What do you get when you work at a company that acknowledges President’s Day and gives you the day off for a holiday? Well, you get a diet version of a blizzard that threatens to mess up your appetite and your want for going outside to venture to any restaurant for culinary options. To those of you who dare come to Chicago during the winter, welcome to Chiberia. I had the day off and wanted to stuff my jaws, which is not unusual. The really tragic thing is I have a stove at home and the most I do as it involves the stove is glance at it briefly when I enter my condo. Thank God for a disposable income and living in a city like Chicago where you deserve to have a Looney Tunes anvil fall from the sky and conk you on the head if you complain about not having anywhere to go for dining excursions.
I had heard about a new restaurant in Near North Loop named Naansense — talk about a swell play on words — at 171 N. Wells Street that has an Indian influence. Once I had arrived, I had recalled its predecessor, Curried, a restaurant that I had blogged a year or so ago. Seeing that it is very much like a small cafe, I wouldn’t be surprised that it packs out quickly during lunch hours. Fortunately, most people were off for President’s Day and the snow was probably an inhibitor that left me with a pick of seats and an appetite that needed to be sated.
There was that Chipotle method for ordering that has become a staple in most restaurants that are opening their doors for business. Pick your platter, get your toppings, add your sides, pay, and eat. I had decided that I would have a rice bowl for this visit. It all looked worthy of my immediate visit and a possible return visit or two in the future. I had the chicken with vindaloo sauce. Now, my lips curled up in a smile when I heard vindaloo because I love spicy food like Sherlock Holmes loves to solve mysteries. There was a balance to the spiciness of the vindaloo sauce by way of the yogurt sauce I had added to the rice. Where things got to be closer to wholesome as opposed to Indian was with the cucumbers and chickpea noodles I got as sides. With a cup of mango lassi in hand, I grabbed a table and handled the lunch to completion.
I am usually accustomed to gobbling some chana bhatura, bhindi masala with poori, baigan bharta with naan, or daal palak with rice. There is an Indian influence to the offerings at Naansense that I think would be an excellent way for those with milder palates to ease into Indian spices before going all out with a plate of shrimp vindaloo. Not only is the food tasty, and I say this after only having a rice bowl, but the service from behind the counter is top. For a small restaurant that has recently opened, they weren’t fumbling around and when you have staff make recommendations, restaurants like that are well worth return visits. Sitting at home wondering what to eat will be a naan-issue because I’ll probably show up at Naansense to satisfy my craving — unless we are in the midst of a Chiberian blizzaster. I see some naanwiches, roti rolls, and salad bowls in my crystal ball. Hint, hint.