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.
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).
At Viceroy of India Restaurant, culinary craftsmen blend the piquant, regional flavors of northern and southern Indian cuisine with a slew of adroitly seasoned meat and vegetarian dishes. The menu reads like a who's who of Indian edibles, starring such favorites as chicken tikka masala, spicy lamb vindaloo, and assorted vegetarian curries that bathe fresh vegetables in mild or spicy sauces. Appetizing aromas emanate from the eatery's kitchen as leavened naan bread bakes in a traditional clay oven, and an extensive selection of wine, beer, and classic cocktails spill into eager vessels. Each table's presentation of flowers, cushioned wooden chairs, and glowing candles woos guests in search of a venue for a romantic evening, group banquet, or first foray into fire swallowing.
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.
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 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.