Wednesday, March 22, 2006

New Indian Restaurants in PA

Today's Chronicle has more details on Junnoon and Mantra -- two new Indian restaurants in Palo Alto that I previously posted about:
Indian flavors flourish in Palo Alto

Indian food may be rocketing to the top of the Bay Area palate if two stylish new restaurants are any indication.

Opening within a few days and a couple of blocks of each other in Palo Alto, Junnoon and Mantra both offer new takes on traditional Indian flavors. Both, too, are going after the high-style crowd, with sleek lounges offering snazzy cocktails from back-lit bars.

Junnoon. The name means passion and energy in Hindi, and it's reflected in a dramatic black and red color scheme. First-time restaurateur Sabena Puri, who grew up in a restaurant family in India, has tapped part of the team from Tabla in New York to create what she calls the food of modern India -- dishes such as semolina shells filled with spiced chickpeas and tamarind chutney, sprouted mung bean chaat salad with bakarkhani bread, tandoori halibut in coconut ginger sauce, and chicken tikka in a fenugreek sauce.

A wide variety of housemade accompaniments includes garlic chile chutney with dried mangoes, date and walnut raita, and naan stuffed with goat cheese and green chiles.

Mantra. Around the corner, the kitchen at Mantra uses Indian flavors to embellish a seasonal California menu. Dishes are served in a two-room space awash in original art, gauzy drapes and lots of stone and granite.

Starters include lamb-filled naan and onion-infused kulcha breads, tandoori roasted quail with pomegranate-huckleberry compote, and seared foie gras with stewed Pink Lady apples. Entrees range from cumin-roasted rack of lamb, to cilantro-roasted monkfish with red onion and fennel foam, to chile-seared organic tofu with honey crisp apple puree. For dessert, there's a trio of dried organic fruit, spiced nuts and cinnamon-poached fruit; and a lemon tart with satsuma orange and cranberry chutney.

Junnoon, 150 University Ave., (at High Street), Palo Alto; (650) 329-9644. Full bar. Reservations accepted. Lunch weekdays, dinner Monday-Saturday. Starters, $6-$12; entrees, $16-$22; desserts, $7-$8.

Mantra, 632 Emerson St., Palo Alto; (650) 322-3500. Full bar. Reservations accepted. Lunch Monday-Saturday, dinner nightly. Starters, $3-$22; entrees, $17-$36; desserts, $7-$11.