Mantra Bistro: Experience Northern India in Manila

The Philippine food scene has grown positively throughout the years. Aside from more Filipinos getting the opportunity to travel the world and be exposed to different cultures via food, the birth of Business Process Outsource industry (popularly known as the Call Center industry) opened the country to more foreign visitors— Americans, Europeans, Australians, and Indians to name a few. The diversity of nationalities visiting the Philippines allowed diversity and innovations in the country’s food culture too. We got introduced to different cuisines apart from the usual Chinese, Japanese, and American that make up the majority of the restaurants. One of the cuisines that made its way into the Manila food scene is Indian cuisine.

Speaking of Indian cuisine, let us introduce you to Mantra Bistro. A passion project of owner, Ranjit Chimni, Mantra Bistro was established to give the food-loving public the chance to experience authentic Northern Indian cuisine the way its meant to be, with no compromise on quality and the experience. Since we mentioned the word experience, allow us to share with you our beautiful Mantra Bistro experience.

We found the restaurant tucked in Grand Midori along Bolanos Street in Legazpi Village, Makati City. The moment we stepped inside the restaurant and saw the simple yet cozy interior, we knew that we’re in for a good time.

We were served some Fried Papadum as our first appetizer. Also known as Papad, it’s made of peeled black gram/lentil flour, seasoned with salt and pepper, kneaded, flattened, and served either fried or cooked with dry heat. Our first encounter with fried papadum was during our backpacking trip in India a few years back. Quite new to the Indian cuisine, we were so eager to try everything foodwise. The closest we can associate fried papad with are fried wontons or tostada chips when it comes to its crispness but it has that quality that melts in your mouth the second it touches it. Even though Mantra Bistro included a tamarind chutney to serve as a dip, their fried papad were tasty enough that we didn’t really need the sauce.

Mantra Bistro has vegetarian options too. They have dishes that cater to people on that diet. Since we love vegetables, we got their Tandoori Broccoli and their Green Pea Tikki. Both were delicious. The broccoli florets were marinated in lemon and cheese before thrown to the grill which contributed to its smoky flavor. We’ve got to admit that we’re not a big fan of green peas so we’re quite hesitant to taste their Green Pea Tikki. But we also believe in the “Don’t knock it till you try it” motto so we gave it a shot. And we’re so glad we did! The green pea patties were stuffed with cheese and spices and everything nice and they were totally off-the-hook! Who would have thought that a simple patty can convert us to like green peas? As of this writing, we have gone back the second time to Mantra Bistro and the first thing we ordered were the green pea patties!

The next dish we ordered is perfect for cheese lovers. We got the Paneer Tikka— cubes of cottage cheese marinated in yogurt and Tandoori spices, put on skewers, and chargrilled. It has that firm tofu texture with that creamy flavor. Let us tell you a secret: one thing we absolutely love in Mantra Bistro is the mint chutney! It’s the perfect condiment to mostly everything we ordered! We wish they’re selling them in bottles so we can bring them home and smother every food we have with it.

On to the meaty part of our Mantra Bistro visit. We got a selection of chicken dishes— Chicken Achari Tikka (spicy boneless pickle spiced kebab), Afghani Tangri Kebab (drumstick marinated in yogurt, cheese, and ginger garlic paste), Chicken Tikka (fillet marinated in yogurt and Indian red pepper), and Murg Malai Tikka (boneless marinated in yogurt, spices, cheese, and ginger garlic paste). Be it spicy, garlicky, peppery, and smoky, each chicken dish has a distinct flavor that’s full-bodied and mouthwatering. Amongst the 4, our top pick was the Murg Malai Tikka.

By the way, Mantra Bistro has a bar so you can pair their lovely Indian food with cocktails of your choice. If you fancy a non-alcoholic beverage, they offer their popular refreshing yogurt-based drink called Lassi.

With all the chicken dishes we got, we decided to get a different meat this time. Ranjit told us that we should try their newest beef dish on the menu called Beef Tenderloin. The name might just appear to be simple to you and me but the flavors were definitely not. The beef was juicy, tender, a bit tangy, and a bit spicy. The aroma of the spices was enough to make us salivate.

Since we want to reserve the rice consumption for when we get the biryani, we ordered the Garlic Naan and Lacha Paratha. The aroma of these freshly-made flatbreads was undeniably hypnotic, most especially the Garlic Naan.

We saved the best 2 dishes for last because we believe in ending a feast with a bang. These are our personal Indian food favorites— Shrimp Biryani and Rogan Josh.

We love anything biryani and Mantra Bistro‘s Shrimp Biryani variety sounds inviting. True enough, when the bowl teeming with hot rice mixed with spices were placed in front of us, it didn’t only sound inviting, it was everything inviting. The sight, the smell,  the feel, and the taste. The Rogan Josh, on the other hand, brought back a lot of our beautiful memories of India. It also brought back those inebriated days when we’d sober up with a spicy serving of Rogan Josh and naan (but that’s for another article, maybe). The lamb was cooked in curry, tomatoes, and Indian spices. We specifically requested the Rogan Josh to be more spicy because we enjoy it more that way.

Inasmuch as we want to get Kulfi, their Indian ice cream, we didn’t have much space in our already bloated bellies. We’ll try it next time. Another reason to go back.

Our lunch was nothing short of amazing. We’re so glad to have found our little slice of Northern India in the middle of the metropolis. You can have that experience too— Mantra Bistro has got you covered.


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