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.
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.
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.
Miki Trikha and his wife, Nidhi, hope to expose Americans to the popular street foods of Mumbai, where businesspeople on their lunch breaks crowd together, the scents of buttery naan billowing around them on the warm breath of ovens. The couple, who also operate an Indian grocery store, glide across a dining room that the Daily Herald calls “cute and contemporary.” Vibrant portraits span the length of the walls beside colorful, leaf-painted tables. Above a treat-filled glass case, a large menu board guides diners, explaining the flavors and lore behind Mumbai-style chaat. The popular street food combines a piece of fried bread with toppings including pomegranate, chickpeas, and tomato sauce alongside golden samosas and dumplings stuffed with zabiha halal meat or soaked in creamy yogurt.
The metallic symphony of a busy kitchen drifts into the room as chefs forge veggie crepes and crown tandoor chicken and lamb with fresh mint chutney. While downing imported Indian sodas, guests admire the eatery's high ceilings and exposed rafters, which shake with laughter and leave space for exaggerated gestures during fishing stories.