Thursday, September 28, 2006

Mantra Casts a Spell

The latest addition to the 18th St. rebirth is Mantra, a pan-asian bar/restaurant that inspires patrons to fly over the French Quarter and head far east. The labor of love of Al Paris, whose former haunts include Philly favorites like Striped Bass and Warmdaddy's, Mantra achieves the impossible: an ultra-chill atmosphere in a space that's redder than the Russian Samovar.

The word "mantra" is sometimes translated as "spell," but the spell that was cast on us was less about the Mantra and more about the mussels. I will admit to cheating - I read a review prior to going that recommended them, and I must say it spoke the truth. My friend even described them as "fluffy" - now that is something you don't hear every day about a dish that is so easily botched. Simmered in a garlic-sake sauce with leeks and tomatoes, the mussels are accompanied by a roti - a small flatbread similar to naan - an absolute necessity for dipping after the mussels are through. My only complaint is that we requested a second roti, and when the bill came we were charged an extra $1 - a bit roti-culous if you ask me. But other than that, Mantra does live up to its name, and brought a little spirit to a Monday night.

Mantra, 122 S. 18th St. 215-988-1211

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