Known for its spices, Indian fare jolts the taste buds in a manner that kissing an electrical socket could never match. Enjoy shockingly good cuisine with today's Groupon: for $25, you get $50 worth of creative Indian cuisine and drinks from Mantra in Paramus.
Mantra's culinary alchemists fuse traditional Eastern flavors with modern Western flares in a menu teeming with succulent starters, tandoori-baked spreads, hearty entrees, and ambrosial desserts, earning the eatery a shout-out from New Jersey Monthly as one of the state's top 25 restaurants in 2008. Kick things off with an appetizer of barrah kebab, a skewer of boneless lamb marinated in yogurt, ginger, garlic, and herbs ($9), before tackling a robust dish brought to flavorful fruition in the billowy smoke of a tandoori clay oven, such as the murgh afgani kebab of chicken, cheese, and mint ($18)—a combination more memorable than Robocop's brief stint with The Three Tenors. Patrons can also explore the vast selection of entrees including the chettinad lamb ($19), goan shrimp curry ($20), and the rogan josh, a North Indian goat dish served in an aromatic cardamom sauce ($20). Partner your feast with the rosemary naan bread ($4) and an effervescent splash of wine or imported beer from the Tolstoy-sized wine list. A post-meal helping of gulab jamum, a dumpling nestled in saffron-flavored honey sauce ($6), works as a sacchariferous coda to stirring culinary compositions.
Draped in deep tones of red and accented with live flames, Mantra's chic dining room and lounge area hosts a fleet of couches intimately crowded around low tables. The sleek bar bathed in red ambient lighting gives patrons an area to spark up conversations, leisurely perfect their sipping skills, or petition the bartender for advice on love, life, and Scrabble.
Though Mantra head chef Purvesh Patel is known for his creative takes on Indian cuisine—including chaat, or snack food, garnished with tender lobster meat—his careful, French-inspired cooking also leaves its mark on his menu’s traditional entrees. "Each ingredient seemed to have bathed for just the right number of hours in its yogurt marinade; each was precisely cooked; and each carried a heady overtone of spices," a New York Times food writer recalled of a tandoori dish in 2008. In contrast to these subtle flavors, Mantra’s presentation often has theatrical flair; chefs chop chaat dishes tableside and set a banana flambé dessert ablaze with rum.
Both locations’ sleek dining rooms also go for drama with bold, modern décor. In Jersey City, red accents simmer against warm-toned walls. Next to the Paramus spot's mosaic-tiled bar, live flames dance on the low wall between dining room and lounge, upping the “amazement factor” for the Star-Ledger.