I attended my first group counseling for individuals who have addictions to food. The crowd was quaint, as quaint goes. There was a chef who got his addiction from sampling everything that he cooked, a Stepford wife who preferred eating to shopping, a fashion model who lost her modeling contract because her eating had her tipping the scale at a whopping 105 pounds, a few other colourful characters, and then there was me. No sooner had I introduced myself and began by talking about my spiral down the eddy of good eats, describing my binges with reckless abandon and filling them in about my latest restaurant excursion, than bellies began to growl. Lips began to quiver. Sweat formed on brows. Teeth gnashed. The session ended promptly. No one wanted to hear about food. They wanted to eat food. Needless to say, I was of no help to any of the recovering addicts. Sigh!
What I was telling the group was that my friend and I had gone for Pakistani food at Sabri Nihari on Chicago’s North Side at 2502 W. Devon Avenue. Known for the long stretch of Indian and Pakistani fare, we decided to start at one end of a major intersection and walk down Devon on our hunt. We did not get very far before we saw a rather inviting Pakistani restaurant on the way. Truth be known, we could smell the loving from the oven, which told us to just come on in. So, in we went, smacked in the face with the smells of curries, cumin, other herbs and spices, and all sorts of other aromas that made for a struggle to those of us addicted to food. My friend and I sat, only to be greeted with a modest amount of English and a liberal amount of great service, except for the servers rushing because of so much business coming in and out of the restaurant.
Having had incredibly pleasant and filling dining experiences at Indian restaurants and at a Nepali restaurant, we figured we would temper our hunger. So we started off with two appetizers. Yes, that is par for the course. We had two vegetarian samosas and pakoras. The flaky pastry of the samosas was enough to rekindle any recovered food lover’s fire. The potatoes, green peas, and spices made it an absolute must for those of us with no qualms about stuffing our cheeks. The pakoras, which were potatoes and cauliflower in crispy pastry batter, were outstanding and we became ravenous, yet dignified zombies going through our routine of feasting on the goodies without complaint.
Because too much food can produce a Frankenstein effect — walking around aimlessly and moaning from the rapture of too much good stuff — we only had two entrées. Even with just two, it still was too much. We had a murgh makhani, which is a curry-based butter chicken dish. This was a spicy dish and I can honestly say that this restaurant prepares the best murgh makhani I have ever had. The chicken was so tender that you could cut it with a plastic fork. The second entree we had was a dal palak — creamed lentils and spinach. Only one other Indian restaurant in Chicago prepares good dal palak, but it has to take second place to this restaurant. To round out the entrées, we had Basmati rice and a basket full of naan.
After the appetizers and entrées, we had no room for dessert. Instead, we settled on chai. One would think that Pakistani food is light, but the gravies are hearty and the bread is filling. The more you stuff into you, the fuller you become. Besides, Indians and Pakistanis have a habit of serving super sweet desserts. I would have required Ritalin to come down from my sugar — ghee — high.
I guess you can tell by now that I just go through the motions of trying to wean myself from my love of food. With food like what we ate at Sabri Nihari, I have no incentive to want anything else, except for a condo overlooking Lake Michigan and most of downtown Chicago. I guess I will have to deal with my compulsion. The worst that I can do is end up buying another wardrobe that I can fit. At the price that our entire meal cost, I could save up enough money to buy some more clothes. Perhaps I could even buy pants that have elastic waistbands. Oh, wait, that is not my style. Scratch that thought. Replace it with a plate of some more Pakistani food.
17 April 2007