Year-End Special: Mantra Bistro!
And we’re back! After the rush of year-end obligations and the Christmas holidays, we finally found some time to try out an up and coming restaurant we’d just heard of while browsing articles on social media. After all there has to be something great afoot if even expats are said to be flocking to a food spot in the metropolis. This was what brought us back to Legaspi Village to visit Mantra Bistro, located at the Grand Midori on Bolanos Street.
We had been forewarned that the exterior was “unassuming” (as many of our favorite culinary finds have been). If it had not been for the colorful sign saying “Mantra Bistro” and the warm greeting “Come In, We’re Awesome”, we might have missed the place entirely. We quickly discovered that the Mantra Bistro actually covers two rooms: the actual restaurant/bistro, and the “Tapas by Mantra” bar just a connecting door away. Since it was a bit too early for us to enjoy the edgy and dim lighting and bar fare at the Tapas area, we remained in the main bistro area, which felt more like a slightly upscale casual dining restaurant than anything else. Its classy interior had few, but striking, designs on the walls evoking traditional Indian motifs in more contemporary color schemes. This simple but elegant decor was the first feast for our eyes on this evening.
We started our evening with a complimentary appetizer of fried roti chips with a tangy, savory tamarind dip. This did much to whet our appetites for the hearty dinner ahead. We decided to try the Rogan Josh, a goat curry with tomatoes and spices, which we paired with the Dal Tadka, a dish of yellow lentils stewed with cumin seeds, chili, and garlic. Since this was our first time to try the food at Mantra Bistro, we opted for the “mild” spiciness level for our food.
A real treat of the evening was having some warm roti bread alongside our spicy selections. The Rogan Josh was rather on the hot side, with a full bodied curry just slightly tamed down by the stewed tomato. The meat was carefully slow cooked to the point it was practically falling off the bone. The Dal Tadka was less spicy but just as flavorful, with the lentils stewed to just the right consistency. The serving sizes of these bowls were rather hefty, making them perfect for sharing for 2 up to 4 people.
But the best part of the night were the drinks we got to wash down our hearty meal with. I chose some sweet lassi, my favorite yogurt drink, to cleanse my palate. Lee chose some hot masala tea, which in other cookbooks or cuisines is also known as karak. Karak is something he’s been trying to find in the city ever since he returned from overseas, and to serendipitously have it on this evening was a real joy.
Ever since the inception of this blog, we’ve tried a number of Indian and Indian-themed restaurants, but so far, Mantra Bistro has met our expectations not just in terms of quality but even in authenticity. There is something to be said after all when even homesick expats troop here for a good taste of home. We look forward to enjoying more of the dishes from this exceptional place, hopefully in the near future!
Food Score: 5/5: Where do we even begin? The food defies the stereotype of Indian cuisine being “very hot” and “overly flavored”; the dishes bring out a more subtle yet memorable blend of flavors. We appreciate having hot bread, a unique appetizer, and of course delicately prepared drinks to round out our dining experience. Our only nitpick would be having a few too many meat bones in our goat curry, but otherwise it was all good.
Ambiance Score: 5/5: Mantra Bistro is both classy and artsy, taking care not to fall either into being overly uppity or downright kitschy. It’s a great place for business/client meetings, as well as for nights out with family and friends–which can even continue on at the bar next door.
Service Score: 5/5: The servers were very courteous to all the patrons, and did not hesitate to present us with options for our meals or answer our questions. The team was very professional and sharp all throughout, from our arrival to the time we headed out the door.
GERD Score: 4/5: Mantra Bistro is a great place for people with GERD because it lists down the ingredients used for each menu item and because we could adjust the spiciness of the curry based on our preferences. Of course, Indian cuisine is meant to be shared so it’s always bring to have company along.
Neurodivergent Score: 4.5/5: Although the fact that this is a bistro means there are plenty of alcoholic drinks, non alcoholic options such as lassi and fruit juices are available. Though bread is a perfect partner to many of the curries and sauces on the menu, gluten free options such as basmati rice, zeera rice, saffron rice, and biryani dishes are also prominently featured. People sensitive to various natural spices and flavorings may need to inquire about these, or pick milder dishes for their culinary trip.
Team Glasses Score: 4.5/5: We’re glad to have found this spot, which we would recommend for people wanting some authentic Indian cuisine. Cheers to you, Mantra Bistro!