Mina's Mediterranean
I’ve driven by 79th street near Biscayne dozens of times but I never noticed a restaurant there called Mina’s Mediterraneo at 749 NE 79th street. It has been open for over three years, but its name never came up. Recently I kept reading about this spot, so I thought I would check it out.

The place has a large parking lot which is a huge plus. The restaurant is quite large, it accommodates about 80 or so inside and probably twice that amount outside. The patio looked lovely, in a setting with greenery and soft lights. Unfortunately, it was raining so we had to dine inside. Mina’s has an industrial/loft chic feel to it. The ceilings are high, with exposed beams, there are lots of windows, and cement floors and a dimly lit ambiance.

Owner Yasmine Kotb is originally from Cairo. A world traveller, she was interested in many different cultures and their cuisines, and thus Mina’s was her brainchild. The restaurant has a huge menu, which always tends to worry me, because it is hard to create so many outstanding dishes. I always prefer a smaller, controlled menu. The menu covers a large expanse of food from Mediterranean, Greek, Middle Eastern, Moroccan, Turkish and Egyptian to a selection of pizza thrown in. There are things like spanakopita, osso bucco, tagines, stuffed cabbage, falafel, Spanish tortillas, dolmas, grape leaves, kebabs, etc.

The place fills up with families and young people. The prices are reasonable and there really is something for everyone on the menu. However, if you think you are going to get anything near as tasty as Mandolin, you are wasting your time – it’s not even close. There were no standout dishes, and the kitchen needs to greatly improve the quality of the food.

We started with the pita and a selection of five dips. They charge $1 per pita, but the pita is homemade and freshly baked out of the oven. The dips, however, come straight out of the refrigerator to the table. Ice cold dips are not really appealing. We tried tzaziki, baba ghanoug, tahini, hummus and spicy feta. All I could taste was garlic and not much else. The mussels a la Bourgogne are served in a very flavorful green sauce of garlic, butter, and parsley, accompanied with toast. The mussels might have been the smallest I have ever seen, even though the shells were of average size. The Israeli salad has a lovely presentation but I prefer tomatoes, onions and cucumbers. This version is mostly peppers and not as enjoyable for me. The lamb burger sliders were actually my favourite dish of the evening, even though they were on the gamey side. They come in tiny pitas with sides of harissa, tzatziki, tomato and lettuce. They were the one thing that everyone at the table ate up. The moussaka is something I always enjoy at a Greek restaurant or when visiting Greece. Mina’s is served dry, not dripping in olive oil (which I love) like most versions of the dish I have tried. We had a whole branzino, which was decent, no major complaints there. The accompanying rice pilaf had a strange flavour and was left behind after one bite. We decided not to press our luck and have dessert as we knew it would probably be better in our own homes. I know this is an extremely critical review. The food wasn’t terrible or inedible, but it also wasn’t very good.

There are lots of beer choices on the menu and $12 cocktails which is very reasonable. I had a frozen organic strawberry, basil, lemonade slushie, which was not very good.

I think people come here because the staff is friendly, the garden setting outdoors is pretty and on Saturday’s they have live entertainment. It is cheap and cheerful, but I also need great food to return. There is talk of a nice weekend brunch here. Don’t think I will chance it, unless I hear from people whose taste and judgment I respect.

Happy dining,

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