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Since his cooking days at his East Hyde Park restaurant, Cumin, Chef Yajan (Yaj) Upadhyaya has been enamored with creating both traditional and new Indian dishes, as highlighted by Polly Campbell for the Cincinnati Enquirer. In his latest culinary venture, Mantra on the Hill, Chef Yaj continues to make authentic Indian food pop by pairing it with his take on other culinary elements such as spicy southern plates and Indochinese dishes. And the Indian cuisine itself derives not from one region of the subcontinent, but many. This melding of old and new, East and West, means during lunch and dinner hours, the head chef seasons chicken and shrimp with traditional Indian spices before baking fresh in the kitchen’s tandoor, which also cooks several vegetarian meals and fresh naan described as "buttery and very pleasant” by CityBeat.
To attract a crowd after most children have gone to bed and most children on the other side of the world have woken up, Chef Yaj also curates a late-night menu. With it, he showcases the same ability to unify disparate inspirations, from masala fries topped with a curry sauce to lamb sliders. And it’s not just food that might draw diners in at the end of a long day—10 signature cocktails quell thirst, and the name of one of them, the New Old Fashioned, perfectly characterizes the restaurant’s theme as a whole. Of course, the staff also pours domestic and imported beer and enough wine to float a cruise ship.
Mantra on the Hill’s decor is as elegant as the food is flavorful. Exposed brick and tan-colored walls create a neutral backdrop to the vibrant artwork displayed on them. On the outdoor patio, string light-festooned trees wrap around umbrella-covered tables—where guests enjoy their meals while listening to live music—and a light-green picket fence provides a winsome bookend to the pastel pink brick that defines the façade of the building.