Tuesday, August 28, 2007


I'm not a food blogger, and I don't usually bother to post about my restaurant experiences, but this one really took me by surprise last night, so I had to say something. We dined at Mantra, in Palo Alto - a restaurant that can best be classified as part of the growing breed of Indian fusion experiences.

It opened a couple of years ago, to less than glowing reviews, but a change of chef and revamp of the menu supposedly yielded positive results, so we figured it was worth a try. It was a fabulous meal.

I was a little concerned at the menu - it gave lie to the impression that there may be a little too much happening with the food, but that turned out to be far from the case. In fact, most impressive was the balance the chef achieved between Indian flavours in non-Indian dishes, and vice versa. Second to that was the plating of the dishes, which managed to add to the experience without ever being overdone -- other than perhaps the desserts which were a little over the top in presentation!

The appetizers were both superb - a delicate pea, cumin and green apple soup poured tableside over a crisp medley of diced mango and a few other things (sorry, the details are failing me!); and a kebab combination featuring minced lamb over quail eggs, and an absolutely stunning chicken reshmi kebab tinged with just the right amount of saffron.

It was the mains that really blew me away though. My Kashmiri Sea Bass was unequivocally the best fish I have ever eaten. It was cooked perfectly, moist throughout, the flavours of fish and spices perfectly matched - and it truly melted in your mouth. The two veggie entrees - an Indian style ravioli (a single large piece) and the Sabz ki Salan both elicited rave reviews, and perhaps the only disappointment was the lemon and thyme tandoori chicken in the mixed grill, which was not the best cut of chicken, and failed to live up to the standards set by everything else.

Dessert was also impressive - the rose and cardamom chocolate lava cake was a hit, as was the home made ice-cream and kulfi combination, and the shrikhand-esque lavender creme brulee.

If there's one criticism I have, it's that the food didn't quite come out together - it seemed as though the kitchen started everything, and sent it out when ready, rather than figure out preparation time and back into when to start preparing each dish. Other than that, the service was attentive, but unobtrusive - just how I like it.

All in all - a brilliant experience, one which I would highly recommend.. and I will definitely be back for more.

No comments: