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

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

So Good, Complete Naansense

Naansense

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.

Rice Plate with Vindaloo Chicken and Cucumbers

Rice Plate with Vindaloo Chicken and Cucumbers

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.

Mango Lassi

Mango Lassi

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.

Rice Plate with Naan and Mango Lassi

Rice Plate with Naan and Mango Lassi

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.

Naansense on Urbanspoon

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.

Bombay Wraps on Urbanspoon