Washington Boulevard in Pasadena is slowly becoming the progressive dinner party thoroughfare of the San Gabriel foothills. First there was Carmela Ice Cream at 2495 E. Washington, serving up handmade scoops (strawberry buttermilk! Intelligentsia espresso!). Then Lavender & Honey popped up at 1383 E. Washington, the delightful coffeehouse that specializes in fancy toast and honey lattes. Next comes Mint Leaf, a new Indian restaurant at 2535 E. Washington.
The restaurant is in the space on the corner of Washington and Altadena Drive that used to be occupied by a decrepit, abandoned florist shop. Across the street is a McDonald’s, and diagonally across is a 7-Eleven. Although it has always been known for decent Armenian food, burritos and pizza, this is definitely a street in transition. The debut of Mint Leaf is especially great news for local Altadenans, many of whom eschew the “long” trek to Pasadena’s Old Town area to dine.
Right now only a banner announces Mint Leaf Indian Cuisine. When it opens later this month (a possible soft opening for dinner as early as next week), the restaurant will serve a mix of traditional Indian fare and lighter vegan options, such as chicken korma, lamb saag, tofu vindaloo, vegetable pakoras (crispy cauliflower and potato fritters), dal makhni (black lentils and red kidney beans with butter and cream) and paneer tikka (marinated and grilled Indian cheese) wraps. The menu will be kept current, and offerings will rotate based on seasonal ingredients.
Owned by Pasadena native Sameer Kumar, Mint will be helmed by Jayanta Paul, former chef of Tanzore, the longtime contemporary Indian restaurant in Beverly Hills that closed two years ago.
“Indian cuisine is built around magnificent spices, which lend themselves beautifully to dishes that are simple and light yet still flavorful,” Paul says. In particular, Paul has created dishes that highlight traditional Indian spices such as cinnamon, cumin, turmeric and cardamom.
Kumar, whose doctor father Nirmal Kumar's office is just down the street, says: "We wanted to give something really special back to this community that we call home." (Kumar previously owned Brea's Birch Street Bar & Grill, which closed last year.)
Kumar had originally planned to include a banquet hall with live entertainment in the space, but scrapped those plans after neighbors protested.
So no dancing girls. But soon Pasadena residents (and all other comers) will be able to do their progressive dinner properly, starting with a spicy Indian dinner, strolling to Carmela for a soothing scoop of brown butter sage sorbet, and proceeding to Lavender & Honey for a cortado nightcap.
Mint Leaf will be open for lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and dinner from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.