Saturday, February 16, 2008

Enchanting Mantra

Dessert at Mantra Palo AltoMantra in Palo Alto was a delightful discovery! It would not be accurate to call this Michelin recommended restaurant Indian. Mantra's owner Ashwani Dhawan prefers to call this California Cuisine - with a dash of India. Ashwani and his partner, chef Sachin Chopra, have crafted this unique cuisine which combines California freshness with bold spices and flavors of Indian spices.

Soup and Starters at Mantra Palo AltoYou enter the restaurant through the Daru lounge and long-bar which serves small plates, cocktails and wine. The restaurant itself is casually elegant, warm, with soft lighting; they also showcase paintings from Indian masters such as MF Hussain and SH Raza in the dining area.

Paneer Cuboid at Mantra Palo AltoWe went with Ashwani's recommendations. After the complimentary soup, we began our culinary journey with the Paneer Cuboid: a fenugreek marinated cube of paneer, stuffed with pickled mushroom duxelle, Seviyan crust, Daikon and Lychee salad with roasted pepper coulis. A great combination of flavors! It would be even better if the paneer were a little softer.

Shrimp Lollipops at Mantra Palo AltoThen came the Cinnamon Shrimp Lollipops: ginger and green chili spiked shrimp lollipops, served over cucumber, Daikon root, Alfalfa sprouts and Fennel Salad. Very exotic and I enjoyed the flavor of cinnamon with shrimp, but overall I think I liked the Paneer Cuboid better.

Tandoori Sea Bass at Mantra Palo AltoThere were two of us and we shared our entrees. I had ordered their signature entree, the Tandoori Sea Bass with a green chili-cilantro-pasto marinade, on basil eggplant mashed potatoes and garden greens. This was unbelievably awesome! Juicy, flavorful and delicious by any yardstick. This, in my opinion, is the must-have dish in Mantra.

Lamb Chops at Mantra Palo AltoThe second entree was the Herbed Lamb Chops: grilled lamb chops, basil mashed potatoes, bacon wrapped vegetables and cream. I loved this one too! We had ordered the lamb chops done medium, but the meat was still juicy, well marinated and tasty.

The Passion Fruit Soup with Milk Bombe in Cayenne Expresso chocolate sauce provided a sweet ending to our meal. We had chosen an Italian Prosecco wine with our entree which went rather well too.

All in all, a fine dining experience. I particularly enjoyed the entrees and the dessert.

For trivia buffs, chef Sachin Chopra spent over three years at Amber before joining hands with Ashwani to start Mantra. Mantra is located at 632 Emerson Street, Palo Alto, CA 94301. Ph: 650.322.3500

6 comments:

backpakker said...

wow-thats a sumptuous meal..

Sig said...

wow, looks like a treat...love the presentation.

Zhu said...

It looks so artistic, I would feel bad to destroy the presentation!

On a second thought... maybe not. Looks good too!:D

Shantanu said...

@backpakker, sig, zhu: Thanks for visiting and leaving comments.

beaverboosh said...

I have never been impressed by California food, it is always over-engineered and quite complicated.

In fact, I have always though Heston Blumenthal of Fat Duck fame could have been Californian!

Shantanu said...

@beeverboosh: Interesting you should say that! But Heston Blumenthal is in a different league altogether. :-)