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Fantastic Fusion

Mantra's Mike Potowski seems to delight in turning culture clashes into culinary fashion statements

Mantra hasn't been open very long, and there are still some problems with the service. On that second visit, five of us order an assortment of sushi rolls, appetizers and entrées, which we share. There are few customers in the restaurant, but most of them are apparently ordering sushi. Our appetizers and entrées come out of the otherwise idle kitchen at warp speed, but the sushi rolls finally land on our table around the time we're thinking about dessert.

Compared to the wildly creative appetizers, the entrées are surprisingly subdued. Arctic char is a rich and expensive freshwater cousin of salmon; it's favored by the Inuit peoples of the far north and is usually exceptionally moist thanks to a high oil content. At Mantra, the arctic char is "sansho crusted" and served on a bed of "tatsoi." Sansho turns out to be a Japanese peppercorn, and tatsoi is a Chinese leafy green. These ingredients seem to have been included primarily for the sake of their inscrutable names. Neither is as interesting as the rice noodles and oyster mushrooms that also accompany the fish. Unfortunately, the arctic char consists of two small triangular tail-end pieces that come out overcooked and dry.

On the menu, Chinese stir-fried lobster is described as a two-pound lobster with Chinese vegetables. Lacking a two-pounder, the kitchen substitutes two one-pounders. But as any lobster lover will tell you, it just ain't the same. It's much easier to get at the meat in the leg and body sections of a two-pounder, and that makes it a much better bargain.

Cold fusion: The Kama Sutra and Big Kahuna rolls, 
seafood trio and chilled sake.
Troy Fields
Cold fusion: The Kama Sutra and Big Kahuna rolls, seafood trio and chilled sake.

Location Info

Map

Mantra

829 S. Mason Road
Katy, TX 77450

Category: Restaurant > Indian

Region: Katy

Details

Ahi tuna salad: $13.95
Big Kahuna roll: $12.95
Aphrodisiac roll: $11.95
Arctic char: $18.95
Draft sake: $8
711 Main Street, 713-225-3500. Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to midnight Fridays; 5 p.m. to midnight Saturdays.

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The lobster pieces come to the table in the shells but are precracked for easy access. The only vegetable appears to be the baby broccoli called broccolini. And according to the waiter, the brown sauce in the bottom of the bowl is made of white wine and garlic with a little ginger. It isn't very exciting, nor is it very Chinese.

Mantra is a cool new restaurant right beside the light rail line on what's becoming an interesting stretch of Main Street. I intend to be there often, though in the future, I will probably stick to the sushi, appetizer and soup-and-salad sections of the menu. This kind of exciting but not very filling food is perfectly suited to Mantra's loungelike layout and its location in the heart of the NoDo Zona Rosa.

But be forewarned, you better get there early if you want a table on the patio.

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