EVEN WHEN I lived in New York City, where some of the most renowned Indian cuisine outside of the sub-continent itself is served, I was never the biggest fan of curry, a primary (and spicy) ingredient in Indian food from all of the country’s many distinct regions, each of which has its own signature dishes.
But, it’s been more than 35 years since I lived in the Big Apple and since then, either my taste buds have “grown up” or the two-year-old Minerva Indian Restaurant in the New Tampa center plaza on Bruce B. Downs (BBD) Blvd. has some of the most delicious Indian food I’ve ever tasted.
Or, maybe a little bit of both.
At any rate, when Minerva opened in 2016, I had freelance writer Brad Stager write the story about owner Venkat Reddy’s unassuming (from the outside) but elegant inside eatery because a) Brad told me he knows quite a bit about and loves Indian food and b) I was concerned about not being able to rave about a new advertiser.
Well, you can call me an old dog learning some new tricks at Minerva, which actually shouldn’t surprise me too much because even when it first opened, I was definitely impressed not only with the restaurant’s huge selection of excellent Indian beers (at really low prices; see below for more info), but also with Minerva’s Indian-style Chinese chicken fried rice, which had a hint of curry, but nothing about the spices were overpowering and the portion was huge.
Two years later, Venkat has an even more impressed new fan. Whether you enjoy Minerva’s tremendous lunch buffet, which offers different dishes every day, including North and South Indian and Indo Chinese options, which is a great way to sample more than two dozen options (including salads, vegetarian dishes and desserts, as well as many main and side dishes), or order off the huge and very fairly priced menu, you really can’t go wrong.
Among the starters I’ve sampled, I really enjoyed the crispy vegetable spring rolls (served with mint and tamarind sauces on the side; I preferred the tamarind), the equally crisp and delicious garlic naan (similar to pita bread, but crispier and better tasting than any pita I’ve ever eaten) and the Minerva Special Soup, which is sort of a blend of traditional New York-style Chinese egg drop soup and my mom’s homemade chicken soup. In addition to a savory, but not spicy broth, the soup is loaded with white meat chicken and a variety of fresh veggies. In a word…awesome.
And if you have never sampled any of the Indian beers, you owe it to yourself to include a Taj Majal, Kingfisher or the amazing Hunter strong premium beer, which does have a 6.5-percent alcohol content (thus, the “strong” label), but tastes to me like a crisp, refreshing lager or pilsner.
I usually steer clear of Indian buffets, because, too often, there are too many different kinds of curry in one place for me. I know most people who like Indian food go for the butter chicken, Masala or Tikka Masala dishes (all of which are Specialties of the House at Minerva), but when I ate Indian food in New York, I really only liked Tandoori clay oven dishes, and only at some places. And, while I do enjoy Minerva’s Tandoori chicken on the buffet, my favorite entrée at Minerva is the Tandoori lamb shish kabab, which is actually ground lamb served with a crispy edge outside and tender inside on a sizzling fajita-style dish, only with better onions and peppers than at any Mexican restaurant. And, best of all, none of the entrées I’ve mentioned costs more than $14.95.
I also really enjoyed the Minerva Special Chicken, which serves equally delicious veggies with boneless chicken pieces in a sweet red curry sauce that has no bite at all. Another new favorite of mine is the goat curry, which is tender goat on the bone, again with a very light curry sauce that was excellent when paired with the vegetable biryani (basmati rice) from the buffet. And, speaking of the buffet, it’s truly a bargain at $9.95 Monday-Friday (11 a.m.-3 p.m.) and although the buffet costs $12.95 on Saturday and Sunday, Venkat says that he adds some special items that make it well worth the extra cost.
And yes, for you vegetarians out there, Minerva offers nearly two dozen veggie entrées, plus hand-made dosas (crepes), a South Indian favorite served with sambar, coconut and ginger chutney and a variety of veggie-based fillings.
So, reward your adventurous taste buds and try Minerva Indian Restaurant. You’ll be glad you did.
Minerva is located at 19050 BBD in New Tampa. For more info, call (813) 978-8586 or visit MinervaTampa.com.