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.
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).
Chefs draw upon South Indian, North Indian, and Indo-Chinese influences as they concoct spicy curries and creamy gravies to drape over tandoor-roasted lamb and seafood, halal goat, and vegetarian-friendly paneer. Beyond the dining room's tables cloaked in blue linens and vibrant Indian artwork, bartenders pour beer, wine, and cocktails from a fully stocked bar nestled near a flat-screen television.
Miki Trikha and his wife, Nidhi, hope to expose Americans to the popular street foods of Mumbai, where businesspeople on their lunch breaks crowd together, the scents of buttery naan billowing around them on the warm breath of ovens. The couple, who also operate an Indian grocery store,
glide across a dining room that the Daily Herald calls “cute and contemporary.” Vibrant portraits span the length of the walls beside colorful, leaf-painted tables. Above a treat-filled glass case, a large menu board guides diners, explaining the flavors and lore behind Mumbai-style chaat. The popular street food combines a piece of fried bread with toppings including pomegranate, chickpeas, and tomato sauce alongside golden samosas and dumplings stuffed with zabiha halal meat or soaked in creamy yogurt.
The metallic symphony of a busy kitchen drifts into the room as chefs forge veggie crepes and crown tandoor chicken and lamb with fresh mint chutney. While downing imported Indian sodas, guests admire the eatery's high ceilings and exposed rafters, which shake with laughter and leave space for exaggerated gestures during fishing stories.
Inside a sizzling tandoor oven, 15 styles of naan, paratha, and roti soak in the heat until they start to take on a slight char. Peacock's chefs then pull them out of the oven, serving them hot as an accompaniment authentic tandoori meats and curries. Dining here is an experience for all the senses, from the soft cheese stuffed inside paneer naan to the spicy murg vindaloo. Almonds and pistachios inside the nuts naan give a tender crunch and make it easy to sop up sauces such as the creamy murg kurma or one of many shrimp or lamb dishes. Vegetarian options also abound for people eschewing meat or hoping a vegetable a day will keep a full range of medical professionals away.
Curry Hut's Indian and Nepalese cuisine provides an authentic, varied sampling of the region's flavorful cooking. High-minded diners happily remove their designer snorkels to taste the nepalese mo mo ($7.95), recommended by Chicago magazine, which neighbors its steamed and spiced chicken dumpling with a spicy mustard-like achar sauce. Meanwhile, spiced goat meat furnishes each plate of nepalese khasi ko masu ($11.95), and a traditional clay oven cooks the indian chicken tikka masala ($12.95).
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.