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

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

Bismillah, Let Him Go

Bismillah

Every time I go back to London, I return to America with my pores exhaling curry, cumin, and other spices found in Indian food. London has a large Indian population and with that comes the best Indian food outside of India. Chicago doesn’t fall too far behind in having a plethora of restaurants representative of the flavours of India. I exude curry since I am constantly in any one of the Indian cafes on Devon Street. If you are a diligent foodist like me, you will manage to discover some fooderies that are not on any main stretch or within sniffing distance. For example, with traffic being incredibly congested in a section of the North Side — in Edgewater to be exact — I had to snake my way down a side street to avoid sitting still. And what to my surprise should I spy at 6301 N. Ridge Avenue but a hole-in-the-wall by the name of Bismillah. It had to have been serendipity because I was listening to “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen at the very same time I spotted the restaurant. Imagine that.

Vegetable Samosas

Vegetable Samosas

In true hole-in-the-wall fashion, Bismillah will not win any awards for interior decoration. And if you go to the restaurant for aesthetics, you may be too caught up in cosmetics to enjoy the good food that Bismillah serves. While at the counter, I scanned the one menu that was available and placed my order. I was not going to waste my time playing like a curious eater while fighting the temptation to jump behind the counter and start attacking the tasty food that I could see being cooked in the open kitchen. I ordered two vegetable samosas and chicken boti. The two fist-size samosas came with a mint sauce. I mashed up the samosa, poured a nice amount of the mint sauce on them, and handled my business. I smiled. When the skewered, boneless pieces of chicken that looked and tasted like tandoori chicken arrived at the table with basmati rice and a small salad, I was then ready for devouring my main dish. The chicken popped with each bite, an explosion of flavour, a revelation of having something several notches past delectable. It was so good that I exclaimed, “In the name of God,” or bismillah for those in the know. If I continue to eat at all these ethnic eateries, I will become fluent in more than the short list of languages that I speak. When I was done, I had a chai in the traditional manner of an after-supper drink.

Chicken Boti

Chicken Boti

Bismillah is a cash-only restaurant. Yes, many restaurants accept MasterCard, Visa, Discover, and American Express. The prices are incredibly reasonable for the quality and the quantity that you receive. I should warn you that the portions are substantial. And if you are accustomed to going to restaurants that deliver your order in the speed that you get your food when you go to fast food restaurants, every order is prepared on-demand. Nothing is sitting in pots and pans or under heat lamps, so you get everything fresh. Devon Street where? This off-the-path find was worthy of the discovery. There is something to be said for traffic congestion in Chicago and things that you stumble upon when you are trying to circumvent sitting behind the wheel without moving. Bismillah is one of those discoveries that pleases the appetite. And in “Bohemian Rhapsody” when Queen asks the question, “Bismillah, will you let him go,” picture me smashing the record and declaring, “Bismillah, never let me go! Bring me some more chai.”

Bismillah Restaurant on Urbanspoon Bismillah Restaurant on Foodio54

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

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.

Bombay Spice on Urbanspoon

Snacking on Saturday

Finally a Saturday that was not botched due to rain and thunderstorms. Granted it was piping hot outside, the last thing I wanted to do was turn on my stove for any unnecessary reason. So I decided that I would enjoy outdoors via a bike ride. And then a brilliant idea came to mind — Snacking on Saturday. It was off to some restaurant or a series of restaurants for some street food. A whole day of food discovery without being fancy in attire for a formal sit-down meal would work perfectly for my chronic appetite.

Plain Hummus

I rode to the subway station and carried my bicycle on the train with me for the first pass. I wanted to return to Oak Park, Illinois, for a quick breakfast. Instead of waffles, scrambled eggs, grits — which I would take being set on fire before eating, bacon, and all the traditional American fare, I arrived at Oak Park and biked to Jerusalem Cafe, located at 1010 Lake Street. I had been to Jerusalem Cafe for lunch and for dinner, so there was a comfort stepping outside of my breakfast comfort and going with something as zany — to most — as some hummus. Plain and served with pita, this was just the pick-me-up that I needed to get started for the day. Usually hummus is doctored up to the point where the spices can be rather overpowering rather than complementary. Hummus all by itself is a splendid kick to the taste buds. With it being hot, I opted to have iced tea prepared Mediterranean style — with a hint of cardamom. Satisfaction, I say.

Tandoori Chicken Sandwich

I biked back to the train and caught it back into Chicago proper. Back at my Logan Square stop, I biked north into the Irving Park neighbourhood. In keeping with something from the Mediterranean/North African part of the world, Zebda was my next destination. I had made the trek up to 4344 N. Elston Avenue several months ago and was satisfied thoroughly. I had even ordered delivery since because they never fail to prepare something that has my appetite screaming, Yes! Yes! Yes! Instead of having a large lunch, I ordered a tandoori chicken sandwich. Succulent chicken, salad, all topped with a mint yogurt sauce made for a tasty treat of delightfulness. I sat at one of the two tables and engaged the cafe staff and a few passing Algerians about other Algerian eateries in Chicago — and outside of Chicago for those who have familiars in other parts of the world.

Red Velvet Whoopee Pie

Nothing came to mind for my next stop, so I had a leisure bike ride with no destination in mind. With the heat bearing down on me, I did have a notion to get some water to hydrate myself. I stopped at a non-descriptive coffee house and had two bottles of water and a red velvet cake whoopee pie. Since red velvet cake and red velvet cupcakes are all the rage, there was no way that I was going to pass up on sampling the dessert that needed to be snatched from the dessert case and handled with care. I savoured that little bit of love and sat for a nice spell reading a novel on my Kindle while letting the water settle so that it would not feel like my belly had the ocean sloshing around in it.

Samosa with Spicy Chutney

By the time I had finished at the coffee house it was still relatively early. On my way home, I passed down a street with some Caribbean men and women working an inviting grill. True to my Caribbean roots, I pulled up and asked what they had. One item that was a winner was doubles — a sandwich of flatbread with curried chickpeas and topped with a tamarind chutney. As soon as the woman had said that they had doubles, I knew they were from Trinidad and Tobago. Common sense should have told me to go straight home without entertaining any more food, but they had doubles and I was doubled over on my bicycle for the rest of the ride home. I was a happy man, but filled to capacity.

Coconut Shrimp  with Spicy Plum Sauce

I spent a few hours at home relaxing as the temperatures seemed to drop slightly enough to eliminate the feeling of baking. Dinner was on my mind, but I wanted to keep in line with having street food versus the ubiquitous table meal. Two spots came to mind. One was a certain hole-in-the-wall called Rajun cajun. I had been there numerous times. 1459 E. 53rd Street in Hyde Park was a regular spot for me and the first leg of my eating pleasure this evening. Instead of biking, I rode the subway into the city and then transferred to the express bus to go into Hyde Park. At Rajun Cajun I ordered a half dozen samosas with spicy chutney. There was no need for me to stuff myself senselessly, so I had one samosa while catching up with the owner, his wife, and his brother in-law.

Thai Custard

Not to borrow trouble, I settled on one final restaurant for snacks after I left Rajun Cajun. Thai 55 at 1607 E. 57th Street was it. One of my great friends is the owner and we had not had the opportunity, as of late, to catch up and discuss culture, politics, religion, and path forwards. Considering he is the only person I can discuss the first three topics without arguments or debates, it was a must that I pay him a visit. Much to my surprise, his brother and his sister in-law were there instead, having come from Barberry Thai on the North Side. I had coconut shrimp with a spicy plum sauce and Thai custard. Love. Love. Love. I shall have to catch up with my friend before he returns to Thailand permanently. Then again, I am one to board a plane to any international destination with appeal.

Overall, my little excursion in having snack food only was rather fun and exciting. I need to figure out where I should set the threshold to tell myself stop because having a food addiction seems to override common sense and then I experience misery from over-indulgence. The pain is only temporary and I relish in it after all is said and done. And because I had so much enjoyment on this pass, I shall have to plan another Saturday of snacking. But I think I shall have to take the bus to a neighbourhood and go about a scavenger hunt for edible street food. I simply cannot entertain Biking-for-Bites every Saturday. Haha.

Thai 55th  Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Flavour Explosion — Mt. Everest Restaurant

Mt Everest RestaurantIt dawned on me today that the jeans I had struggled unsuccessfully to get into had a 32-inch waist, so I tossed them aside and settled for a pair of jeans with a 34-inch waist. Well, that did some good since I burst the seams at the seat of those while I was bending over to tie my shoes. I have now burst the seat in three pairs of jeans since I began my weight gain regime. I guess I should really be more serious about capping my weight gain at 205 pounds because the 36-inch-waist jeans are fitting rather nicely without a belt and I am having to replace my wardrobe, but that may mean I will have to cut back on my restaurant enjoyment. No, no way, I cannot have that. Food is still my lover.

It was a cold night in Chicago — “No, really?” you ask — and an adventurous restaurant friend and I decided to warm up over plates of Nepali food at Mt. Everest Restaurant at 618 Church Street in Evanston, Illinois. We would certainly warm up with heat from the restaurant and the spices would help even more. Located in downtown Evanston, Mt. Everest Restaurant has a storefront façade, but then becomes an expansive eatery once you enter. Courteous wait staff make sure you are thoroughly satisfied before you leave.

Samosas and Momo Chicken

Samosas and Momo Chicken

We started with two swruwats — the word for appetizers in Nepali. One was a plate of vegetarian samosas, which were flaky pastries stuffed with potatoes, green peas, herbs, and spices. The other appetizer was a plate of momo chicken. This was minced chicken mixed with Nepali spices, steamed inside wheat bread and served with Nepali aachar. I have a rule that if the appetizers are good enough to make you want to have a smoke, and I do not smoke, the rest of the dinner is certain to be outstanding. Mt. Everest Restaurant exceeded my expectations.

The good thing about eating at the ethnic restaurants is that they serve the food family style. When I say family style, I do not merely mean the family eats together. Think of Thanksgiving when food comes to the table and everyone serves themselves — as well as uninvited guests that other knucklehead family members feel should be present. I find myself eating family style more with my friends, but we are all immigrants or first generation Americans who grew up eating from a common pot. As is the norm, my friend and I ordered three entrées family style: palungo ko saag, kukhura ko maasu, and dal makhani.

The palungo ko saag was fresh garden spinach cooked with chopped tomato, onion, garlic, ginger, and Himalayan spices. The kukhura ko maasu was chicken cooked in typical Nepali village style with local herbs and spices. The daal makhani were black lentils simmered until tender and tempered with ginger, garlic, tomatoes, herbs and spices. Served with rice, aloo paratha, and garlic naan, it was hard to walk out of the restaurant with any kind of disappointment. I did have a concern about falling asleep on public transportation and missing my stop. I was thankful it was cold enough to keep me awake while I waited for the train, though.

Palungo Ko Saag, Kukhura Ko Maasu, Daal Makhani

Palungo Ko Saag, Kukhura Ko Maasu, Daal Makhani

Normally, we would opt for some dessert after dinner, but the entrées were too filling. I had already reached the point where my eyelids were getting heavy and my speech had begun to slur. That meant I could not pack in any more food. We decided to order cups of chai. You cannot go wrong with a good cup of chai and Mt. Everest Restaurant definitely did not serve up any of that store-bought stuff from the carton.

By now, you probably already know that Mt. Everest Restaurant is on my recommended list. The prices of the food are not as exorbitant as I would expect for a restaurant that serves large portions, enough to induce sleeping. You had better believe I am going back and I would even go back while it is cold outside. Then again, my food addiction always has me running up in some restaurant regardless of how cold it is or how much snow we have on the ground, so I guess weather conditions are moot. Go! Go to Mt. Everest You will not walk away unhappy, but you will be sleepy after eating all of the food. That is a given.

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