Restaurants & Bars

Mantra-Destination Dining in Palo Alto?

thejulia | Mar 10, 200602:25 PM     4

So, when I reviewed Junoon last week, I was saying that Palo Alto needs places with more of a loungey feel. Mantra, in Stoa's old location really fits the bill, and they have great food to boot. They have a gorgeous bar/lounge that they've named the 'Daru Lounge.' Chris and I were wandering around doing errands in PA when I dragged him over to see if it was open. Last night was Mantra's second night, and their menu (on a snazzy flat panel screen), looked too tempting to pass up. So in we marched, despite the fact that I was wearing sweats and flip flops. (They didn't raise an eyebrow even).

If anyone went to Stoa or Higashi West, they know that this is a good space for restaurants. Mantra's done a wonderful job of redecorating it, making the bar/loune luxe, sultry and urban, and the dining room, quiet, plush and elegant.

The menu is a mix of California and Indian cuisine. Prices are high and service is fantastic if a bit slow. As with most new restaurants, they're still figuring things out, and they're also extreeeeemely friendly right now. Krishnan, the owner, went from table to table soliciting feedback and hobnobbing. The bartender came out from behind the bar to talk to us about what cocktails we might like to drink, etc. It was a fun experience, even if it did make it a little less romantic. If only restaurants would always be so open to feedback and so attentive to our wants and needs. They served everything on white flatware, sometimes with a dome over it.

This is what we had:
-Hendrick's Gin and Tonic with 5 Lime Slices. Our bartender came with one normal version adn one extremely mixed version which I thought was sublime.
-Unnamed house special cocktail. It was a mixture of fresh strawberry juice, house made sweet and sour mix, tiny minced apple and other fruit bits and absolut vanilla. Not too sweet and such a fantastic drink that I need to go back again to taste.

-Seared foie gras on lady finger apples and truffle ice cream.
-Seared day boat scallops with melted leeks and something caramelized and deliciously delectable.

Both these appetizers were literally exemplary. Foie gras had a perfect sear and melting interior, the truffle ice cream was very fragrant and rich and the lady fingers werent' too sweet, but nicely caramelized. I LOVED the scallops. My small one was on the fire for a bit too long and so wasn't as moist inside as I like, but the second one was perfect. The leek and caramelized something or other were the perfect garnishes.

Both servings were smallish, but a waiter came by and told us that due to feedback, they would be increasing the serving sizes. I didn't think the sizes we had were much smaller than industry standard.

Chris' Kobe beef came out perfectly. It's the best steak you can have around here, juicy and truly melting and huge flavor, and the sauce, some sort of sweetish, slightly bitter, (was there tamarind in it?) sauce based on some rich beef stock, was spot on. I used the naan that came with my tandoor to sop it up. Another wonderful touch was that the steak knife they brought out was a laguiole. It was on a petit potato gratin, but that was basically a platform for the incredible beef.

My tandori mixed grill was also great, but nothing could compare with that beef. I had chunks of salmon, chicken, lamb, a shrimp and kebab. My kebab had waaay too much cardamom in it, but all the other pieces were fantastically juicy and tender. Those bits of kebab were very anomalous and disappointing, but because the owner was so eager for feedback, I had no qualms about telling him. I love cardamom, but it tasted a bit like I was biting into some soap or something.

We hadn't wanted dessert, but the owner came by with little frozen lollipops of chocolate covered cheesecake and ice cream that he thawed a bit over the candle on our table. What a sweet and cute touch!

I can't find a website as of yet, but has a description. (So apparently the chef here, Robert Ciborowski, is from the French Laundry.)

We're going to be coming back more often, for drinks, light snacks and any special occasion we can think of. (It's our reverse half birthday!) I hope this place is going to only get better and I absolutely urge ppl to check it out. This could be the best restaurant around soon.

Link: http://www.opentable.com/rest_profile...

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