been below normal. We're there at least once a week for the last 2 years and there has definitely been something off with the kitchen. That said the last time we were there, which was early last week the food was back to normal. I'm hoping this continues.
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The last couple of months the food has been below normal. We're there at least once a week for the last 2 years and there has definitely been something off with the kitchen. That said the last time we were there, which was early last week the food was back to normal. I'm hoping this continues.
Me too! There's a lot of great Indian food around Fairfax, but Minerva is my favorite (I'm kind of addicted to the aforementioned eggplant bharta). It would be sad if I had to switch.

Ha! I quoted successfully and didn't triple space (I think)! Yeah!

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I went to the Chantilly location yesterday, and the buffet was pretty good, and great deal at $8.95. I have been on a mission to find good lunch food in Chantilly and this is one of those places.

We got takeout from the Chantilly Minerva last week. I had forgotten that because they specialize in South Indian cuisine, the food is generally spicier than some of the other local Indian joints. That's fine with me but it limits what Twinsmommy can order.

I'm tempted to try some lamb vindaloo -- it's gotta be pretty darn hot! :)

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Every time I go to Minerva (Fairfax), my usual order comes out slightly different. The eggplant bharta two times ago was out of this world, lick-the-bowl-as-my-mouth-is-on-fire, fantastically good. This past time it was just, "pretty good," with less heat and a little too much grease. The lamb korma/pasanda has ranged from "turkey-gravy-like and oversalted" to "delicately spiced, creamy yumminess," generally leaning towards the latter. The vegetable samosas are usually decent, but this time they were dry and hard, with little filling. The naan is always great.

My husband and I used to go to the weekend buffet every two weeks or so and totally have to do the loosening of the pants afterwards. However, we haven't gone in almost a year because we thought it was getting too salty, greasy, and less fragrant. But maybe things have changed? I do miss the idlii and the 'lentil donuts' (what are those called?). As for the dosas, I'd rather go to Amma's in Vienna not Woodlands

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I don't know if this has been noted, but MInerva recently opened another restaurant in Gaithersburg, at the intersection of 355 and Shady Grove, in a little strip shopping center just south of the intersection.

I had the lunch buffet today and it was very good. The bindi (okra) was particularly good, as was the chicken biryani. The latter was not toned down for Western tastes and was delicious.

And the new branch is only a few blocks from my work. :)

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I don't know if this has been noted, but MInerva recently opened another restaurant in Gaithersburg, at the intersection of 355 and Shady Grove, in a little strip shopping center just south of the intersection.

I had the lunch buffet today and it was very good. The bindi (okra) was particularly good, as was the chicken biryani. The latter was not toned down for Western tastes and was delicious.

And the new branch is only a few blocks from my work. :)

JPW - are you listening? Sounds like a definite Rockville Pike Lunch Club possibility...

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I don't know if this has been noted, but MInerva recently opened another restaurant in Gaithersburg, at the intersection of 355 and Shady Grove, in a little strip shopping center just south of the intersection.
Hmmm, I'm not far from that intersection. Is that the west side of the street south of Shady Grove? How far south? Any details appreciated!
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I don't know if this has been noted, but MInerva recently opened another restaurant in Gaithersburg, at the intersection of 355 and Shady Grove, in a little strip shopping center just south of the intersection.

Sounds like it could be the place formerly known as Pho Quyen... :)

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Hmmm, I'm not far from that intersection. Is that the west side of the street south of Shady Grove? How far south? Any details appreciated!

Yes, just south of the intersection, on the west side. First turn-in to the right after the stoplight. It sits just to the right--north--of a small office building.

The lunch was excellent, so my wife and had dinner there tonight. She had a spinach dosa and I had one of the fish curries. Both were very good, but the service is spotty--they have only been open for about a week, so there are kinks to be worked through. Her entree came five minutes before mine--luckily she was generous and let me have some of her dosa--and we were both served the wrong soup. But in Minerva's defense, we came early and were the first in for dinner--I don't think they were ready for us. I'm sure the problems will resolve in short order.

We plan to be there Sunday for the brunch buffet.

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JPW - are you listening? Sounds like a definite Rockville Pike Lunch Club possibility...
Indeed. By the way, for all those who have lunch chances to join the RPLC, it's open to all comers. Join us sometime. We always announce in the "On a whim" thread. Sometimes even a day ahead. :)
Sounds like it could be the place formerly known as Pho Quyen... :)
Given JeffC's description below I don't think it is. If I have time, I'll do a drive by today. Last time I checked that was still that Filipino joint that Dan and I stopped in one day. It was pretty good, but not a destination.
Yes, just south of the intersection, on the west side. First turn-in to the right after the stoplight. It sits just to the right--north--of a small office building.
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Given JeffC's description below I don't think it is. If I have time, I'll do a drive by today. Last time I checked that was still that Filipino joint that Dan and I stopped in one day. It was pretty good, but not a destination.

The Filipino place is on the east side of the street, next to Momo Taro. This is on the west side of the street, so maybe it replaced the chinese restaurant that was there?

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My quickie impressions of Minerva in Gaithersburg....We were told buffet only at lunch. The buffet was varied and had a large selection. There were north Indian dishes (chicken biriyani, chicken vindaloo, a fish curry, tandoori chicken, etc) and south Indian dishes (sambar, rasam, uttapam, vada, etc). Personally, this always sets of alarm bells. I'm not sure if one single restaurant can do two different types of cuisine properly. The chicken vinadloo was very tame and a little vinegary. The chicken biriyani was also somewhat tame. The real disappointment, for me, was the dal (lentil) - very little taste. The bright spot was the tandoori chicken - moist and tasty.

Altogether, it's not really a place that I'd go out of my way to go to (for lunch, anyways). Unless I was really really hankering for some meat in my meal, I'd stick with Madras Palace (which may be the best Indian food I've ever had).

Oh, and the trippy, trance/rave/bollywood tunes were killing me. :)

Great turnout for lunch! Let's see what others say about this place.

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My quickie impressions of Minerva in Gaithersburg....We were told buffet only at lunch. The buffet was varied and had a large selection. There were north Indian dishes (chicken biriyani, chicken vindaloo, a fish curry, tandoori chicken, etc) and south Indian dishes (sambar, rasam, uttapam, vada, etc). Personally, this always sets of alarm bells. I'm not sure if one single restaurant can do two different types of cuisine properly. The chicken vinadloo was very tame and a little vinegary. The chicken biriyani was also somewhat tame. The real disappointment, for me, was the dal (lentil) - very little taste. The bright spot was the tandoori chicken - moist and tasty.

Altogether, it's not really a place that I'd go out of my way to go to (for lunch, anyways). Unless I was really really hankering for some meat in my meal, I'd stick with Madras Palace (which may be the best Indian food I've ever had).

If the Fairfax location is any indication, try the buffet on weekends. There's almost always goat, and everything is spicier and more explosive in flavor.
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Great turnout for lunch! Let's see what others say about this place.

I had a great time with everyone, but as far as the food goes... I'll go back if pressured to socially. There is much better Indian food all over the DC area. Watching all those people piling on in the buffet line I kept thinking "not bad for pig slop."

Naan, plain and garlic, were cut in small pieces and placed in a tray on the steam table. Steamed bread. Hooray. :) Seriously, there are other restaurants where they start baking the bread when you walk in and bring it to your table shortly after your first foray to the buffet. That's how it should be done.

Chicken chicken chicken. The biryani had little bone fragments (ouch!) in it and the rice was mushy, though I suppose the flavor was okay. The vindaloo was boring - pleasant enough, but this should be a kick-ass spicy dish, not a mild teaser. Butter chicken was the most bland and unidimensional version I've ever had.

The kadai tofu was fine if unremarkable. There was some vegetable in coconut thing that was, um, fine if unremarkable.

The southern Indian dishes just tasted kinda weak. But I rarely eat south Indian (except at Madras Palace), so I can't really offer an objective explanation. I can offer advice, though: you're only seven or so minutes away from MP, so go there instead. Or go 15-20 minutes in the other direction and hit Passage to India. It's worth the time.

Oh, and the rasmalai stank. Well, not literally, but it was a tough and tasteless waste of calories. And the mango lassi was sweet. Really, really, sweet. Not sweet in the slang way, but sweet in the sugar rush way.

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Sounds like that location has some issues.

I've always preferred their a la carte dishes at the Herndon location, although the buffet there is usually better than what was described above. Although they do keep the bread in the buffet. But then again the Herndon location is huge and I can't see how they could do it another way.

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It wasn't as good as I remember the Herndon location being, but it's been a while since I ate at the latter, and even then I usually preferred to drive to the much better and now displaced Connaught Place in Fairfax 19 out of 20 times.

As porcupine noted, the buffet offered a selection of both northern and southern items, although the southern section seemed to be mainly confined to rasam, sambar, utthapam and vada, which is a bit redundant in the starch+soup category. The tofu dish was something I hadn't seen in an Indian restaurant before, but most of the other vegetable items seemed to rely on a base of thinly-shredded onion.

On the whole, I'd grade the Rockville buffet a middling average. Most of the dishes were perfunctorily executed and under-spiced. The vindaloo was mild for vindaloo, the yellow dal was bland and cooked to a mush, the vegetables were very coarsely chunked for the sambar and consequently none made it into your bowl. It certainly wasn't the worst Indian buffet in Rockville, but it's not likely to become a regular stop for me either.

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Just a quick update. I had the lunch buffet today, something that has become a weekly ritual of late. Many of the earlier issues seem to have resolved and they are doing a very brisk lunch business. Today it was mostly Indians, watching the world cricket matches on the three plasma TVs.

Today the selection was quite nice--a good vegetable biryani, a fiery chili chicken, two okra dishes--the one I selected was quite fiery--a very spicy south Indian chicken curry that made an excellent naan sop, dosas, rasam, tomato soup, idli and sambar, dal, etc. The selection was such that I couldn't try everything I wanted. More often than not, it's like that.

The quality and spice-level of the food seems to be improving steadily. The heat level of the food is the highest of any of the buffets I frequent.

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Thought I'd give the Gaithersburg location another shot (after our not-so-good trip back in Nov 06). Had the buffet lunch. Again, many of the same disappointments. Non-veg options were limited to ginger chicken, butter chicken, and tandoori chicken (a little variety would be nice). Naan was dry and blah. Veg dishes were very unimaginative. The tofu curry appeared actually use tofu instead of paneer. Ick. Even the chutneys were bland. The only bright spot were the plain dosas (which had a nice, bright taste) and the tandoori chicken (moist inside, well charred on the outside, and benefiting greatly from generous squeezes of fresh lemons).

I don't think I'll be going back to this place again. Had to give them a second chance but not again. Madras Palace is still the place to go to for Indian lunches in the G'burg/G'town area.

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Weekend buffet. Mmmmmmm goat biryani.

Honestly, off of the dinner menu, I've never had anything that was at least level for the best executed example of <whatever> in the area. The biryanis are particularly fragrant (though I don't think you can order a goat biryani; it only comes out on the weekend buffet, which is spicier and more native-targeted than the excellent-if-you-work-close-by weekday buffet).

Though I've been many times for the weekday buffet and dinners (Fairfax location), I'd never been to the weekend buffet until this weekend. There are MANY more choices than during the weekdays and hardly any of the same items. There were many dishes that I didn't recognize, but I particularly liked the lovely bone-in (watch out!) dark-colored goat curry and a fluffy chicken biryani. Lots of breads - naan, dosa shells, poori, and the circular white bready-things. Some spicy falafel-like fried rounds, and many spicy and mild curries and sauces. Sorry I can't be more specific. Everything was quite good, and not as searingly spicy as I'd expected, which is a good thing. Some items were hot, some were mild, and everything I tried tasted different, which is nice for a buffet offering.

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Chicken chicken chicken.

Yes, Minerva Fairfax has been chicken-happy lately, even on the weekends. It's chicken (tandori, vindaloo, butter) everything, plus a few vegetarian dishes. They bake too much bread (naan and roti) and leave it out too long on the buffet, so it becomes gummy and unpleasant. The pakora are out too long as well and become very stale, which is nice only if you want to avoid fried indulgences. The dosa shells hold up surprisingly well, though.

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Use to love Minerva. Definitely one of my go to places. However, I don't think I been back in over 8 months. The quality had gone down a bit but perhaps it is time to give it another shot. Use to like the indo chinese dishes. Of the 3 locations I use to frequent (fairfax, Chantilly and Reston) I thought the reston was the best one.

Went to an all veggie buffet not too long ago called Sarivanna (sp?) in fairfax (recommended from Tyler cowen). Wife loved it. I thought it was ok. Their fried stuff however, was just outstanding (which on a buffet I tought was pretty impossible).

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I just got back from Minerva Express on Lee Hwy just west of Glebe between the Subway Sandwich shop and A1 Indian Groceries. It has 3 or 4 tables but they will be mainly a carryout place. They were still bring in equipment so I grabbed a menu for tomorrow. If they are anywhere close to the Minerva in FFX they will be a hit here in Arlington. I am looking forward to trying them out, any suggestions? I like my dishes hot, so I was thinking starting with the chili pakora and trying the goat biryani, though the vindaloo sounds good as well. I will try to enclose the temporary menu.

post-5518-126401821825_thumb.jpg

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I just got back from Minerva Express on Lee Hwy just west of Glebe between the Subway Sandwich shop and A1 Indian Groceries. It has 3 or 4 tables but they will be mainly a carryout place. They were still bring in equipment so I grabbed a menu for tomorrow. If they are anywhere close to the Minerva in FFX they will be a hit here in Arlington. I am looking forward to trying them out, any suggestions? I like my dishes hot, so I was thinking starting with the chili pakora and trying the goat biryani, though the vindaloo sounds good as well. I will try to enclose the temporary menu.

I know that space very well. :angry:

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I just got back from Minerva Express on Lee Hwy just west of Glebe between the Subway Sandwich shop and A1 Indian Groceries. It has 3 or 4 tables but they will be mainly a carryout place. They were still bring in equipment so I grabbed a menu for tomorrow. If they are anywhere close to the Minerva in FFX they will be a hit here in Arlington. I am looking forward to trying them out, any suggestions? I like my dishes hot, so I was thinking starting with the chili pakora and trying the goat biryani, though the vindaloo sounds good as well. I will try to enclose the temporary menu.

Oh, good, I never feel like going all the way out to the FFX location, this will be right on the way home. How's parking? I'm trying to picture that area. Thx for posting that menu.

On edit: Never mind, I Google mapped it and saw the postage stamp parking lot, looks like the surrounding streets will do for a quick take out.

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I'm with xcanuck, and surprised to see so many fans on here. I've been to Minerva 3 times (once on my own and twice for events) and found it to be consistently mediocre, Americanized Indian food. Too much tomatoey sweetness and cream in a lot of the dishes and not enough of that delicious Indian spicing.

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Minerva Express is starting to get their feet under them and they are preparing pretty good meals. I tried the navratan kurma, which is basically a slow cooked veggie curried stew with rice and they threw in some naan that was fresh and hot. The stew was pretty rich, with a subtle bit of heat to it. I bought some achar and parathas at the grocery store, so it was more like three meals rather than one for the price. I didn't see the kabobs, but they are just moving in. I am looking forward to trying the lamb or goat next week. They also had a tray of chapattis (?) and fried goods by the cash register that looked pretty good. Parking is fairly tight, but if you go before 4 you may be able to use the parking lot on the Dominos Pizza side. Definitely ask when you get there if you are good to go though.

Any time other than noon til 1 the lot is ok and you can find a spot.

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I have not seen any chatter about this Being completely oblivious to the chatter about this place, but it was news to me that the India A1 Grocery expanded into Andelman's old space and opened Minerva Express. I am no expert in Indian cuisine, but I had what I thought was a fairly good Chicken Vindalo - pleasingly spicy but not overpowering. The Palak Paneer was fine, but not memorable. Then again, maybe I do not know what to look for. Only two items on this menu cost $10.00, and the prices just go down from there. Served with rice and naan. I took mine to go, but the place had tables for eating in. It is not a large space, but they took down the wall that used to separate it from the grocery so it feels less cramped then it would otherwise.

Edited by dcs
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SWMBO and I had a very disappointing meal at Minerva in Fairfax - Lee Highway last night. If we hadn't been there a couple of times before and had enjoyable meals, we'd never go back after this atrocity. We arrived at 5:30P to find that's when they open. "Good for us," we think. Wrong. While the entrees were cooked well and served at a good temperature, everything else seemed reheated (but not quite) from the night before. The dal was a lukewarm paste. The paneer was good, actually, but not warm enough. The naan was almost like a cracker (could that have been from the night before, too?). Mrs. DrX's chai tea was clove soup. Our waitron did NOT want to be there. I hope this is just a one-off on a Sunday night, but it may be quite some time before we give Minerva a try again. Jaipur and Bombay Garden were our first choices. Obviously, we should've stuck with one of them.

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Even though there are a plethora of solid Indian choices in Fairfax, I always end up returning to Minerva. Our meal the other night was as usual - excellent, slightly oily (prepare to have a heavy meal if you get a curry, the end) lamb korma and bangain bharta, warm, fluffy naan, and reserved, but attentive (we always had water) service. The dinner version of the dishes is a steal, since the naan that accompanies the platter would cover the $2 upcharge already, but I always enjoy trying the soups served that night, the vegetable curry is reliably good, and the dessert item always makes my husband happy (especially if it is the gulab jamon).

The happy hour specials are kind of puzzling - they seem to imply that you can get some of the entrees at half price, but then the waiter said that they were an "appetizer portion." Still, since they run the HH specials through 9 PM, there is plenty of time to try them, one of the these days...

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The Fairfax location, at least, no longer does the "dinner" version of each entree, in which you would get for a small upcharge both rice and naan and a bunch of small bites - usually was a dal, a soup, a veg curry, and raita. There are set menus that come with the extras, but you don't get to choose the entrees (there are either a few choices or none at all, I can't quite remember). It's too bad, because I really enjoyed the option of tasting many things, and the only other place I knew that did that was the now-defunct Bombay Garden.

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I really don't know which category Minerva Express falls in, since this branch is not listed on the main Minerva site, but it was a lifesaver yesterday. After leaving work, I was really craving for some lamb and Indian food. Not satisfied with Aroma or Rasoi, my two work options, I thought I would take a chance, drive by, and see if it was still open. Thankfully, it was. Even if getting in is a bit confusing.

I think the express branch is owned by the folks running the A-1 Indian Grocery now. They knocked down the wall in-between the two, meaning you have to go through the grocery entrance. I was starting to get suspicious of its quality since I was the sole food buyer and it was just too quiet; plus, there was no menu handed out or available for the taking and their posted menu was all marked up with small pieces of paper covering certain items and prices.

But, I was proven wrong. The Lamb Vindaloo did its job. Hit the spot, and for only $11 (pre-tax), which includes naan and rice. I thought that was a pretty good price. I believe all their lamb dishes are $11. The spices were aromatic, the tomato component at the right flavor, and nice-sized, tender cubes of lamb. A perfect way to show that one still should not continue to judge a book by its cover.

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I was starting to get suspicious of its quality since I was the sole food buyer and it was just too quiet; plus, there was no menu handed out or available for the taking and their posted menu was all marked up with small pieces of paper covering certain items and prices.

But, I was proven wrong. The Lamb Vindaloo did its job. Hit the spot, and for only $11 (pre-tax), which includes naan and rice. I thought that was a pretty good price. I believe all their lamb dishes are $11. The spices were aromatic, the tomato component at the right flavor, and nice-sized, tender cubes of lamb. A perfect way to show that one still should not continue to judge a book by its cover.

Yep, that's one good thing about a lot of Indian cooking: it keeps well in steam tables because it's long-cooked. This is why Indian buffets are often a cut above the norm.

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