While Taste of India’s modest mall location may cause some to pass by without a second glance, it belies authentic, flavorful cuisine and courteous service that consistently earn rave reviews from a loyal customer base. The eatery is best known for its lunch buffet, which sustains hungry diners with more than 20 platters of Northern and Southern Indian cuisine separated by a neutral territory of desserts. The full menu offers lamb, chicken, and beef curries, tandoori specials, and refreshing scoops of mango ice cream.
Amid colorful Indian art and handicrafts, the dining room at India House Restaurant fills with the aromas of more than 250 eclectic dishes. Chefs draw on regional cuisines from Delhi to Bombay, fusing flavors with techniques borrowed from street fare and homestyle tandoori cooking. Besides dousing chicken, lamb, and seafood in flavorful sauces, they also craft healthful vegetarian dishes so that those eschewing meat don’t have to size up nearby houseplants for their palatability.
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.
Brothers Devinder Singh and Sital Singh opened Taste of India to share the flavors of the Indian subcontinent with eaters. In the kitchen, chefs use halal meats to prepare chicken, lamb, and beef curries such as chicken tikka masala and beef shahikorma cooked in cream with a spice-and-nut blend. An in-house clay tandoori oven produces specials such as chickan kabobs and paneer tikka—cheese cubes marinated in yogurt sauce and roasted with spices.
Thai and Indian influences act as the epicurean muses for chefs at Zaafaran, where fresh, healthy ingredients compose exotic entrees. The dinner menu invites guests to strap on their tongues' waders and discover seafood-fraught dishes such as the crab singapore, a stir-fried jumble of lump crab steeped in Singapore-style gravy ($20), or the saag tadka curry, where swells of tumeric yogurt and cream surge across sautéed spinach ($9).
Shah Jee's has dished out warming Pakistani food for more than 16 years. Whole-wheat roti flatbread scoops up sauces from chana masala and saag paneer, both of which are vegetarian and seasoned with spice blends from Pakistan. Daal masoor mingles red lentils with garlic, herbs, and spices, and chicken masala highlights halal meat that’s been simmered with tomatoes and onions until tender. The chefs also whip up daily specials, many of which are vegan, vegetarian, or prone to blushing when called special.