by Mick & Di, The Food Lovers
Mantra Restaurant and Bar has set the benchmark for global cuisine since its opening over 10 years ago. It consistently ranks in the top restaurants of the city and deserves its enviable reputation for serving unswerving quality in an ambiance of contemporary elegance. Chic, stylish and unique, it works hard to maintain its position in Pattaya’s gastro circles. Exclusive culinary (and musical) events take place regularly, especially wine dinners where the skills of their executive chef, Shaun Venter, and his brigade make for a memorable evening.
The latest culinary event featured a trio of alcoholic potions paired with a gourmet six-course dinner. The first pouring of the evening featured a most unusual sparkling Sake, Dassai Junmai Daiginjo Happou Nigori. A first for most people gathered at the bar as it most certainly was for us. For an exciting aperitif it fitted the bill perfectly and accompanied by Mussel Ceviche and a Wagyu Yakitori it proved an innovative opening and a portent of what was to come.
Once seated in the restaurant the first appetiser was served, a Salmon Mi Cuit. Literally meaning “half-cooked”, it was a gem of a dish. The translucent salmon with its decadent texture had been prepared with a combination of heat and salt to ensure that, although served chilled, this delightful fish was anything but raw. Served on a bed of goat’s cheese and leek risotto plus tiny slivers of beetroot gastrique (prepared in a sweet and sour sauce), it was a heavenly dish. Just a little more and alas the bottom of my plate appeared; I could have licked it clean! The wine pairing was a New Zealand Matua Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2016. This crisp, fresh young wine, from one of our favourite areas of New Zealand, escorted this first course admirably.
The next pour was a Rawson’s Retreat Chardonnay 2016 from Australia. A very dry wine with a slight oaky finish it bravely ushered the next course of Spiced Butternut Broth. A deeply comforting broth loaded with coconut cream, chilli oil and lobster dumplings plus an intriguing underlying tang of Thai curry. Kudos to the kitchen for this perfectly executed union of flavours.
Moving along, the next dish extolled the extravagance of foie gras. It had been treated to a burnished glaze of miso and attended by pan-fried duck and a selection of vanilla stewed fruit. It was oohing and aahing all the way. I loved every morsel; it was a perfect plate of food and the fig, prune and apricot were especially luscious. I’d buy a barrel of them if I could. Paired with this elegant dish a Cono Sur Bicicleta Pinot Noir 2011 from Chile an enjoyable wine, quite delicate with a rounded raspberry fruit finish which accompanied the richness of the foie gras quite suitably.
Now Mick and I are not particular fans of the fruity sorbets that appear before the main course, but Chef Shaun had veered from convention, turned it on its head and fashioned a palate refresher into a Michelin-starred event. He had created a balsamic Gazpacho Granita par excellence crowned with a small portion of caviar. The tiny crystals of tomato, cucumber and bell peppers bounced and zinged in the mouth for a complete cleanse of the palate.
It was now time for the main event, Australian lamb rack with its culinary cohorts of roast garlic, a truly luscious deep magenta red onion marmalade, it was sticky, sweet and addictive. We have to confess here that we were reaching our satiation point and sadly could not do full justice to that tender, blushing cutlet, but we certainly enjoyed every tasty forkful and together with the rich, fruity Sicilian Merlot (Surya Nero d’Avola Merlot IGT 2014), the course was a massive hit.
Having bemoaned the fact we couldn’t squeeze in another morsel, dessert then hit the table. Who in their right mind couldn’t find space for a Baked Alaska? Italian silky meringue had been cloaked with tiramisu ice cream and sweet raspberries and was perfected by a glass of Mars Whisky Iwai which had been aged in bourbon, sherry and wine barrels. Absolute bliss and a spectacular conclusion to an exquisite six-course meal of gastronomic delights.