Best new upscale restaurant in Palo Alto
I was at Mantra a few nights ago with a friend, and had a terrific experience. The bar, called ""Daru Lounge"" may just be my favorite physical part of the restaurant. Grandly yet sleekly designed, with friendly, accommodating bartenders, it wouldn?t be out of place in a chic neighborhood in Manhattan. Of the drinks we tried, I particularly enjoyed the pomegranate ""pom-pom"" martini and the red mist martini, although my friend preferred the slightly harder ""Mantra"" special. We also tasted the chocolate martini, which was too sweet for my palate, but our bartender Jerry said it's a favorite with the ladies. The martinis were a little pricey at $10 a pop, but given the exquisite ambience of the bar, and the fresh naan and chutney we were given as a special treat from the owner, it was entirely reasonable.
Dinner was equally impressive. The dining area at Mantra is actually separated from the bar quite effectively, which makes for a more private dining experience. We shared the Paneer Cuboid as an appetizer, whose only fault may be its slightly diminutive size. But I was very pleasantly surprised by the portions of the entrees. I had the Kashmiri Sea Bass, which may just be the best, most tender, and agreeably spiced sea bass I've ever had. My friend ordered the Chicken ""Moilee"", which he seemed to enjoy. I had a taste of it and found it just a little bland though the meat itself was very tender and well-prepared. For dessert we split the chocolate ""bombe"" in passion fruit soup, which I think really showcases the chef's creative ability to infuse Indian flavors into an otherwise Western dish. It's a must-have.
All in all a delightful dining experience, with perhaps one of the most underappreciated upscale bars in Palo Alto. Mantra is not your typical Indian restaurant trying to attract attention by abusing the ""fusion"" label. I wouldn't compare it with other Indian restaurants in the area ? it really is fine dining experience with an Indian twist.