Indian Lite

Mantra twists the mold of traditional Indian fare

But perhaps the most vivid split from traditional Indian cuisine was the smoked salmon cakes. What a small, vibrant twist, one that busted up the crab cake paradigm and traditional curry logic with one well-planted velvet fist. The cakes were a little dry, but the salmon appeared as conspicuously slivered flakes, so the murky pastiness common in crab cakes, with its minced and pulverized mush fastidiously fashioned into little coasters, wasn't a distraction. The filler was there, sure. But the level didn't go much beyond the functional. The one minor flaw--that dryness--was more than offset by the chutney, an acid-flash of tomato and mango with threads of cilantro oil weaving in and out of the chutney slick.

Sharma has jettisoned two other anchors from the traditional Indian menu: rice and naan, the white-flour flatbread baked in a tandoor oven. He substitutes this staple with pita-like breads and crepes made with rice and lentil. Infused with tomato and basil, the envelope on the chicken wrap was bright orange and well stocked with juicy slices of grilled chicken, tomato, onions and slices of cucumber, or kuchumber as the menu notes. It was set off with a mango-ginger dipping sauce.

Crepes are long, somewhat bland and folded into tubes with fillings that include vegetables, scrambled egg, onions, potato, chicken, shrimp and lamb. The crepe interior is lavishly spread with moderately or very spicy pepper paste. Lamb niligiri, with red and green bell peppers and onion, was loaded with juicy chunks of lamb. The crepe log was tethered to a pair of pepper chutneys that added some zing while coconut chutney provided a smooth, cool and clean finish.

Mantra is attempting to tweak its way out of traditional Indian cuisine.
Peter Calvin
Mantra is attempting to tweak its way out of traditional Indian cuisine.

Location Info

Map

Abacus

4511 McKinney Ave.
Dallas, TX 75205

Category: Restaurant > Asian Fusion

Region: Park Cities

Nana (in the Hilton Anatole Hotel)

2201 Stemmons Frwy
Dallas, TX 75207

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: Downtown & Deep Ellum

Details

Tomato-broccoli soup $3
Coconut shrimp $4.50
Smoked salmon cakes $5.50
Fried tilapia $7.50
Rosemary-pepper beef $8.50
Chicken wrap $5.50
Lamb crepe $8.50

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The décor here skirts traditional Indian as well. Pink and gold have been tossed in favor of burnt orange wainscotting, squash-yellow walls and posts crusted in marine blue and green mosaic tiles. Tables have white tablecloths. Those cloths were marred with conspicuous frays--easy to fix. The menu should be, too--if Mantra keeps its trajectory fixed and fires its retro rockets every once in a while to maintain trim.

12835 Preston Road, 972-239-0600. Open for lunch 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Friday; open for dinner 5:30 p.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Saturday. $$-$$$

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