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.
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.
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.
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.
When discussing Taste of India's diverse and exotic menu with reporters from the Green Bay Press-Gazette, Punjab native Meenakshi Rattu explained that understanding Indian cuisine is about "trying everything." To entice curious diners, Meenakshi and her husband Jagbir offer a wide variety of Northern and Southern dishes. They captain the restaurant's kitchen crew as they fold various spices, vegetables, and housemade sauces into curries, kebabs, and biryani rice, all while baking up a variety of traditional breads in their tandoor oven. Come lunchtime, the chefs line a sweeping buffet table with simmering platters of their freshly made dishes. To accommodate all palates, they prepare milder versions of traditional recipes, adding spice as directed.
Servers bear plates out into the elegant dining room, where a red-and-gold canopy stretches across the ceiling alongside glimmering chandeliers. Vibrant Indian artwork speckles the hall, from colorful traditional paintings to diamond sculptures of renowned Indian boxer Vijender Singh eating a piece of naan.