The Dining Out team has just returned from a very relaxed Californian wine
dinner at the Mantra restaurant. We enjoy our wines, but would not consider
ourselves to be expert wine critics. To be a ‘real’ wine critic is very exacting
and not relaxing.
One of the local restaurateurs who does fit that wine critic description is
Pascal Schnyder from Casa Pascal. Pascal is one of those uncompromising people,
and I had a very interesting discussion with him about wine tasting. It should
be done in the middle of the day, with natural light, says Pascal. In this way,
you can judge the colors correctly. You should not be wearing any perfume or
aftershave and your hands should be washed with pure water only - no soap. The
slightest aroma can confuse and the ‘nose’ of the wine suffers. Of course, the
wine is not swallowed, but savored and then spat out and the palate rinsed with
water before moving on to the next wine. A very exacting and time consuming
However, for most people, wine is for drinking and enjoying, and Mantra gave us
the opportunity to experience wines from different vineyards in California and
allowed us to taste some very different dishes produced under the watchful eye
of Chef Supachai, and to see how well they matched up with the wines.
The evening started in fine fettle in the luxurious cocktail area with the
reception wine which was a Beringer sparkling white Zinfandel. All of the
‘glitterati’ set were present, including the newly crowned Miss Tiffany with
Alisa Phantusak and Ken Smith from the Tiffany Show. After a couple of glasses,
we adjourned to the dining section - before the alcohol content had time to
The first course was a seafood trio of Maine lobster, Alaskan king crab and a
yellowtail tartar eaten with the first of the Domaine St George wines, a
sauvignon blanc, which I found a little on the sharp side for my taste - but
there was plenty to come.
A lava-stone grilled swordfish with garlic and squid’s ink risotto followed
taken with another Domain St George, this time a chardonnay with a good nose,
taste and a long, long finish. This was a wine to my liking.
The next course was a Guinea fowl, pan-fried with a vegetable ratatouille and
truffle mashed potatoes, washed down with another Beringer Stone Cellars, this
time a merlot.
When we finished the Guinea fowl, we lingered a little, to allow the three
courses we had so far time to settle, whilst we back-sampled the wines we had
tried so far.
Suitably buoyed, we asked for the next course, a charcoal-grilled marinated beef
short rib with teriyaki sauce. A different cut and a great dish, eaten with the
very nice Beringer cabernet sauvignon 2001.
The dessert apple tart was taken with another Beringer white zinfandel, but I
personally preferred the sparkler which had been at the commencement of the food
and wine journey, but as I always point out, wine is a very personal choice.
It had been, as promised, an enjoyable evening, wining and dining. The
atmosphere was totally relaxed, and with the dinner progressing at your own
pace, does mean that you can arrive when you feel like it and progress through
your menu as you feel like it. Certainly this was no exacting wine appreciation
event, but like everyone, we know what we like in both food and wine. Mantra
offered us a great choice, and for us, the Beringer sparkling white Zinfandel
reception wine was a wonderful start to the evening, and the Beringer Stone
Cellars cabernet sauvignon was our favorite during dinner. Madame was taken with
the swordfish, something neither of us had experienced before, whilst I enjoyed
the Guinea fowl with the cherry and blackberry sauce.
We can highly recommend the Mantra, the restaurant that dared to be different.
Mantra Restaurant and Bar, Beach Road (just down from the Dolphin Circle),
telephone 038 429 591, fax 038 428 165, email email@example.com. Open
seven days, bar from 5 p.m., restaurant from 6 p.m. but 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. for
Sunday Brunch. Secure valet parking within the Mantra car park.
Musaman Neua (Southern Thai beef curry)
This dish from southern Thailand uses coconut milk to
produce a thick creamy curry. Musaman takes around two hours to cook
correctly. There are many curry pastes on the market but Maesri is a
consistent tasting brand. Like “stews”, it is cooked when the potatoes are
soft when prodded with a fork. The quantities in this recipe are for four
people and you can keep it gently simmering for quite some time till all the
guests arrive. Serve in a large bowl in the center of the table and eat with
steamed jasmine rice.
Cut chuck into 3 cm cubes and stew gently for one hour. In a big pot fry the
curry paste with the oil for two minutes over medium flame. Add onion, stewed
meat, coconut milk, potatoes, peanuts, water and peanut paste. Stir, bring to
the boil then cook slowly over a medium heat for 30 minutes, stirring
occasionally to stop burning. Now add the fish sauce, tamarind water and sugar
and simmer gently over a low heat. Serve with rice.
Ingredients Serves 4
Musaman curry paste
600 ml (tinned)
Onion (roughly chopped) 200 gm