Mango Pickle, Edgewater Indian

Mango Pickle

With ongoing growth in Chicago, neighbourhoods like Edgewater are becoming hubs for a lot of cultural cuisine. There is influence from the Vietnamese community just to the South in Uptown. There are several authentic Thai restaurants, Ethiopian restaurants, a nearby Nigerian restaurant, sushi bars, American cafes, and a dusting of Indian restaurants. Mango Pickle at 5842 N. Broadway Street was my latest jaunt for a sampling of something representative from afar.

Smoky Negroni

Smoky Negroni

Touted as a cafe, Mango Pickle is a spacious restaurant that serves Sunday brunch and dinner Wednesdays through Saturdays. For my first visit, I went for Sunday brunch. I started with a Smoky Negroni since you can never go wrong with a negroni. The bartender mixed a great brunch cocktail that was neither heavy-handed with the alcohol nor too light that it was watery. To get a good sampling of offerings, I started with chicken soup, which came in a deep plate with tender chicken and root vegetables over a curry gravy. Although I was expecting the landing to arrive in a cup or a bowl, it was still a flavourful dish that I would have again.

Chicken Soup

Chicken Soup

The second brunch landing was a plate of carrot halwa with French toast. Topped with pecans and drizzled with a light syrup, this was a rather light offering considering the toast had the consistency of fluffy, scrambled eggs, rather than grilled bread. The carrot halwa was the item in the dish that stood out as representative of something in Indian dining. With the natural sweetness of the halwa, it was a nice accompaniment to the toast.

Carrot Halwa and French Toast

Carrot Halwa and French Toast

For the third brunch landing, I had bun maska with homemade jam and accompanied it with a cup of masala chai. This was the first time I had ever eaten this Maharashtrian favourite. Dusted with powdered sugar, the bun maska was warm, right from the oven, buttered, and outstanding with the jams. As to the masala chai, Mango Pickle needs a walk-up window where one can order the chai for take-away.

Bun Maska & Chai

Bun Maska & Chai

Recognizing that the brunch seemingly had an Indian influence to American breakfast, I returned a few days later for a tasting of the dinner offerings. Very much like during Sunday brunch, the restaurant was crowded and full of energy. I was full of anticipation.

Chai with Bourbon and Somrus

Chai with Bourbon and Somrus

I started with a cup of masala chai that came with a small vial of bourbon and another small vial of Somrus Indian liqueur. Being a fan of whiskey, scotch, and bourbon, there were no complaints while enjoying the bourbon in part with the chai. Where I was completely won over was with the Somrus Indian liqueur. Having gotten a taste of the liqueur at a media event in December 2016, I was quick to make a reminder to myself to seek out a bottle of it for enjoyment at home.

As usual, I opted for a few landings so I could have a good idea of what Mango Pickle had for the dinner crowd. I started with a lamb slider that came open-faced atop naan and accented with a drizzle of kasundi mustard. Not a large appetizer, but certainly one that will awake the taste buds, I recommend this as a starter.

Lamb Slider

Lamb Slider

The second landing was baigan bharta, a traditional creamed eggplant dish in Indian cuisine. Spicy the way I had requested it, this was a very satisfying vegetarian option. This dish came with root vegetables and was topped with papadum. One thing I noticed with the inclusion of root vegetables (i.e., beets and sweet potatoes) is a hint of Eastern European flare sneaking into certain dishes. It works well here, for sure.

Baigan Bharta

Baigan Bharta

The final landing was still in keeping with vegetarian options. It was chana masala. This dish had a heavier ginger base than I have had before at any Indian restaurants domestically or abroad. I ordered basmati rice with the chana masala that had herbs and two small dollops of ghee added. Fantastic. Looking back, I think naan would have tempered the ginger a bit, but the ginger was actually good for digestion given how much I had ordered.

Chana Masala

Chana Masala

Since I often spend a lot of time in Edgewater visiting with friends, I never paid much attention to Mango Pickle on the landscape. So, I can’t say that it is a new addition to Edgewater. It is, however, a welcomed one, I’m sure. The service during Sunday brunch was superb. And during my return for dinner, the server recognized me as “the photographer who sat at the high-top.” That alone was enough to prove consistency in the service. And for the food, I’m won over completely. Even with the faint hint of Eastern European showing up in the ingredients, the restaurant serves some delicious Indian cuisine still. You should add Mango Pickle to your “Must Go Here” list.

Mango Pickle Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

SipOfIndia, Tastes Outstanding

Sip Of India Somrus

‘Tis the season to be jolly. Fa la la la-laa, Sip-Of-India. Recently, I went to a pop-up event in Chicago’s Lakeview. It was for the showcase of a new liqueur called Somrus. The evening featured some of most delectable India dishes — daal makhani with basmati rice, onion pakoras, chicken tikka masala on naan, saag paneer on naan, a variety of spices, and a pistachio cake that I can only say is the Indian equivalent of Mexican tres leches cake. For whoever the chef was, I would be a constant customer at her restaurant.

Daal Makhani Onion Pakoras

Chicken Tikka Masala
Saag Paneer

Libations Somrus Gifts

The main showcase at the pop-up was the Somrus liqueur, which is available at Binny’s, Whole Foods, Costco, and Mariano’s. If you are a fan of the likes of Irish crème, think crème liqueur with Indian spices in it. This makes for outstanding spirits accented with flavours from the East. All at the event got to sample the liqueur with a blend of other spices as well as in teas.

The hosts provided explanations for exactly where one may purchase the spirits, mentioning Binny’s, Mariano’s, Whole Foods, and Costco as a few of the locations carrying Somrus. I must say that while Indian food is perhaps my most favourite cuisine, it is pure heaven having Somrus as libations along with it. As soon as the chef opens a restaurant, I’m making reservations. And if it’s BYOB, I’m bringing Somrus.

Cha, Cha, Cha, Chiya Chai

Chiya ChaiFor years I have wanted an Indian, Pakistani, or Nepalese restaurant to open in Logan Square, if not close by. And by happenstance, I walk past Chiya Chai at 2770 N. Milwaukee Avenue. I had no idea the section of Milwaukee Avenue close to Diversey Avenue was going through such a revitalization, quite rapidly as of late, seeing so many new establishments on the landscape.

Upon entry, you are inside a spacious cafe with lots of natural light, high ceilings, and plenty of seating. The cafe is fast casual, so you order at the counter and then take a seat. For starters, the service is great. The restaurant is relatively new, so I hope the service continues to be good. The beauty of the cafe having an open plan is it removes the feeling of being closed in. But it is the food that is the winner.

Masala Fries, Balti Pie, Creamy Masala Chicken, Masala Chai

Masala Fries, Balti Pie, Masala Chicken, Chai

I’ve had the balti pie, creamy masala chicken, masala fries, regular chai, and coconut chai. There is often a hint of food not being particularly fresh when the restaurant has a fast casual component. That’s not the case at Chiya Chai. The biggest indicator was the flakiness to the balti pie, as was the same I noticed in the masala chicken pie I ordered a few days later. And to make it even better, the food is spicy. Spicy Indian, Pakistani, or Nepalese food is the best to me.

Chiya Chai has an outstanding selection of chai. For those who may want to wean themselves from coffee, you can’t go wrong with chai. Selections ranging from regular, to spicy, to coconut, to a variety of other flavours will be certain to return. I know I’m glad I don’t have to trek back to Devon Street in Rogers Park for Indian, Pakistani, or Nepalese food anymore.

Chiya Chai Café Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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

Shan Restaurant & Grocery Store

Shan Restaurant

Years ago some friends had told me about an Indian restaurant in Chicago’s Near North neighbourhood where all the cab drivers congregated. I had followed up on their recommendation to see how the restaurant fared and if I had two words to describe the food they would be “culinary crack.” We’re not talking Indian food for midwest tourists. We’re talking spicy Indian food that raises heat from your scalp. As luck would have it, that restaurant closed. Sigh. But while puttering around Uptown, I passed by a restaurant with cabs in parking lot fashion out front. Shan Restaurant & Grocery at 5060 N. Sheridan Road was where I found another location for some “culinary crack.”

Daal Masoor

Daal Masoor

I’d had a rather filling breakfast earlier in the day, so ordered entrées only. My most addictive dish is butter chicken, so that was definitely one main dish I wanted. Not quite as creamy as butter chicken I have had at sit-down Indian restaurants, there was still the spicy flavour that made this my go-to dish when I have Indian food. The other entrée was daal masoor. Instead of brown lentils, these were yellow lentils, spicy the way Indian food should be enjoyed, and now my favourite vegetarian option. With basmati rice and parantha, this lunch left me considering making Shan Restaurant & Grocery my favourite Indian haunt. And I can’t believe I ate all of it, given I was gluttenous during breakfast.

Parantha

Parantha

From brief discussion with the server, the restaurant had a bit of an expansion. There is a nice dining area where you’re not sitting on top of other diners. There is nothing appealing about the decor, but if you’re like me, you’ll spend more time looking down at your plate so you won’t really care. I never went into the small grocery store section, but I made a note to do so in the future. However, there is a strong cabbie gathering that frequents the restaurant and I understand why. It seems that a big hint as to whether food has serious authenticity to it is not only tied to the cultural representation enjoying the menu items, but also the large number of cab drivers partaking of the food. Hmm. I think I shall go back while hungry, do some grocery shopping, and then sit for a spell of some curry dish to fuel my “culinary crack” addiction.

Murgh Makhani

Murgh Makhani

Shan Restaurant & Grocery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tandoor Char House — Indian Goes Barbecue

Tandoor Char House

During one of my days off for my birthday earlier this month, I did a fair share of casual strolling through one of the neighbourhoods to the east of my neighbourhood. Lincoln Park is known for quite a bit of activity and offers a lot of restaurants, cafes, boutiques, and novelty shops for pedestrians. Much like a lot of areas in Chicago, there are some establishments that you may never notice or you may pass and simply never give a second glance. Tandoor Char House at 2652 N. Halsted Street is one of those places that rang true for me, given I spent most of my strolling on Halsted Street in Greektown.

Salad

Salad

For my first visit, I craved Indian-specific dishes. The craving was more of a need for pandering to a food addiction rather than merely wanting some spicy Indian food on my palate. I didn’t waste any time looking at the menu. I rattled off two dishes that are common on all Indian menus — chana masala and chicken tikka masala.

Chana Masala

Chana Masala

Having had Indian food without it being spicy a few times as of late, I requested that my dishes come blooming with pepper. The temperatures outside were moderately chilly, so I could stand the heat. The chana masala left me happy. And I was quite cultural with my use of the poori to devour the tasty chickpeas. I think this may be my all-time favourite Indian dish and seeing that Tandoor Char House had served up perfection, I ordered some for take-away.

Chicken Tikka Masala

Chicken Tikka Masala

The chicken tikka masala was a splendid accompaniment to the chana masala. Usually chicken tikka masala has a thin yet flavourful gravy. This dish at Tandoor Char House reminded me of chicken makhani, rich in gravy and accented with butter. The tamarind rice that came with it worked wonders on the tongue. There was a mild zest to the rice since it was not regular basmati rice and it also worked well with the chana masala.

Mango Cheesecake

Mango Cheesecake

Truly my appetite was out of control for I had eaten everything. I even used the poori to get the last bit of gravy from the serving dishes. I requested twenty minutes of downtime in preparation for dessert. Kulfi? Gulab jamun? Gajar ka halwa? Kheer? No, I had a slice of mango cheesecake. The thing about the restaurant being empty when I went was that I let my facial expression have a complete go of it without me feeling embarrassed about my version of appreciation. Topped with crushed pistachios and drizzled with mango sauce, this slice of heaven could have Cheesecake Factory scrambling for a tastier cheesecake.


Having eaten too much during my first visit to Tandoor Char House, I decided that it would be wise to return another day for a sampling of something different. First for tempting the palate were tamarind chicken wings. I didn’t see a need to be prim, evident from me using my fingers to pick up the wings and delight myself properly. I even licked my fingers when I was done, and I didn’t blush with shame for being so comfortable.

Tamarind Chicken

Tamarind Chicken

Tandoori dishes are usually something that I skip at Indian restaurants, mostly because I love the curry dishes. Today I opted for tandoori shrimp. Brought to the table on a skillet, you could see the steam rising from the plump shrimp, bell peppers, and onions. This dish came with tamarind rice and a makhani sauce. By the time I had finished devouring this addictive dish, I wondered why I had never succumbed to any tandoori dishes other than the usual complimentary tandoori chicken that most Indian restaurants serve during lunch buffets.

Tandoori Shrimp

Tandoori Shrimp

While I let my tummy settle from the tamarind chicken and tandoori shrimp dish, I had a pakola. This Pakistani drink is a cream soda and the one that I had seemed to have a hint of rose-water in it. So, my three favourite carbonated drinks that also happen to be the only carbonated drinks I will have are piña Jarritos, mandarin Jarritos, and pakola.

Pakola

Pakola

For my finale, I ordered a fusion dish — penne tikka masala with shrimp. I had tried to convince myself not to indulge a curry or a dish with a gravy, but I was rather curious as to how the penne with tikka masala would taste. Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it left me with a smear of gravy at the corner of my lips. Imagine Italian meets Indian. This was a luscious marriage. And served with garlic naan, if I had a microphone, I would have dropped it on the floor as I slowly got up from the table and dragged myself out into the streets.

Penne Tikka Masala with Shrimp

Penne Tikka Masala with Shrimp

Tandoor Char House has a small seating area in a loft section of the restaurant. For my two visits, this is where I sat. However, there looks to be a downstairs section that may be an extension of the restaurant that fills up during busy hours. The table service has been great during my visits and I am surprised when the tab comes and it’s not as hefty as I think it would be. Far be it from me to complain. It only means that I can be certain to keep going back to Tandoor Char House and stuffing myself senselessly without worrying about a pricey bill. Hmm. I’ll let you know after my next visit.

Tandoor Char House on Urbanspoon

Culinary Harmony — Masala Indian & Mediterranean Cuisine

Masala Indian & Mediterranean Cuisine

Nothing like a quick personal holiday away and then returning with an appetite. Food on airplanes do nothing but keep me slightly appeased and I should not complain too much because I will be on another plane towards the end of the week flying away for a another stretch of time. In the meantime, I made it a point to compensate for the lack of tasty morsels while sitting cramped in the economy section for my long flight.

A friend had mentioned an Indian and Thai restaurant in the Uptown neighbourhood, not far from where he lives. Midway through the conversation he said that the restaurant is now Indian and Mediterranean. I understood how Indian and Thai could tie cuisines together — by way of the curry dishes. However, a growling belly leaves very little margin for me to sit around and ponder food for too long. So, I was off to Masala Indian & Mediterranean Cuisine at 1002 W. Argyle Street.

Masala Indian & Mediterranean Collage

Click to see larger photos in Flickr album

Initially, I was going to have entrées only, but something told me to satisfy my appetite completely. I started with a samosa. After having added some tamarind chutney and cilantro chutney, I was tempted to order about six for take-away after the first bite. Lately I have had baked samosas and the pastry was not flaky. The crust to the samosa at Masala Indian & Mediterranean Cuisine was a dream. As to the entrées, I had ordered chicken makhani and palak paneer and requested that they were prepared to be spicy. The chicken makhani was outstanding. I was surprised that the palak paneer was more like paneer bhurji with spinach rather than like saag paneer, which made that entrée that more indulgent.

I didn’t see poori on the menu and had mentioned poori rather passively while ordering. What made me an instant fan of Masala was the server returning to the table and saying that the chef could prepare poori. As thankful as I was, I was not expecting that kind of accommodation. On a scale of 1 to 10, it made the whole experience a 25. So, I used the poori to scoop a good bit of the food and a fork, of course, later the course.

Still being diligent about keeping my sugar intake low, I had kheer and masala chai. Topped with crushed pistachios, the kheer was super. I could have had more than just the bowl of it, but I was already too full. However, I could order quite a bit of it for take-away and enjoy for breakfast, as well as throughout the day and after dinner. The mark of a good chai is the skin that floats atop once it’s brought to the table. That is the indication that you’re not getting chai from a carton that has been heated. The kheer and masala chai were a perfect finale to a fantastic lunch.

Masala Indian & Mediterranean Cuisine does indeed have a Mediterranean menu. The restaurant opened its doors only a few months and the husband and wife team have added a welcomed addition to Uptown. I did not get to sample any of the Mediterranean fare since I did not want to mix cuisines. But being able to say that the Indian portion of the menu is worthy of repeat visits, I shall certainly return one day with a taste for some Mediterranean options. Masala Indian & Mediterranean Cuisine aced three things I always seek when going to restaurants — delicious food, first-rate service, and reasonable prices. Restaurants like this make it hard for me to not be in love with eating constantly.

Masala Indian & Thai Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Paprika Soul With Chutney on the Side

Paprika

One would think that for a man who loves to eat a lot, he would cook his own food most of the time. I use the eyes on my stove to boil water for my tea and the conventional oven to heat food. But to actually pull together some ingredients, concoct a dish, and then cook is something I haven’t done in quite some time. So, I either pick up food to-go on the way home from work or I order delivery from GrubHub. One of my most recent GrubHub orders came from an Indian restaurant that was out of my delivery range, which meant I had to drive to the location to get the food. Well, it was so blooming delicious that I decided to go in for a proper sit-down to blog.

Mango Lassi

Mango Lassi

Papadam and Chutneys

Papadam and Chutneys

Paprika, at 2547 W. Lawrence Avenue, sits in a small strip of stores. It’s a quaint restaurant with a seating area that looks like the repurposed family room in a house. And that whole look and feel create an atmosphere of being at someone’s home, even before the owner welcomes you and tells you to make yourself at home. Having been in business for fifteen years in the Devon Avenue stretch, Paprika moved to Lawrence Avenue a few years ago in the Albany Park neighbourhood that abuts Lincoln Square. At this new location is where they are providing great service and lip-smacking fare.

Samosas

Samosas

As usual, I had a ravenous appetite. There were complimentary papadam and three sauces — tamarind chutney, cilantro chutney, and a spicy paprika sauce — that came to the table. Knowing that I was going to have my dishes spicy, I ordered a mango lassi, which was refreshingly outstanding. For a starter, I ordered vegetable samosas. Mild in flavouring, that was fine since I knew that the entrées I had planned to sample would compensate for the tempered spices in the samosas. I couldn’t quite place if the samosas were baked or if they were lightly deep-fried. Slightly crispy, they had the texture of French beignets — that being crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. I mashed them up, added the sauces, and gobbled them.

Coconut Curry Chicken

Coconut Curry Chicken

There was no buffet, so ordering was indeed off the menu. There were two entrées that I wanted to sample. After waffling between whether to order the butter chicken or the coconut curry chicken, I accepted the owner’s recommendation and ordered the latter. I was expecting the base to be of coconut milk. However, it was curry gravy with shaved coconut. I immediately fell in love with the dish after the first swallow. Unexpected is good when it comes to Indian food.

Rice

Rice

The second entrée was chana aloo. Served with naan, I should have ordered bhatura or poori instead of the naan. Because I had requested to have the chana aloo spicy, I got it the way I love it. I could taste the cumin and cloves. The basmati rice that came with both main dishes also brimmed with a hint of saffron and cloves. Scooped with the chana aloo and scooped with the coconut curry chicken, I was thoroughly pleased that I had made Paprika my lunch spot.

Chana Aloo

Chana Aloo

Well, with a meal consisting of a satisfying appetizer and two entrées well worth writing about, I sat and talked to the owner at length. We chatted about the plethora of Indian restaurants in London, the authenticity of traditional meals in Toronto, and how street food in the alleys of Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, and Calcutta is hands down the best. And somehow conversation segued into what we thought was some of the best dessert to be found. That was when I had some kheer placed in front of me. When people say, “It’s the best [fill in the blank with choice dessert] ever,” there is a tendency to hide giving side eyes and saying to yourself, “Yeah, right.” The kheer at Paprika was so incredible that I would have body slammed a rugby player if he were to have messed with my kheer. Anyone can mix rice, milk, sugar, saffron, cinnamon, raisins, pistachio, and almonds. Not everyone can “get it right” the way Paprika does.

Kheer

Kheer

What many in Chicago are starting to recognize is that like Middle Eastern food, Indian food is gaining a larger presence. Much of that is because of the great taste in the food and the other factor is, well, it simply taste so blooming fantastic. Because of the popularity of Indian dining, there are more restaurants opening their doors in locations away from Devon Avenue. Not that there weren’t choices from which to pick on Devon, but now there are locations opening quite possibly very close to you. If you love Indian fare and going to restaurants where you are made to feel at home, Paprika is definitely one eatery to add to your list. When the owners greets you with, “Swatgatum,” simply respond with, “Shurkria,” take your seat and prepare to ka some mind-blowing Indian goodness.

Paprika on Urbanspoon

Masala Indian & Fusion Cuisine

Masala Indian & Fusion Cuisine

The thing about living in Chicago proper is that having a car is a wasted expense. If you are like me, you take public transportation everywhere because of two factors: a want for avoiding snow during the winter and a loathing of construction epidemic when it’s not snowing. Because I rarely drive, I venture out to the suburbs when I go for a spin. So, after driving the obstacle course of potholes, lane closures, and drivers who don’t use their indicators, I managed to venture out to the West Suburbs. And after a while, it was necessary for me address a certain issue: my growling belly. Ah, but there was an Indian restaurant in sight — Masala Indian and Fusion Cuisine at 801 E. Butterfield Road in Lombard. Talk about serendipity.

Mango Lassi

Mango Lassi

I was in a mode of wanting to deviate just a little, but not completely. Instead of the usual samosas, I ordered aloo papdi chaat. In India, you will find this dished out in some container from any number of street vendors. It is the best. And Masala applies a bit of that tradition to the aloo papdi chaat that they serve. The crispy pastry, chopped potatoes, and onions served with cilantro and tamarind chutneys and yogurt make for an incredible snack. After devouring samosas, papadum, aloo tikka, and pakoras all the time, I had forgotten how much I was a fan of something as simple as chaat — which still has a complex flavour.

Aloo Papdi Chaat

Aloo Papdi Chaat

Aloo Papdi Chaat

Aloo Papdi Chaat

It is rhetorical for me to say that I had an insatiable appetite. I ordered an entree of chicken tikka masala, an entree of chana masala, basmati rice, and bhatura. With the temperatures having a bit of a nip, one way I knew would give me enough heat to deal with the continuing drop in temperatures outside was to get the dishes spicy. Heat rising from my scalp, a ring of fire around my lips, and my belly welcoming each swallow, it was a scene of sheer enjoyment. It helped that I had a mango lassi to quell a bit of the fire from the spiciness. Not only was the chicken tender in the chicken tikka masala, but the gravy had a hint of makhani to it, and I love makhani. The chana masala had a different taste to it. However, it was still an outstanding dish and I used the bhatura for my eating utensil to gobble the spicy chickpeas in gravy.

Chicken Tikka Masala

Chicken Tikka Masala

Chana Masala

Chana Masala

I figured traffic going back towards downtown Chicago would be taxing on my nerves, so I opted to sit and let my food settle. Now, there were a few people who had come into the restaurant and ordered masala chai for take-away. When patrons come to Indian restaurants for chai, it may be a good idea to follow suit. I barely had the cup to my lips when I realized why the chai was so popular. It tasted like what you get down the alleys in India. Well, for those who are daring and will partake of street food and masala chai from street vendors, they know. And if you get a cup of masala Chai from Masala, then you, too, will understand the draw.

Masala Chai

Masala Chai

Masala Indian and Fusion Cuisine is authentically Indian. The exterior can be deceiving, as it looks like the frontispiece for a vacant building, especially if the parking lot is scant with cars. But once you enter, you’re in a Wonderland that caters to palates that enjoy Indian food with all of it flair. They have a buffet daily. I shall return in the near future to partake of the buffet offerings, since you can never go wrong at an Indian buffet. Having eaten from the menu, I will admit that I am indeed a fan of Masala. As to the fusion aspect of their menu, that may be something given in the name for an attraction because this restaurant screams authenticity in some of the best Indian dining. And it begs you to make the drive out to Lombard to find out for yourself the flavour of love.

Masala, Indian & Fusion Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Exhaling Curry, Mughal India

Mughal India Restaurant

Shortly after I joined a company in the West Loop, my colleagues wanted to go to a nearby Indian restaurant. Let me just say that I love Indian food. So, I put my antisocial disposition aside — actually, I’m only antisocial until I’m not longer working with someone — and I joined the troop for lunch. Buffet and mild for the American palates that flooded the restaurant. Slow clap, twice. Well, one thing I have noticed about many of the Indian restaurants very close to the Chicago Loop is that the buffets are indeed for quick bites and incredibly mild. No Indian restaurant should serve its food mild. It MUST come to the table spicy. And I learned later that going back to any of those restaurants for dinner is when you get to see that they can shine with food so full of flavour that you continue to return.

Papadum

Papadum

Well, I returned to Mughal India Restaurant at 560 W. Van Buren Street for some non-work day delight. I had gone back recently for take-away. When I got home and started gobbling my purchases, I knew I had to return for a proper blog. I also made a note to myself that I was not going to indulge any more Indian buffets in the downtown area. It is necessary to go away from The Loop to get authenticity in my Indian buffets. Now, I’m not a stickler for decor since I’m more concerned about flavour than I am about whether the cushions are plush as opposed to crushed velvet. A few whiffs of the air and I was ready to work my fork on some curry dish.

Jeera Aloo

Jeera Aloo

Because Indian food can be heavy, I skipped having an appetizer and decided that I would have two entrée selections. I ordered jeera aloo and fish tikka masala with basmati rice and poori. Ordering the entrées spicy made the dishes that more appetizing. The jeera aloo was bursting with whole cumin seeds and other various spices — no bland potatoes for me.  This was what I considered my “dry” dish since it was not in a gravy. The spices compensated for the absence of sauce. The fish tikka masala was incredible. Boneless fish marinated in yogurt and spices, and then served in a spicy masala gravy. If I was not a seafood lover already, I would have been after indulging this entrée. The rice was good for taming the flame of the spices and the poori, which is my favourite Indian bread along with bhatura, was my eating utensil. Yes, I eat Indian food using bread for my utensils, which may explain why my hands have an everlasting curry smell to them.

Fish Tikka Masala

Fish Tikka Masala

After I had finished the meal, the server did not rush me. So, I took a little time to let the food digest before requesting a masala chai. The beauty of having a masala chai at an Indian restaurant is that you are guaranteed not to have them serve you that concoction from a carton that is all the rage at coffee houses. What murder. What horror. What crime. Oh, and if the masala chai is really good, you won’t require any sweeteners. Such was the case with the masala chai at Mughal India. For all those international coffee commercials that used to come on with the women taking a sip and whimsically imagining all being good and well in the land, imagine someone smacking their cups from their hands and offering them some masala chai. Those women would skyrocket straight to the stars.

Poori

Poori

Now, I can’t say that I will ever return to Mughal India Restaurant for their lunch buffet. They raised the bar with their dinner and Saturday lunches. Oh, let me not forget this. My in-house dining bonanza was on a Saturday afternoon and they served from the menu only. Let’s just say that they curried favour with me in a way that has moved them high up on my list of recommended Indian restaurants. Considering I get to see the Indians in the open kitchen preparing love for the plates, it is authentic in a major way. Mughal India Restaurant will be one of the main reasons why my pores, according to my highschool sweetheart, seems to exhale curry. And I smile.

Masala Chai

Masala Chai

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