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.
The aroma of curry mingles with that of traditional Nepali spices inside Mt. Everest Restaurant's dining area, whose walls are shod with oil paintings of scenic mountains brushed by Nepali artists. Inside the kitchen, the head chef prepares Nepali entrees—including khasi ko masu (goat meat cooked on the bone) and aloo tama bodi (a popular dish of russet potatoes, bamboo shoots, and black-eye beans)—alongside Indian favorites such as chicken tikka masala garnished with ginger and cilantro and king-size prawns roasted in a clay oven. Each entree is prepared to order, whether diners prefer mild, spicy, or business-casual seasonings, and served with drinks ranging from imported and domestic beers and wines to mango lassis and Himalayan teas.
The Himalayan Mountains cast a long shadow, and in their shade Indian and Nepalese chefs have crafted many styles of curries. Curry Hut Restaurant extends that shadow all the way to Chicago by introducing guests to a diverse sampling of Indian and Nepalese cuisine. Chefs fill their woks with simmering curries, adding touches of cardamom and cumin for spice. Their traditional clay ovens cook smoky flavors into kebabs or bake tiny clay ovens for guests to take home as souvenirs. The restaurant’s Nepalese dishes feature a number of spices found only on the slopes of the Himalayas; chefs rub these into bone-in goat meat or blend them in stewed yellow lentils.
Jagmohan Jayara’s dream of sharing his Indian culture with others through cuisine became a reality when he opened up the first India House in 1993. Since then, the restaurant has grown a following that demanded three more locations. Each one brings Chicago-area locals the spices, herbs, and vegetarian-friendly dishes that characterize Indian cuisine. The menus include lamb kebabs, tandoori chicken, or whole chickpeas cooked in traditional Punjabi masala. The chain offers dining, takeout, and a buffet alongside banquet and catering options for special celebrations including weddings, birthdays, and first cricket victories.
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.
There's nowhere for heat to escape within a tandoori oven. Inside this sweltering cylinder of clay, chefs stoke the flames to cook everything from flat naan bread to three-dimensional lamb and chicken. It's fitting then, that Klay Oven Restaurant has a name echoing this traditional Indian method of cooking?and a bite into anything on the menu proves that there's no need to alter these time-tested techniques. Popular orders include tandoori murg, a dish of stir-fried meat simmered in gravy. Outside of the oven, chefs use homemade cheese cubes to cook paneer dishes and fill puffed samosas with lamb, peas, ginger, and coriander.
Of course, all of this happens away from customers' hungry eyes. They're too busy sipping mango lassi beneath the dining room's golden tin ceilings, or perhaps drinking something more potable at the solid wood bar. At select times, Klay Oven also serves buffets (both of the vegan and meaty variety).