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A Taste of Mint

Article Published: May. 31, 2012 | Modified: May. 31, 2012
A Taste of Mint

Raj Arora, co-owner of the new Indian restaurant Mint, is excited about opening his new eatery in Boone.

Photo by Kate Smith

Mint, with its spry savor, is the name of Boone's newest and only exclusive Indian restaurant, located at 203 Boone Heights. The walls are a contrast of rich clay orange tints and spearing teal. Its echoing ceiling, inconspicuous buffet, and modern bar give off the opulent ambiance of an open-air Indian market.

Raj Arora will partner with Nitin Rabari in the ownership of Mint.

Arora grew up on a farm of similar colors in India. He moved to the United States in 1983, and opened the Taj Mahal restaurant in Long Island, New York in 1987.

“All my family is in the restaurant business,” he said, holding up both hands. “I have lost count of how many.”

Arora quickly shimmied up the totem pole that is restaurant work; beginning as a dishwasher and becoming trained as a chef. Success at the Taj Mahal led him to open two Naweb restaurants, both voted among the Top Ten restaurants in New York in 1993.

Arora distinctly remembers a food critic in New York writing that “the Indian food is like a first kiss.” Twenty-five years later, it is the kiss that enlivened the bland and scattered flavor across the US.
Arora is the current primary owner of Nawab Indian Cuisine in Winston-Salem, Viceroy in Atlanta, Mint in Chapel Hill, Saffron in Greensboro and now Mint in Boone.

“I've been driving through this area for years,” he said. “I was looking for an Indian restaurant site and I never could find what I want. I saw this building available, it has parking and a bus stop, so I took it.”

He closed on the building at 203 Boone Heights Drive in mid-March and hopes to be through with inspections and open by mid-June. James Woodel, the interior designer, will then be interested in local art to decorate the restaurant.

“I enjoy this town a lot, and I always come to this town, even before the restaurant, to spend a day hiking,” Arora said. “Being an Indian, I always liked that this is an education town and a professional town.”

Arora has scripted his menu to suit both the student and professional budget, with the lunch menu beginning at $9 and the dinner ranging to $25. A buffet for $9 on weekdays and $12 on weekends.
Mint will cook primarily with tandoori, a clay oven.

“We'll bake our own fresh bread,” Arora said. “We'll serve lamb, chicken, seafood, and a vast variety of vegetables.”

Several vegetarian friendly entrees will be grown from local farmers' gardens. For new Indian food eaters, Arora says his staff will help with choices of flavoring.

“Flavored, that's the word,” Arora said. “Many of the town have a misconception that Indian food is spicy. It’s not. It's not spicy hot like a chili hot and it wont hurt your taste-buds or your tummy.”

Sauces range from aromatic tomato and cream based Mussalo sauce, Tandoori sauce, and “Indian hot” Vindallo sauce. Arora recommends his favorites – the spinach with chicken, lentils, and tandoori salmon.

“Mint is easy to remember,” Arora said. “Because it's short and refreshing.”

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