I am back to loving Indian food (I hated it for a while after I returned from India earlier this year) so when our friend told us there was a new Pakistani-Indian restaurant in Hayward, I rushed to try it. Meenar is actually not that new, it's been open for about 5 months. It appears, based on its location and ambiance, to be mostly a lunch place. They do offer a daily lunch buffet for $7 and a weekend one for $8.
The small restaurant doesn't have much in the way of decor. The flat ceilings host recessed lightening and the walls are covered with framed posters, a couple with European-garden scenes and a couple with potted plants. A couple of shelves with Indian ornaments and a large oriental-looking mirror (like the ones you can buy at Cost-Plus) behind the small counter, give the place whatever Indian atmosphere it may have. A window was cracked when we visited, and the place was rather cold - bring your jacket.
When we went there one Saturday night in early December, at about 7:30 PM, the place was empty save for a couple of people who wanted to buy samosas to go ($3 for 2). Another party came in while we were there but that was it. The two wait-people (owners?) were pleasant and service was good, though we had to wait and finally ask for the bill after our dinner was over.
Meenar describes itself as an Indian Pakistani restaurant. I imagine this is because the owners are Pakistani, though I didn't ask. I'm not sure what Pakistani food is supposed to consist of or if it is any different from North India food in general, but the menu at Meenar did not include anything we have not seen at other Indian restaurants in this area. The menu was very brief, including only 4 chicken and 4 lamb dishes as well as limited choices in other categories. It didn't have many of our favorites, such as lamb pasanda, chicken tika masala or keema naan. What they did have was rather cheap, chicken and vegetable dishes are about $6, lamb dishes are about $7 and seafood doesn't go above $9. Main dishes, however, come without any side-dishes. If you want rice ($2 for a large plate) or naan ($1 plain, $2 for garlic or onion), you have to order them separately.
Mike and I decided to share an order of chicken pakora for an appetizer, and have lamb korma and karahi chicken as main dishes. We also ordered some rice, garlic naan and a lassi.
The garlic naan was OK, it didn't taste too much of garlic which was probably good. I didn't enjoy the lassi too much but I'm not too fond of mango. I actually wanted a sweet lassi, but the waitress either couldn't make the change (only mango lassi is listed in the menu) or didn't understand me. Oh well.
The chicken pakora was very good. It came in a completely unadorned, ungarnished plate, but it was nice and hot and obviously freshly made. The chicken was tender while the thin batter covering it was crispy and golden. It came with a side of spicy cilantro dipping sauce, but without the sweet-sour sauce that often accompanies this dish at Bay Area restaurants. Still, it was better than the ketchup you usually get in India with this dish.
Our main dishes were pretty good, though more "authentic" tasting than those we've had at other area restaurants. By this, I mean that the food reminded us much more of what we've had in India than what we usually have in Bay Area Indian restaurants. The lamb korma came with a dark, chunky sauce and was pretty spicy. It didn't taste at all like the delicate, creamy kormas you usually get in the US. The karahi chicken came in large pieces with bone, rather than bite-size boneless cubes, and also had a chunky sauce. Both sauces were rather oily, you could see the oil separation on the plates. Neither curry was as refined as those commonly available here, though you can also read this to mean that neither catered to the American taste. They both tasted very good, however, much better than anything I had in India (the quality of the meats is also far superior) and I think we both would order them again.
I'm not sure if we'll go back to Meenar, however. The food, while good, is not Americanized enough for my taste. Mike, who enjoyed food in India much more than I did, was very pleased with the meal and would like to go back sometime. My recommendation is that you give it a try and see how the food suits you.
24830 Mission Blvd