Restaurant review: Minerva in Fairfax, Virginia

May 19, 2007

This morning in lieu of breakfast (which, yeah, I screwed up by not defrosting the bacon last night) Lyssa and I trekked out to Fairfax, Virginia to hit the luncheon buffet at Minerva (10364 Lee Highway; Fairfax, VA, 22030; phone 703-383-9200), which is probably one of the best Indian restaurants in the area. They seem to specialize in southern Indian cuisine, as opposed to the northern style of Indian cooking that you usually find around here. We've been there a couple of times for dinner, but this is the first time we've made it for the buffet (which runs from 1200 until 1500 EST5EDT on the weekends).

I've yet to have anything that's less than "wow, this is good" at Minerva. As one would expect, they have a lot of vegetarian dishes there that are heavy in chickpeas, lentils, potatoes, and cauliflower. If that's not your speed, they also have a lot of chicken, lamb, and goat dishes, and not a few tasty curries, so there's an excellent chance that you'll find something that you'll like. If you're new to Indian cuisine, I highly suggest going to the buffet first so that you can sample a little bit of everything to see what you like and what you don't like. The past few times I've been there, I've had (and thus, can recommend) the dosa (rice crepes, which we refer to as 'dinner scrolls'), the chicken 65, tadka da (lentil curry), mutter paneer (lightly spiced cheese cubes in sauce), palak paneer (lightly spiced cheese cubes in cooked spinach), masala aloo gobi (a personal favourite - curried cauliflower and potatoes), malai kofta (minced vegetable croquettes in a sauce of cardamon, saffron, and garlic), chicken masala, and what is probably my new favourite dish, gobi manghuria (cauliflower fried in a sweet-but-spicy sauce that I can only compare to the sauce used in General T'sao's chicken in appearance and texture).

I don't think that most of the dishes I've had were too spicy, but then again I have a much higher tolerance for spicy heat than a lot of people. I've quite enjoyed everything I've had, which means that most of you are probably going to need bread or milk to cut the burn at some point.

Overall rating: Half a flaregun out of a possible four. If you're in NOVA and you like Indian food in particular or spicy food in general, run, do not walk, to Minerva. If traffic's bad, charter a helicopter and head for Fairfax. When you see Hooters, instruct the pilot to land in the parking lot, disembark, and run for Minerva.