Though we’re far from being “in the clear,” I realize that everyone (myself included) is anxious to dive back into dining in. These days, you’re more likely to find me seeking out restaurants with outdoor courtyards or sidewalk cafe-type set-ups, but I have to admit I’ve discovered some real benefits to ordering takeout.
Aside from the obvious pluses like taking a night off from food prep and cooking, dinner in your jammies, less dishwashing, a complete disregard of dining/eating etiquette, there’s one bonus I happily discovered that was not so obvious, until I ordered takeout from Mantra Indian Cuisine.
Just so you know, I adore Indian food. While I realize I say this about a lot of different cuisines (my waistline will confirm this fact), to me Indian cuisine is like Persian food on steroids. Everything is amplified with more heat, flavor, spice and creamy sauces. While eating, I feel helpless, my will is not my own. At practically every dine-in experience — with the stainless steel plates piled high with rice, ramekins filled with different curries and sauces, and a basket of warm naan — I’m so elated by the different flavor combinations, I simply cannot stop. Even when my belly is groaning and I can barely breathe, I still feel an almost undeniable urge to order a few more curries, another pile of tandoori chicken, and more naan, always more naan.
Sure, this could easily be viewed as an eating disorder, but why only with Indian food? There is no other foodstuff (aside from ice cream) that evokes this kind of powerless response. I can honestly say that if I had no willpower whatsoever, I could kill myself eating Indian food. I’m laughing to myself about that last line, but it’s the honest-to-God truth.
Typically, when you are dining-in at an Indian restaurant, each ramekin is filled with about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of curry, which, along with rice and naan, is plenty for any normal person. When John and I ordered from the newish Mantra in Metairie (located in the spot that used to be City Diner), we were blown away by the sheer quantity we received. In all honesty, we did order a hefty amount of food: Aloo Matar or potatoes and peas cooked with onions and tomatoes; Paneer Masala or house made cheese cooked with “special spices,” bell peppers and onion; Lamb Vindaloo; a 1/2 order of Tandoori Chicken; both plain and garlic naan; and some extra raita.
But would you just get a look at that huge pile of rice? It filled the entire box! And those pints (ie. 2 cups) of curry? This takeout order which cost us approximately $50 (before tipping) fed us for three meals – if John didn’t insist on putting it away, it wouldn’t have lasted that long! That’s a total of six meals in one order! Not only that, but the food was easily the most authentic Indian cuisine I’ve had since I moved here almost 18 years ago. Now don’t get me wrong, I love me some Plume Algiers and Tava Indian Street Food, but they’re like the new guard. When it comes to a more traditional approach, Mantra is where it’s at.
While I could wax poetic about the juicy, spicy tandoori chicken, the nutty basmati rice and that irresistibly, creamy/sweet/spicy Paneer Masala, I did take issue with the preparation of the vindaloo. The flavor was incredible. It was tomatoey (is that a word?), earthy and spicy enough to burn your face off . . . in a good way . . . but the lamb was chopped rather roughly and there were literal shards of bone floating about in the curry. It made it difficult to eat and awfully dangerous! Maybe next time I’ll stay strictly vegetarian. That way I can order so much more!