Getting to the Point, Curry Point

Curry Point Spicy IndianIn the northern end of Chicago’s Wrigleyville neighbourhood is a creperie that I love to frequent. Next door to it is an Indian restaurant at 3913 N. Sheridan Road named Curry Point that opened a few months ago. What was initially a carry-out location only eventually added more space to allow patrons to have a proper sit-down dining experience. With Indian food being top on my list for culinary satisfaction, I gave the restaurant a lot of business when they were doing carry-out and delivery only. Now that they indeed have a dining area, I would be remiss to not include them on Chicago Alphabet Soup.

I started with samosas and a mango lassi. The large teardrop-sized samosas were fantastic. There was a spicy kick to them that made them that more appetizing. I mashed them up and topped them with cilantro chutney and tamarind chutney before finishing them. The mango lassi was exactly what I needed because after a few swallows of the samosas, it turned out they were spicier than I thought. And I loved them that much more.

Samosas

Samosas

Mango Lassi

Mango Lassi

I had not eaten breakfast, so by the time I had arrived at Curry Point, I was ravenous. To pander to my appetite, I ordered a baigan bharta. This came in a clay pot, filled with eggplant in a rather spicy gravy, exactly what I needed after coming inside from chilly weather outside. Served with rice to counter a bit of the pepper in the gravy, I later admitted that I liked this version of baigan bharta because of the thick gravy, rather than mere clumps of spiced eggplant, as I have had at countless Indian restaurants.

Baigan Bharta

Baigan Bharta

The chicken tikka masala was the second main dish that I had and I must say that this tasted better than most butter chicken dishes that I have eaten. Spicy in the same manner as the baigan bharta, there was still flavour to the dish, not just overpowering pepper leaving a heat ring around my mouth. And rather than small pieces of chopped chicken, there were large chunks of succulent chicken. I sat in the restaurant for close to three hours and took my time enjoying the whole meal.

Chicken Tikka Masala

Chicken Tikka Masala

Masala Chai

Masala Chai

There was a moment when the restaurant was empty and the owner came to my table. He had mentioned that he remembered me when I had come to Taj Majal on Taylor Street in Little Italy. He recalled that I ordered everything spicy and seemed rather miffed when asked if I really did want my dishes peppery. He said that I didn’t seem very American, the observation not being insulting. The usual fear is that preparing dishes that aren’t pleasant on the palate results in bad reviews on social media and restaurant boards. Well, before I left Curry Point, I ordered chana masala and mango chicken — both spicy.

I watched the interaction with the owner and patrons during the occasions when I went previously. Outstanding comes to mind and the interaction was an indication that you’re not just another face coming through the door. With it being early in the day, I did not bring any alcohol, but the restaurant has a BYOB policy. Good food, reasonable price, and fantastic service, I see no reason not to make it a point to see how easy it is to fall in love with good, spicy Indian food.

Curry Point Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wrap It Up, I’ll Take It

Bombay Wraps

The Chicago Blackhawks hockey team won the Stanley Cup. That meant Chicago was in the throes of a huge celebration and downtown was teeming with red jerseys, drunken presentations, and suburbanites who were acting as though they had never seen skyscrapers before.

“Wow, look at those buildings. They’re so tall. They go way up into the sky.”

Mango Lassi

Mango Lassi

And since the weather was nice outside and majority of the parade spectators were lingering around until the after-work rush hour, that meant public transportation was going to be a wild and packed ride for the few stops I take to get home. So, I lingered around downtown a little longer and wandered over to a certain Indian café that really gets me going with a smile.

Bombay Wraps at 122 N. Well Street in the Loop is a sparkling hole in the wall that server some really, really tasty street food. There are seats inside, but mostly when I’ve gone, which was during noon, the place has been filled such that you get your food to go. They close around 6:00 PM through the week, but stay open late on Fridays. Well, since people who work downtown go home or as far away from their job locations as possible, I figured I would get something quick from Bombay Wraps and call it a wrap.

Samosas and Cilantro Chutney

Samosas and Cilantro Chutney

Samosas with cilantro chutney. Potato tava wrap. Chicken tikka wrap. Mango lassi.

I sat outside and worked those samosas over with the casualness of a dignified brute. I love that the samosas are bite size rather than the size of a fist. Don’t get me wrong, as I smile with rapture any time I get a delicious samosa, be it large or small. But these, for some reason, are perfect. So flaky and bursting with potatoes and peas, it would be hard to even pretend like they do nothing for me.

Potato Tava

Potato Tava

The potato tava that came with curried mashed and chunky potatoes in a chapati wrap starts my rocket every time. I get it with spicy cilantro chutney and red onions – the latter to fend off pests, but me brushing my teeth and negates the effects of the onions. My rocket shoots straight for the stars with the chicken tikka wrap every time. The spicy sauce and red onions on the chicken tikka wrap really accents the dish with a kick that keeps me coming back to Bombay Wraps. And the pre-made mango lassi works beautifully as an all-natural drink. No high fructose corn syrup in my drink, please. I guess you could say that I am as fascinated with Bombay Wraps as the suburbanites are with wringing their necks looking up at the buildings on the downtown skyline.

Chicken Tikka

Chicken Tikka

I love going to full service Indian restaurants because it is a guarantee that the food is worthy of the visit. This whole concept of Indian street food is nothing new to me, having had it in surplus while visiting in Bangalore, Delhi, and Sri Lanka. I would make a wild statement about there needing to be more, but with the proliferation of Middle Eastern restaurants and all of them having the Chipotle assembly line technique to food preparation – and food quality a few notches below okay – I shall bite down hard and accept Bombay Wraps as “the” place to go for worthwhile street goodies.

To quote the Fabulous Thunderbirds from years ago: Wrap it up, I’ll take it.

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Namaste

Many years ago, I got my first exposure to Indian cuisine when two co-workers and I started what became our bi-weekly Mod Squad dinners. One of the Mod Squad members — affectionally called Julie — was vegetarian, so she offered up a certain Indian restaurant that was central to the other member, Pete, and me, who was dubbed Linc with dreadlocks. Samosas. Papadam wafers. Tamarind chutney. Pickled peppers. Cilantro chutney. Paneer makhani. Saag paneer. Aloo. Chana masala. Bhatura. Sambar. Idli. The spices and flavours were so full that I had not noticed the absence of meat. From that evening, Indian food became my favourite ethnic cuisine. And having travelled to India for two weddings, having Indian food prepared truly authentically made it a definite staple in my diet. Per my high school sweetheart, who said that I smell of curry, it is quite evident that, yes, I am in love with Indian dining.

Bombay Spice Grill and Wine

While in downtown Chicago and reminiscing about my past Mod Squad dinners, I passed by Bombay Spice Grill & Wine at 450 N. Clark Street. Not quite in the tourist trap section of Near North Side, as that would require going over to N. LaSalle Street, Bombay Spice sits not far from several other swanky boutique restaurants. Lucky for me, I wandered by the restaurant a few minutes past it opening its doors for the lunch crowd. I was able to get a seat near the window, not so pedestrians could see my happiness as I ate, but so that I had natural light for my photos. With full bar immediately to the left when you enter, an open grill towards the back, and plenty of seats for the Hungry Jack and Starving Jill, Bombay Spice looks like a hot spot for the Friday evening after-work crowd. After a quick scan of the menu, it became apparent that there was a bit of fusion that gets introduced into the recipes. Bombay Spice is not India House, Udupi Palace, Mysoor, Usmania, or Taj Mahal. And I should have known that from the location, there would be some American aspect introduced so as not to offend a common palate. But that was okay. I can adjust when it comes to food. I decided that I would have my version of a degustation instead of ordering the formulaic appetizer, entrée, and dessert with something to drink. It was a lovely day, I had plenty of time, and I had an appetite, the former not being a surprise.

Lentil Soup

To start, I had a bowl of lentil soup. After the first slurp, I thought of my favourite Brazilian restaurant in Oak Park, Illinois, and the lentil soup that they serve. That Brazilian restaurant prepares the best lentil soup that you will probably find between the Atlantic Ocean and Pacific Ocean. The soup that I had a Bombay Spice comes in a close second. The caveat was that the salt seemed to have been mildly heavy-handed — as if something can be mild and heavy at the same time. As I may have mentioned in some past posts, my diet entertains low or no salt, so it becomes rather noticeable in a dish as soon as it touches the tongue. I had orange juice along with the soup, so I was able to dilute the taste of salt some. However, I will admit that the soup still held its own in terms of flavour and I nodded in appreciation of it being satisfying.

Samosas with Tamarind ChutneyFor the second course of my degustation, I had samosas with a tamarind chutney. The samosas at Bombay Spice are baked, which lends credence to the healthy aspect that the restaurant adds to its food. Unlike samosas that have been deep-fried, there was no flakiness to the crust. They were still stuffed with potatoes, peas, curry, and cumin, all which added a full blossom to the burst of flavour. Cutting through the crust required a tad bit of effort because where flaky crusts practically obey and fall apart, cutting a baked crust with a butter knife could result in part of the samosa scooting off the plate with a quickness. The tamarind chutney brought back to mind the chutney that I remembered from the Indian restaurant of my Mod Squad days, the sweetness without being saccharine, tamarind that you could actually taste without a syrup overload. After I finished performing my surgery cuts on the samosas so that they didn’t fly about the plate and table, I poured the tamarind chutney over the samosas and commenced to eating them to completion.

Chickpea CevicheWhere things really glowed was with the third course of my degustation. I had chickpea ceviche, which I found to be a unique twist on ceviche. In many, if not all, Latin American restaurants, ceviche is on the menu. After you have some the first time, there is almost a guarantee that you will want some every time you go to a Latin American eatery. The chickpea ceviche at Bombay Spice is nothing but a plate of love that deserves an encore in perpetuity. Chickpeas. Tomatoes. Onions. Tamarind. Mint. Yogurt. Me smiling and dancing — very, very small moves so not to be “that” evident. The papadam wafers that came with it completed the dish and I will say that this was the first time I have had ceviche so delightfully delectable that I could have stood in the middle of the restaurant and danced with jazz hands without compunction or care. I have been through markets and down side streets in India, feasting on street food and loving a favourite street dish called chaat — served by merchants with dirty hands — and I have downed it without complaint or bellyache. All while I was polishing off the ceviche I kept thinking that this was Bombay Spice’s version of chaat. Ceviche. Chaat. Someting thrown together on a dish. I could eat it endlessly.

Bombay Spice PunchWith the ceviche, I had Bombay Spice punch. And oh did it pack a punch. We are talking Absolut vodka, hibiscus tea, Hum liquor, and agave nectar, shaken and then poured over freshly diced pineapple, mango, orange, and ginger ale. As if that is not enough, it is then topped off with red wine, and then garnished with orange and fresh basil leaf. My complements to the bartender because he was able to hide the alcohol rather well. It was a good thing that it was not summer and I was not thirsty like someone who had been crawling through a desert without any water. I was rather fine sitting, but when I stood after the meal, that was when I was then aware of how sleep-inducing the punch was. It was a wise idea for me to have started off with food prior to having the punch come to the table. I would have otherwise sang, babbled, drooled, and been on some video that would have become an embarassing viral sensation on the Internet.

The final dish in my personal degustation was chicken tikka. Having forgotten to order a side of rice with it, I had a plate of chicken in tandoori spices, roasted peppers, and onions. This dish indeed had a grill preparation to it, as chicken tikka comes in a gravy. The chicken tikka at Bombay Spice came with a cilantro raita that I think would have been perfect if the chicken dish had been incredibly spicy. There would then have been a balance to keep the tongue from feeling as though a burning ember had been placed upon it. After a few dips of the chicken morsels in the raita, I then opted to finish the dish as-is. I also was considering ordering some of the chickpea ceviche for take-away.

Chicken Tikka

Bombay Spice Grill & Wine is one of those restaurants that I think would be a good introduction to someone who wants to ease into Indian dining, but still has a soft palate. The food is definitely tempered for the American palate and, as they say, when in Rome. During the lunch hour, the bartender doubled as a server and there was one other server. It may have been the timing when I went that the restaurant was not teeming with customers the way you see some restaurants after five o’clock and throughout the weekend. The servers were not inundated and the dining patrons were able to enjoy their meals without feeling neglected. As for prices, it is becoming increasingly difficult for me to say what is too much, what is too little, and what is just about right. There is no Goldilocks assessment that I can apply. The bill was not more than I expected, but I will agree that I paid for what I got and that did not mean emptying my wallet. Before I left, I asked myself what I would have done during my Mod Squad days. The answer was to order the ceviche for take-away. That is exactly what I did. And then I went home and watched an old episode of the Mod Squad.

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