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.
Today Kama owner and chef Vikram Singh cooks his internationally influenced Indian cuisine with a goal to give diners an experience that stimulates all the senses. Perhaps that calculated idea came from his background in mathematics and engineering. Or perhaps it came from his father, a renowned chef in India whose cuisine has impressed King Abdullah of Jordan and former German chancellor Helmut Kohl. After a successful career working with numbers, Vikram and his wife opened Kama to bring the local area an inspired, unique Indian menu—and one that would certainly meet his father’s inimitable standards.
Chef Singh actually draws on four decades of experience crafting his made-from-scratch sauces, homemade paneer, and spicy lamb dishes. To keep things interesting, he engages American, French, and Chinese traditions as he invents entrees such as tamarind-glazed baby back ribs and lamb tacos. But he isn’t the only one creating new tastes under his roof. Kama’s bartenders mix cocktails with fresh-squeezed juices and spike martinis with unconventional flavors such as cucumber, cinnamon, and rosemary. The restaurant recently received a 2014 Michelin Bib Gourmand award, given to the guide's favorite spots for high-quality cuisine at good value.
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.
Sandwiched between the Indian mainland and Tibet lies Nepal, and the chefs of Mount Everest Restaurant specialize in this nation's culinary heritage, a mash-up of Indian and Nepali cuisine. Traditional tandoori and masala dishes collide with Nepali food such as chicken momo, spiced minced meat steamed within a thin wheat-bread shell.