Richard had new glasses made at Costco and he discussed restaurants with the Indian woman serving him. She mentioned "Mantra" stating that it was far and away the best Indian restaurant in Temecula. She had a dot, he thought - she ought to know. The only other locals we've tried are "A Taste of India" and "The Blue Peacock".
As we pulled up to Mantra, we noticed the neon "massage" sign on an adjacent building. Residing just under the upstairs massage parlor is some kind of church. An interesting juxtaposition and I wonder who was there first - or if they're operated by the same people? If you're hankering for Indian food, spiritual awakening and a rubdown, you only have to park once.
The menu is pretty typical Indian fare and we order the standard items. You can review the menu at their lively web site:
A complimentary basket of papadum(?) with three sauces comes first to keep you amused while you decide on your order. The three sauces are delicious: a chutney, a mint/cilantro/vinegar and a very hot chili sauce. We start with garlic naan and usually have some sort of chicken - tandoori or last time chicken in coconut sauce or a fish curry. The vegetable korma here is outstanding. Basmati rice pilaf is just OK. Another must for us is the panek paneer. All dishes can be ordered mild, medium, spicy. The servings are small but we always end up with to-go boxes which are mostly left-over sauce; we can usually eke out a second semi-Indian meal by using the sauces on whatever we eat the next day.
Service is very good. The waiter remembered us on our second or third visit and we had a warm welcome. They're unafraid to make recommendations and have steered us to a new dish or two and we've enjoyed them all. In fact we've never had a disappointment. At door exit, they offer the healthier plain anise seed/ rock sugar combo - not bad, but in my opinion, they don't hold a candle to the candied version. One tablespoon of this stuff does the flavor/heat abatement trick and provides toothpick challenges for hours ahead.
Pricing is fair; there's a nominal selection of wines but skip these and have a beer - there's a small selection including KingFisher which I like because of the name and the label...the beer is barely OK. (I know this is silly but it's the same process I apply to picking horses at the race track). Or choose or one of their delicious lassi's. Richard ordered the mango flavor last time and it was divine.