I was initially excited to try Mantra, hearing about it's French Laundry-trained chef and creative menu. The anticipation continued when we were seated in the elegant dining space. Unfortunately my expectations deflated quickly as soon as I had the first bite of food. And the service seemed to be centered on bragging about how good the food was, which made us feel uncomfortable saying otherwise.
Case in point- the onion soup appetizer. Our waitress persuaded us to order it, claiming it was a delicious specialty. It sounded like it might work- spring onion, asparagus spears, wild mushroom, tomato gelee. Everything but the soup arrived on a plate (not a bowl, oddly) and the thick soup was poured over it. The owner came by to say it was so good we'd be asking for more. The waitress added- didn't I tell you it was wonderful? Unfortunately, the soup was lukewarm and the flavors simply didn't work.
We also tried the caesar salad (oddly sweet, with a yellowish dressing) and paneer-vegetable ravioli (not bad). The amuse bouche was rare salmon with sesame seeds and hot pepper on a cracker (ok, but it needed salt).
Temperature problems came back with the lukewarm tandoori mixed grill, which was ok but hardly in the league of a place like Amber. My beef short ribs came highly recommended by the waitress, but were terrible, with a definite "off" flavor overwhelming the dish. The veggie pot pie with green curry was better, but hardly outstanding.
If the waitress hadn't come over with more praise for our food, and the owner wasn't so friendly when he came over to chat with us, I might have said something. While it's nice to see a new upscale restaurant in Palo Alto, I certainly hope that they can improve the food.
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