Monday, February 25, 2013

Cincinnati You Are So Lucky, Part II

You have Marilyn Harris and Mantra on the Hill!  Saturday night some friends and I spent the evening with Marilyn Harris the first lady of food in Cincinnati.  Marilyn and I have heard about one another from the assistants and staff at CooksWares, but had never met, and the group thought we needed to meet.  Marilyn has a radio show on Saturdays that you can hear on I Heart Radio.  She knows so many people, and we gossiped and really had a great time.  She and her husband were great pre-dinner hosts, and we thoroughly enjoyed our time together.  

We proceeded to dinner at Mantra on the Hill, the restaurant of talented chef Yajan Upadhyaya. Although I'm not an expert on Indian food, you don't need to be.  Chef Yajan creates delicious flavor balances in his dishes, and everything we tasted was scrumptious, from starters:

Naan stuffed with red onion, cilantro and masala
Eggplant chips tossed in tamarind
Chick pea salad with tomatoes, potato, masala, pomegranate and tamarind yogurt
To the main courses, we were feted with some of the best food I've had in a while; fresh foods with a flavor balance that was not only interesting, it was delicious!

From top center, shrimp, chicken in white pepper sauce, Okra with tomatoes, and lamb shish kebab with raita
Lovely chicken dish enhanced by pickled beets (who knew?)
I got to peak in the kitchen, and this dish was coming out---gorgous lamb chops from the tandoor
After dinner we were invited back into the kitchen; Chef Yaj is not interrupted by 5 women loaded up on wine and his amazing food!
He's telling me the Tandoor is hot now; last time I was here it wasn't up to the requisite zillion degrees!
I kept saying I wanted "flames"--he was most obliging!
Lamb chops coming off the spit from the Tandoor
Assistant Matt and Chef Yaj

Chops and shrimp in the Tandoor
Our time at Mantra was also enhanced by Richard the maitre'd, raconteur extraordinaire,  and Zack our server, who was patient, and explained every dish is minute detail.  Dining at Mantra is just that; the table is yours, you are allowed to linger and enjoy not only the food, but the lovely ambiance in this beautiful dining space.
If you live in Cincinnati and haven't dined at Mantra you are missing one of your cities' treasures.  And if you haven't listened to Marilyn, then you just aren't listening....she is awesome!  Such a wealth of knowledge, witty, and honest---so tune in on Saturdays, and one day in August they might just allow us to be on the radio together---watch out Cincinnati!  

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