Jewelled print in the dining room
You wouldn't know it from the outside--a bland concrete facade perched at a busy intersection in Ryde--but enter Mantra and you'll find an over-the-top spectacle of diamantes, gold and silk, a whirling riot of colour that screams Bollywood on speed.
There's so much to take in, I don't know where to look first. Everything is glittery and shiny and glammed up with bling.
A's Nepali sari
We're here tonight to celebrate A's daughter's pasne or rice feeding ceremony, an event performed at five months for females (six months for males) which signifies the start of weaning, moving from milk and onto solids.
Family and friends fill the back room, swelling the room with happy chatter and laughter as kids run underfoot with high pitched squeals. A looks exquisite in a traditional Nepali silk sari that is brilliant magenta in colour and decorated with blue and silver sequins.
Dinner is a group banquet, commencing with entrees that are shared on each table. Chicken tikka is succulent and juicy beneath its spicy yoghurt, garlic and chilli marinade.
Spring rolls seem like an unusual inclusion on the menu, tasting much like a Chinese restaurant version, but sheek kebab is reassuringly back to the traditional, skewers of lamb mince mixed with mace and fennel seeds and then cooked in a tandoor oven.
Paneer tikka is a brilliant orange colour, cubes of panner--a firm Indian cottage cheese--smothered in a mix of spices.
Samosas are piping hot from the fryer, their rustic appearance a testament to their handmade production. The pastry is the best part, thick and super crunchy, although the filling of potatoes and peas is delicious too.
Murghan qurma pistachio, Lamb roganjosh, Malai kofta dhoopchaon,
Fingri dhulma and Saade chawal
We queue up for our main course, a series of dishes dispensed from warmers by staff. There's plenty of heat but a complexity of spice as well, from the murghan qurma pistachio (chicken breast cooked in pistachio paste with yoghurt and almond) to the lamb roganjosh (diced lamb cooked in onion, tomato and coriander).
Malai kofta dhoopchaon consists of spinach and cottage cheese dumplings sweetened with raisins and nutty with ground cashews. Fingri dulma is the second vegetarian dish, combining mushrooms and cottage cheese with tomatoes, yoghurt and coriander.
We soak up the curries with saade chawal saffron rice and rounds of fluffy naan.
We're entertained halfway through dinner by a belly dancer, a vision of hot pink and tassles who shakes her hips and shimmies her torso with enviable fluidity. The kids are entranced, following her as she makes her way around the room, imitating her moves with giggles. Audience participant is part of the act, and I'm impressed when most of the room gets up later to dance, a mood of fun and joy as fathers carry their kids on their shoulders and young mingle with old.
A resident DJ on Friday and Saturday nights gives the place more of a nightclub feel than a family restaurant, and R&B tunes get cranked up as the night wears on.
A and her daughter
It's a celebration of family and friends, of children and doting grandparents. A night of good food and music with a touch of glitter.
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Mantra Indian Restaurant
100 Blaxland Road, Ryde, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9808 2266
Lunch 7 days 12pm-2.30pm
Dinner 7 days 5.30pm til late
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10/04/2010 03:22:00 am