The chefs at Lal Qila Restaurant, named for the ornate 17th-century Indian monument, serve up a lengthy menu of tandoori- and clay–oven-baked Indian and Pakistani cuisine. Doling out large portions, they sizzle up spice-driven dishes loaded with goat, lamb, seafood, or chicken. Vegetarian options include cheese- and lentil-based dishes that fill the restaurant with exotic scents more effectively than tossing around a boomerang slathered in curry.
At Raj Palace, executive chef Sunder Singh Chauhan crafts a comprehensive selection of Indian cuisine designed to appease appetites of all degrees and dietary preferences. The paneer pakora— deep-fried homemade cheese ($5.50)—and the shami kabab—lamb with split chickpeas ($6)—serve as savory stepping stones to a flavorful feast. Answer carnivorous calls with the chicken methi malai, boneless chicken cooked with fenugreek and malai sauce ($12.95), or allocate precious stomach space to the medley of cauliflower, potatoes, tomatoes, ginger, and garlic residing on the plate known as aloo gobhi ($10.95).
At Swad Of India, cooks seek out halal meats for their entrees, roasting platefuls of marinated lamb and chicken inside a traditional clay tandoor oven. The vegetarian options use the same blends of potent herbs and spices, although the cooks replace the meats with housemade cheese or vegetables exclusively sourced from county-fair ribbon ceremonies.
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.
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.
Dakshin Indian Cuisine's creative chefs blend southern-Indian spices with Chinese flavors, crafting a menu of artful eats with elegant tastes. Dakshin means "south" in Sanskrit, and the southern starters shine, with the traditional Rasam soup ($2.99,) chock-full of tamarind, lentil, and piquant spices, great for warming up stomachs and filling pockets with a snack for later. Thin, lentil crêpes, or dosas, hail from the south and come smothered with cooked minced meat in the keema dosa ($9.99) or potato and onion in the masala dosa ($6.99). Chinese influences seep through the sauce of the szechwan chicken hakka noodles ($9.99), covered in julienned vegetables and sprinkled with secret messages in Mandarin.