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).
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.
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 Madonna, Michael Jackson, Michael Jordan, and Roger Ebert have all dined at the same restaurant, and guests praise their attentive service and attention to detail Check, Please!, it says something. It speaks to the food's quality, the establishment's longevity, and the clientele's diversity. Newly redesigned after more than 30 years in business, Standard India Restaurant is one of the oldest Indian eateries in Chicago, one of the first in the country to offer thali-style dining, and one of the few independent restaurants anywhere that's fed more than one million guests since its inception.
Originally established on Devon Avenue by Pardip and Bimla Kamboj, Standard India has since changed locations and been passed to their son and daughter, who perpetuate Standard's success with the same traditional, freshly prepared North Indian fare. In addition to their popular all-you-can-eat grand buffet, Standard promotes an innovative and authentic thali experience, during which diners eat from frequently refilled sterling-silver tins that Denise brought back from New Delhi.
In the kitchen, chicken, lamb, and seafood sizzle in a handcrafted clay tandoor, and chefs expertly spice vegetarian- and vegan-friendly curries as well as gluten-free dishes. All meals can be paired with the guest's choice of beverage, as the eatery boasts a BYOB policy free from irksome corkage fees.
Vermilion has garnered a great deal of press and accolades over the years. From being named one of Chicago magazine’s Best New Restaurants of 2004 to gracing the pages of Esquire in an article titled "15 More Restaurants Not to Miss," the restaurant is no stranger to the spotlight. And at the heart of its success is Rohini Dey, a former consultant who, in 2003, decided to dive whisk first into the restaurant biz. Inspired by her Indian heritage, Dey set out to re-engineer the country’s traditional approach, fusing contemporary homeland flavors with elements of similarly bold Latin cuisine.
At Vermilion’s Chicago and New York City locations, the chefs craft meat and vegetarian fusions. Some of their most successful creations include the Gourmet-lauded duck-vindaloo arepas, lobster tail stewed in coconut-and-curry-leaf gravy, which was named the top dish worldwide by USA Today in 2004, and the tandoori skirt steak, hailed by Esquire. The decor mirrors the artful approach to dining, with sleek white spaces accented by black-and-white photos taken before the invention of color. Both locations also incorporate lounge areas that often come to life as fusion music, specialty cocktails, and a global wine list circulate the space.
At Bombay Spice Grill, you don't have to grab a table to enjoy the spices and sauces of Indian cuisine. Instead, Executive Chef Sunil Kumar designed a menu full of Indian meats, tofu, curries, and toppings that can be customized into a flavorful meal-on-the-go. Though the sauces come in traditional varieties such as curry, tikka masala, spinach, and vindaloo, the preparation veers from the methods of India to create healthier dishes. Chefs eschew cooking with ghee—Indian clarified butter—and instead use olive oil for heart-healthy wraps, sandwiches, salads, and bowls. And though wraps come with a slice of freshly baked naan or roti bread, clients can opt to make their dish gluten-free by swapping out bread for quinoa or rice. Guests can even customize their dish to be vegetarian and vegan, with ingredients clearly denoted on the menu. And to pair with a main entree, they can grab traditional Indian sides such as samosas and rice pudding.