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.
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.
The Indian Harvest adorns white tablecloths with north Indian curries, pilafs, and kebabs distinguished by myriad spices such as pods of cardamom, cloves, cumin, and mustard seeds, and bowls of mint or pickle chutney. Over 20 vegetarian dishes showcase the versatility of eggplant, cauliflower, and peas, as well as their ability to harmonize with lentils and avoid getting redfaced when infused with whole chiles. A clay oven known as a tandoor sizzles lamb, chicken, and shrimp at a high temperature to seal in marinade and keep cholesterol down, and provides the bellows to puff up rounds of seasoned, leavened naan bread. Wood panels cut with floral designs screen sections of tables and booths in the dining room, whereas views of the lake open up the banquet hall.
Flavors from India and Pakistan meet on Sara's Grill & Eastern Cuisine's menu, which incorporates halal meats and fragrant spices into its extensive selection of dishes. Decadent curries send savory and spicy aromas wafting past diners' tables to tempt taste buds with lingering scents of cilantro and ginger. In the kitchen, a clay tandoor oven bakes orders of naan and roasts skewers of marinated chicken or goat. Cylindrical pendant lamps and sconces illuminate damask-stenciled walls to create an intricately artistic vibe, much like a tattoo of a Rube Goldberg–device.
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.