Jassi’s Indian Grill was nearly empty on the night we visited. No surprise there. Electric Tuesday evenings, thy name is not Mineola, especially not along the sleepy stretch of Jericho Turnpike that abuts the new eatery owned by Gurjit Singh and run by his mother Bal. Still, it was an unseasonably balmy Tuesday, as Tuesdays go, and Jassi’s department store-sized windows facing the street were cranked open. The air was tinged with cumin and turmeric, fragrant in just the same way as restaurants that are never empty. Clearly, some culinary forensics was in order.
Upon stationing itself near the window, our table noticed a steady stream of GrubEatsDash types parading through the dining room, another hopeful sign. Nothing seemed especially new or different about Jassi’s menu, but Bal Singh happily walked us through it anyway, drawing our attention to the "Tandoori Hot Sizzlers" section and its $17.99 mixed grill, a sort of sampler platter for the clay oven set. Yes, please. Having outed ourselves as shameless carnivores, we doubled down, ordering plates of goat curry ($15.99) and butter chicken ($15.49). Oh, and a $3.49 basket of garlic naan, just for a little variety.
Minutes later, a volcanic cone of meat could be seen making its way toward our table, hissing and popping all the while. Our table’s reaction would have impressed Pavlov himself. The waiter’s hand had hardly left the plate when we dived headlong into skewers of lamb seekh kebab, juicy and seasoned with power. Underneath lay tangy orange bites of chicken seekh kebab and white briquettes of malai kebab, the meat tenderized by a two-day stint in sour cream marinade. Those meltingly good morsels made for a handy fire extinguisher when the goat curry arrived (yes, we asked for spicy), and it too was terrific. The butter chicken and naan had less personality than we’ve come to expect, but perhaps only by comparison with the plates that preceded them.
"Most of the curries and tandooris are made with spices that we freshly roast in a pan and then grind," said Singh of her full-bodied, flavorsome dishes, which she also credited to the kitchen’s freshly-made pastes of ginger root and garlic. "We use pure butter where needed, heavy cream where needed, we don’t cut corners." As with other new eateries these days, the prices are a relative bargain, especially considering portion sizes. "I just have to introduce customers to my food and get them to see the quality."
In the end, there really was no explanation for Jassi’s quiet dining room. The food was solid, the online raves accurate and well-deserved. Takeout and delivery business is robust, and word of the place does appear to be spreading, but is it spreading quickly enough? We can only hope.
Jassi’s Mineola Indian Grill is at 267 Mineola Blvd. in Mineola, 516-747-5277, jassisindiangrill.com. Opening hours are every day from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.