At Viceroy of India Restaurant, culinary craftsmen blend the piquant, regional flavors of northern and southern Indian cuisine with a slew of adroitly seasoned meat and vegetarian dishes. The menu reads like a who's who of Indian edibles, starring such favorites as chicken tikka masala, spicy lamb vindaloo, and assorted vegetarian curries that bathe fresh vegetables in mild or spicy sauces. Appetizing aromas emanate from the eatery's kitchen as leavened naan bread bakes in a traditional clay oven, and an extensive selection of wine, beer, and classic cocktails spill into eager vessels. Each table's presentation of flowers, cushioned wooden chairs, and glowing candles woos guests in search of a venue for a romantic evening, group banquet, or first foray into fire swallowing.
Home cooking can be hard to find when home is on an entirely different continent. But the owners of Himalayan Restaurant knew how to bring the flavors of their South Asian home to Chicago. They sought out Chef Bishnu Subedi, who relies on his 12 years of experience as well as his training in a Kathmandu culinary school. Befitting the subcontinent’s rich and diverse history, Chef Subedi designs expansive menus, which embrace the Northern Indian, Nepalese, and Asian subcultures that define the region’s cuisines.
This cultural fusion is readily apparent in dishes such as the momos: steamed Nepalese-style dumplings that are typically stuffed with minced chicken or vegetables and served by street-food vendors throughout Nepal. Northern Indian flavors completely shine through on certain dishes, including the tandoori chicken, which marinates overnight in spiced yogurt before the chefs quickly barbecue the meat inside a traditional clay tandoor oven. House-made paneer cheese and fluffy naan also evoke the flavors of South Asia; the restaurant further embraces its cultural roots by serving Indian beers and water from melted Nepalese glaciers.
Taj Mahal Restaurant, named for Uttar Pradesh's famed palace, celebrates India's diverse cultures and culinary styles. Its chefs focus on a panoply of ethnic recipes and regional dishes from areas such as Mumbai, Delhi, and Agra. They prepare everything from simple comfort food to meals traditionally enjoyed by the upper classes and their pet lobsters. They use traditional preparation methods such as the tandoor oven to bake and simmer chicken, lamb, and seafood with herbs, spices, and yogurt. Though they specialize in catering, they also serve dishes inside the restaurant, and they make Indian sweets in-house daily.
Shikara's chefs strive to represent India's rich culinary history with a menu that includes familiar staples alongside more contemporary fusion cuisine. An imported tandoor oven roasts discs of naan and skewers of chicken according to time-honored North and South Indian recipes, and liberal doses of fenugreek seeds, ginger, and chilies add distinctively traditional aromas to many of the restaurant's dishes. However, the chefs also demonstrate their range by forging a spread of Indo-Chinese dishes, including stir-fried rice and chicken in soya sauce. These flavors—which can be washed down with a full selection of Indian beers—demonstrate the culinary interplay between the two nations' cultures without the mess of a UN-moderated food fight.
The epicurean alchemists at India House, winner of Chicago magazine's Best Indian Buffet designation, draw inspiration from the cuisine of Bombay and Delhi as well as Indian street fare and homestyle tandoori cooking. The menu's more than 250 items please vegetarian and meat-eating palates alike with curries, kebabs, and grilled saris that utilize the flavors of fresh cilantro, chilies, and coconut. A reviewer for the Chicago Tribune praises the restaurant’s “incredibly tender tandoori chicken,” and Chicago magazine says that the fiery "Hyderabadi-style mahi-mahi … is a must." Midday lunchers can dig into a buffet whose myriad options beget multiple trips and consultation with a pack of tarot cards before deciding which delicious curries should be ladled over naan and rice.
For a decade, the chefs at Udupi Palace have guided guests through the Desi culinary waters with vegetarian and meat dishes from the vast regions of India. Their uthappams, a lentil-and-rice pancake served with a traditional lentil soup and coconut chutney, and their more than 10 kinds of dosai, a southern-Indian crepe, let tongues savor the country’s herbs and spices. The chefs also season tandoori kebabs with garlic or ginger for patrons who lounge amid potted palms and count the grains of basmati rice in a biryani dish to ensure there’s an odd number.