Makati eats: Mantra makes you want to eat Indian food every day

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Mantra Indian Kitchen & Bar is located on the ground floor of Grand Midori in Legaspi Village, Makati City. Jeeves of Veyra

MANILA – The mantra has several meanings – it can be a chant or the spice of life.

According to Ranjit Chimni, the owner/owner of Mantra Indian Kitchen & Bar in Makati, this is what drives you. And what drives this awesome restaurateur is serving amazing Indian food that gets what you pay for.

Chimni launched Mantra in 2016 after quitting his job at a BPO. At the time, the restaurant only took up half the space it has now on a small street in the village of Legaspi. Chimni rented the space next door for a tapas spot, but its food was so good that customers treated it like an extension of the restaurant with guests coming in just to order more biryani and butter chicken.

Chimni finally relented and gave Mantra the space he deserved.

One side houses the Mantra Bar where you can relax and have a drink or two before dinner. The bar offers an assortment of drinks and cocktails. Have a glass of Amrut Indian single malt whiskey to relax or try the bar’s exotic cocktails like the enriched Buko Pandan Cooler and the refreshing Siddharta. For Indian food purists, an authentic chai teapot is a great way to open or end a meal.

Some of the drinks served at the Mantra bar.  Jeeves of Veyra
Some of the drinks served at the Mantra bar. Jeeves of Veyra

During the COVID shutdowns, Chimni kept its staff employed by turning the entire space into a commissary for takeout and delivery. He said that there were even times when he delivered the food himself by bringing it to all points in Metro Manila.

One of Mantra’s biggest hits during the lockdown was the Great Indian Rice Bowl. Indian food is perfect to be packaged as rice toppings and one wonders why there aren’t more restaurants offering this. Chimni’s No Compromise version has tons of basmati rice layered between the meats.

Mantra rice bowls were popular during lockdown.  Jeeves of Veyra
Mantra rice bowls were popular during lockdown. Jeeves of Veyra

For example, if you were to order Mantra’s best-selling butter chicken as a large bowl of Indian rice, you would get butter chicken in the bottom, basmati rice in the middle, and another layer of butter chicken to top it off. all. When asked if he would make a cheaper version of non-basmati rice, Chimni just smiled politely and said that basmati is a big part of Indian food and it just wouldn’t be the same with regular rice.

Chimni describes Mantra’s food as being mostly North Indian from where he originated. In other words, the curries are prepared with tomatoes and chilli unlike the South Indian recipes which contain a little coconut in the curries. Dishes are spicier as a result with less sweetness to hold it back.

While Indian cuisine in Metro Manila is nothing new, what Chimni and his team at Mantra did was show their Indian cuisine in a whole new, sometimes practical, light. It is Indian food that can be eaten every day with its affordable prices and easy-to-carry packaging options. All one can do is chant “Ommmmmmm” after a Mantra meal.

Bread with cream.  Jeeves of Veyra
Bread with cream. Jeeves of Veyra

Many are familiar with Palak Paneer, or Indian cottage cheese cooked in spinach sauce. Mantra marinates his paneer, cooks it in the tandoor, then the plates with cream. The cream and marinade give the dish its yellow color and make it a very tasty starter. This makes a tasty pairing with the side-picked red onions.

Chicken 69. Jeeves de Veyra
Chicken 69. Jeeves of Veyra

Chicken 69 is the Mantra version of Chicken 65. Think of it as spicy Indian fried chicken, with the crunch to match the balanced spice of the dish. Chimni said it was the only dish he would make spicier if a guest requested it.

Indian Naan.  Jeeves of Veyra
Indian Naan. Jeeves of Veyra

Having a homemade tandoor allows Mantra to make its own Indian breads. From the humble chapati to stuffed breads like the Chili Cheese Naan, these are highly recommended in place of rice. Scraping up the last bits of curry with bread is a great way to end a meal.

Raita.  Jeeves of Veyra
Raita. Jeeves of Veyra

Raita is a side dish made with yogurt and cucumber. If you find the curries too spicy, add a spoonful of raita to cool the curries down a bit. Or simply with salad or rice.

Butter chicken.  Jeeves of Veyra
Butter chicken. Jeeves of Veyra

What’s an Indian restaurant without its own version of Butter Chicken. Bursting with spice and flavor, this is sure to have diners ordering tons of rice.

Vegetarian plate.  Jeeves of Veyra
Vegetarian plate. Jeeves of Veyra

On the health side, one of Mantra’s bestsellers is this vegetarian plate of cheesy broccoli, corn hash, pea hash and paneer with yogurt dip.

Vegetarian biryani.  Jeeves of Veyra
Vegetarian biryani. Jeeves of Veyra

Biryani with a side of raita is another Indian staple that Mantra does well. The prawn and chicken biryani are meals on their own. If you ordered other dishes, stick with the vegetable biryani as all of Mantra’s curry sauce dishes complement this traditional rice dish.

Mutton with black pepper.  Jeeves of Veyra
Mutton with black pepper. Jeeves of Veyra

Mutton in black pepper sauce is one of the South Indian dishes that features on the menu and is a specialty of the chef at Mantra. The sauce gets its unique flavors from the mild spice blend of black pepper, coconut and curry leaves.

Mantra Bistro is located in Unit G-07 of Grand Midori, Bolanos Street, Legaspi Village, Makati City and is open Tuesday through Sunday. Lunch seating is from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. while dinner seating is from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. For their full menu and to order takeout or delivery, visit their Instagram page.

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