Review: Mantra Palo Alto
What to do in Palo Alto on a Wednesday night? I know, Indian fusion.
White tablecloth ambience with the "mixer" crowd at the bar. I resisted the temptation to don a name tag while we waited to be seated.
For starters - Paneer marinated in chili and cumin, stuffed with green peas paired with a shot of avocado, cucumber, mint and garlic soup. This basically tasted like paneer and the more lively ingredients were muted by the cheese instead of brightening it. Not bad but not something I'd order again. The shot was kind of cool but tasted flat.
Better was the Shrimp Vinhaleaux. Three large shrimp marinated in cinnamon and chili, roasted perfectly, sitting atop a small salad of pickled onions, fennel and peppers. This was very good. The pickled veggies cut the charred spices and each bite was bright and deep. I wanted to snag the entire third shrimp for myself but shared, hesitantly.
One main was Prosciutto-wrapped halibut with cilantro pesto topped with a "garam" chocolate sauce. These bundles had a nice flavor combination (the pesto and the prosciutto were really good together) but the fish was slightly overcooked and there wasn't nearly enough sauce on the plate.
The mixed tandoori grill (with lamb, chicken, shrimp, and sea bass) was great. Everything was cooked perfectly and well-spiced. The cherry and date chutney was extremely flavorful but, again, I would have liked more of it on the plate.
For dessert we tried Jasmine tea soup with a chocolate 'bombe' topped with candied fennel and crushed macadamias. Yes!!!! Why the chocolate and jasmine tea worked together I have no idea but it did - wonderfully. We finished every drop.
The food, plus one beer and a glass of wine came to $103 before tip. A bit pricey but we felt like we got good value in return. There are dozens of places to get good Indian food of many styles in the South Bay and this take on it - upscale, California-style - worked well enough. Worth a try.