Posts Tagged ‘indian’

Since I cooked a few meals for Yuki’s parents when they were in town I thought it was only fair to cook one for my mom last night before she left this morning. Being a woman who could make a meal out just naan, I thought something with Indian curry would be a good idea. She had requested seafood, so I picked up some salmon. It all came together as the dish you see above.

I made the lentils first. I used about 1/3 cup of cilantro chopped up, 1 inch of ginger minced, 3 garlic cloves minced, 1.5 cups brown lentils rinsed, 2 carrots diced, 2 ribs of celery diced, 5 small red potatoes diced, 1/2 onion diced, 1.5 tablespoons of curry powder, 1 cup of chicken stock, and a 14oz can of diced tomatoes.

I heated my pot up, poured in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil, then threw the ginger and garlic in for about 30 seconds until they became very aromatic. After that I added the onion, carrots, and celery. I let them sweat down for about 5 minutes and then added the potatoes. I didn’t want to cook the potatoes too much to keep them from melting in the chicken stock, so I only stirred them around for a few seconds to coat them with the oil. Then I added the can of tomatoes, curry powder, some salt, and pepper. Once the tomato juice started to boil I poured in the chicken stock. When that started to boil I added the lentils. I let it come back up to, you guessed it, a boil and then covered the pot and turned the heat down to med-low. I let it simmer for about 20 minutes.

While the lentils were simmering I grilled up the salmon and zucchini. I had a 1.5 pound salmon filet (enough for 5 portions since my brother was also here and I needed a piece for Yuki’s lunch today) and 2 large zucchini. I cut up the salmon into equal portions. I sliced the zucchini in half lengthwise and cut them into 2 inch pieces. I drizzled olive oil, salt, and pepper over everything.

I put the zucchini on the grill, cut-side down, over med-high heat for about 5 minutes. This gave it nice grill marks. Then, I moved it to the top rack flipping it over. I put the salmon on the bottom rack, skin-side down, and turned the heat down to medium. I let it cook for about 7 minutes or so. This really gave the skin a nice crisp while leaving the flesh beautifully medium.

When the lentils were done I removed the lid, re-adjusted the seasoning, and stirred in almost all of the cilantro. I plated everything up and then garnished the entire plate with the rest of the cilantro. With 4 clean plates about 30 minutes later I’ll assume dinner was a success.


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Punjabi Bolognese…sounds kind of weird, right? Well, it isn’t, its delicious! Basically, all I did was take a classic Punjabi dish called Masaledar Chholay (spicy tomato sauce with chickpeas) and add a few things, take away some of the heat, and smother some pasta with it. It really worked out well and is a nice change from regular bolognese.

I had already started my prep when I realized that I need to take a photo. So, here are the ingredients all chopped up and ready to go. I had a handful of cilantro that I ripped up at the last minute of cooking, a bunch of rapini chopped up (not an Indian ingredient, but I thought the mustardiness would match real well, I was right of course), 1 medium sweet potato diced, 2 medium carrots diced, 1/2 onion diced, 1 inch of ginger minced, 3 garlic cloves minced, 3/4 pound of ground lamb, 1.5 tablespoons of cumin, 1 tablespoon of garam masala, 1/2 tablespoon of turmeric, 1 14oz can of diced tomatoes, and 1 14oz can of chickpeas.

In a hot pan our poured in 2 tablespoons of olive oil and added the ginger and garlic. I let them go for a minute until the oil was very fragrant. Then, I added the onion and carrots. I let them sweat down for about 5 minutes before adding the lamb. It took the lamb another 5 minutes or so to cook through as I broke it up. Once cooked through I added the spices and mixed them in.

With the meat spiced I poured in the tomatoes along with the juice in the can and let it come up to a slight boil. Then I added the rapini and sweet potato, stirred it all in, covered the pot, turned the heat down to med-low, and let it simmer for about 15 minutes.

After that I added the chickpeas, seasoned with salt and pepper, and let it simmer for another 5 minutes or so. Since I used canned chickpeas I only needed them to heat through.

While the chickpeas were heating up I boiled a mix of regular and wheat spaghetti in salt water according to package instructions. To serve I simply put the noodles in the bottom of a big bowl and ladled some of the Punjabi Bolognese on top. I garnished with the cilantro.

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Yuki used some of her United miles to get a coupon for the Chicago Curry House. I remember a couple of years ago she took me there for their lunch brunch. Featuring Northern Indian and Nepalese food I remember it being pretty good. When she got the coupon we figured that’d get us back down the Printer’s Row for some good Indian, the other night it did just that.

It’s in a very inconspicuous location. On the first floor of an apartment building its entrance is hidden behind brick just off State and 9th. What lies inside though is a very good, but typical, Chicago Indian restaurant. As usual, my phone pics turned out horribly. Deal with it and read on.

When we sat down we were greeted with pappadom and the usual three sauces, cilantro, chutney, and tamarind. I quickly ordered a King Fisher beer and continued perusing the menu, which is quite extensive.

Yuki ordered the Sambar Soup. I light lentil soup with vegetables it was much thinner than what we’re used to. It was very light, but very flavorful.

Our first appetizer was the Vegetarian Samosa. Some of the biggest samosa’s I’ve ever seen! Nice and spicy with whole spices, you can tell these were freshly made samosas.

Next we had the Chicken MoMo, Nepalese-style dumplings. Curry spiced ground chicken with a curry sauce to dip them into. These had some kick to them and were very tasty.

In order to try numerous menu items and ensure lunch the next day (two appetizers helped with that) we decided to get two of their “sampler” entrees. This is the Curry House Vegetable Special Dinner. It comes with Dahl Makhini, Palak Paneer, Aloo Ghobi, Navratam Korma, Chana Masala, Garden Mix Vegetable, Cardamom Rice Pudding, Raita, Naan, and Basmati Rice.

On this sizzling hot platter was the Curry House Non Vegetable Dinner. This contained Tandoori Chicken, Chicken Tikka, Lamb Seekh Kabab, Naan, and Basmati Rice.

It also came with Navratam Korma and Butter Chicken.

The Chicken Tikka and Butter Chicken were two of the best chicken dishes I’ve ever had at an Indian restaurant. The flavors penetrated through all of the meat while the chicken stayed nice and moist in both dishes. Absolutely fantastic chicken. The Palak Paneer was my favorite from the vegetarian dishes. Everything, however, was above average.

The service was nice and the space warm and inviting. Combine that with above average Indian Food and Printer’s Row has a keeper. While Chicago Curry House is a bit of a drive for me I don’t think I would go out of my way for it. If I lived in the neighborhood or ever crave Indian Food while in the South Loop area I will definitely make my way back. It’s a place that should definitely be frequented by its local townies.

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Friday night Yuki and I took advantage of another Groupon we had purchased a while back. Gotta love Groupon, great opportunities to try new places at a discount. This one was for an Ethiopian restaurant we haven’t tried yet, Demera. We love Ethiopian food and had read good things about Demera, so it was one of those things that had to be done.

Apparently we weren’t alone in our love for Ethiopian food. We didn’t have a reservation and when we got there, about 6:30 or so, we were told there was a 15-20 minute wait. No worries, we had just driven all the way up to Lawrence and Broadway, no way were we going to turn back. A few minutes of waiting and the manager came by and said there would be a 35-45 minute wait. Eh? How’d it get longer? It ended up only being about 15 minutes, so I’m glad we stuck it out.

Typically a beer drinker with Ethiopian food I saw that they have house made honey wine. Had to give that a try. Not so sure I’m glad I did. It wasn’t bad, but I wouldn’t say it was good either. Honey fermented with hops. It was like a honeyweiss without the bubbles. Not a big fan of honeyweiss. Oh well, it was tolerable. Next time I’m sticking with beer though.

We started off with the Sambussa Sampler. Basically it’s one each of their sambussas…beef, chicken, tuna, lentils, and spinach. Served with a spicy little chili sauce they were all very good. Simple, but delicious and homemade.

For the main course we had to go with the Messob, traditional communal dining. That way we could sample a bunch of different items instead of each of us ordering 1 dish. Plus, it’s the Ethiopian way to eat. Why eat American-style at an ethnic restaurant? Starting at the top and going clockwise we got the quosta (spinach), ye-shimbra assa (ground chickpeas), michetabish (ground beef), ye-salmon dulet (salmon with homemade cottage cheese), doro wat (chicken and hard-boiled egg in berbere, Ethiopia’s national dish), lega tibs (lamb with rosemary), and a salad in the center. Of course, everything was served on top of a piece of injera with plenty of injera on the side to grip and scoop our food. We couldn’t finish everything, but we expected that. Gotta love Ethiopian leftovers the next day, yet another similarity between Ethiopian food and Indian food (simmered food, communal dining, similar spices, same upset stomach, etc.).

In all honesty, we probably could have finished our dinner, but not only would we have missed out on leftovers, we would have missed out on dessert! We decided to split the hibist volcano. I’ve never had hibist bread before. It’s very much like a thick sweet roll. If it weren’t for the refreshingly cold ice cream on top I don’t know that we could have eaten it all. The spiced lemon sauce was really good as well.

Overall, everything we ate was delicious! Would I call Demera the best Ethiopian food in Chicago? I don’t know about that. Ras Dashen and Abyssinia are right up there as well, I don’t think you can go wrong with any of the three. I think it all depends on what you are looking for. If I were in the mood for doro wat I would go to either Ras Dashen or Abyssinia. If I wanted seafood I’d come to Demera (the salmon was fantastic with the jalapeno and cheese). It’s really a toss-up. I’m sure I’ll be back at all three at some point in my life, and my digestive system will be all the better for it.

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For Meatless Monday last night I made a Dahl, an Indian-style lentil stew. I had a handful of okra left from the farmer’s market this weekend, so I decided that this would be a good way to use them up.

My ingredient list included the okra (cut into 1/2 inch slices), 1/3 cup of red lentils, a 14 oz can of diced tomatoes, one medium onion diced, an inch of ginger, two garlic cloves, and one medium russet potato that I skinned and diced. I also used one cup of water and about a teaspoon of turmeric along with salt and pepper.

Over med-high heat I melted about a tablespoon of ghee and grated the ginger and garlic into it. Once they became fragrant, about 30 seconds or so, I added the onions. Those sautéed for about 5 minutes and then I added the potato. A few minutes later I stirred in the lentils just until they were fully coated with the ghee and then I poured in the water. I let the water come to a boil and then scraped up the garlic and ginger that stuck to the bottom of the pan. Then I added the turmeric, salt, and tomatoes and let that all come to a boil. Once boiling, I turned the heat down to med-low, stirred in the okra, covered the pan, and let it all simmer for about 30 minutes. After that, I added some black pepper and adjusted my salt. A garnish of halved cherry tomatoes and it’s ready to eat.

Besides the okra, I also had a few baby carrots from the farmer’s market that I needed to use up. Even though their skin was purple, the flesh was either orange or yellow. They were so tender and sweet, possibly the best carrots I’ve ever cooked with. I didn’t want to take away from their natural sweetness so I kept it really simple. After skinning them I quartered them length-wise. I drizzled some olive oil all over them, then sprinkled some cumin, salt, and pepper. I put them in the oven at 375 degrees for about 15-20 minutes. To serve, I just layed them on top of a mixed green salad.

As happens more often than not in my kitchen, white rice was served on the side.

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After years of wondering why there was no Indian food in Wicker Park one finally opened up a few months ago at 1414 N Milwaukee, a nice 15 minute walk from my place. It’s called Cumin. They claim to be modern Nepalese/Indian, and while there really isn’t anything modern about it, it was damn tasty!

They have nice paintings of Himalayan villages on the walls and a pretty nice bar. Tables were a little too close together when getting up to leave or go to the bathroom, but were otherwise spaced alright while eating. The two-top tables were too small though. There was barely enough room for our food and didn’t leave us any elbow room. Overall, we weren’t uncomfortable though.

Once we ordered they brought out the pappdom and sauces. The standard tamarind, cilantro, and chutney. The tamarind sauce was excellent! One of the best I’ve ever had.

For an appetizer we got the “true national dish” of Nepal (according to the menu), chicken momo. It’s basically just a regular dumpling filled with seasoned ground chicken. Amongst the seasonings were turmeric, ginger, and cumin. It was delicious! Very simple, very fresh, full of flavor.

We shared two entres along with some Indian rice and some naan. We got lamb keema matar and jhaneko dal. The lamb dish was ground lamb cooked with peas, big slivers of ginger, carrots, onion, and tomato. The dal was a Nepalese lentil dish stewed with onion and cumin. Both dishes were excellent!

The appetizers range from $4-10 while the entres start at $11 and top out at $20 for seafood. They average about $12-14 though, so this restaurant is not overpriced at all. It’s priced in line with a typical Indian restaurant. The quality of food is fantastic as well. The ingredients were all fresh and nicely prepared.

I won’t go as far as saying that Cumin is my new favorite Indian restaurant, because it isn’t. However, having one of its caliber so close is music to my tongue.

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After years of wanting to head up to the far north side of Chicago for some Ethiopian food, I finally got off my ass and checked out Ras Dashen the other night. All I have to say to myself is, “What the hell took me so long?”

I had to start with some Ethiopian coffee, the mother of all beans. They serve fair-trade organic, nice and smooth cup.

For an appetizer Yuki and I ordered some Spinach Sambusas. Lightly fried pastries filled with spinach and dipped into a spiced salsa. Very tasty, not too heavy. Think of them as Ethiopian empanadas or samosas.

Since our friends ordered the Doro Wat (chicken and egg in berbere, Ethiopia’s national dish) we had to get something different. Although, it wasn’t that different at all. We got Yebeg Wat (lamb in berbere) and Doro Alicha (chicken and egg in onions, garlic, ginger, and green peppers). We ordered the Diblik Atkilt and Misser Wat for our sides, our friends got the Misser Salata, I think. You can check out their website for descriptions of the sides. All served on top of Injera with extra on the side.

Those of you not familiar with Ethiopian cuisine, you don’t eat with utensils. The food gets dumped right on the Injera allowing the bread to soak up the sauces and juices. You rip off pieces of the Injera, using it to grab you rip pieces of meat off the bones or piles of lentils, and chow down. It’s absolutely delicious as well as being a fun, communal way to eat.

Berbere is Ethiopia’s most famous sauce. It’s a red pepper sauce with spices like ginger, coriander, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, fenugreek seeds, paprika, onion, and garlic. It’s actually very similar to Indian spices, but it’s definately distinct.

Back to the meal itself, we ordered the rice pudding for dessert. It was quite nice, very mild. There was a date in the middle.

Our friends got Ras Dashen’s famous bread pudding. It’s made with varius nuts, raisins, and tons of flax seeds. It was definitely a winner in my book.

Half-way through our meal a little jazz quartet started to play. They were pretty good. Saxaphone, guitar, bass, and bongos. It wasn’t too loud so conversation was never difficult.

I guess the one disclaimer I have is what I was warned about. Once you have Ethiopian food, no matter how strong-willed you are, you will start to crave it. It was extremely reasonably priced as well for the quality and amount of food served. I have to check out a few other places before I decide just how good Ras Dashen really is, but I will say this, I would definitely go back!

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So, we just started with an idea Yuki had a while back which is to not eat meat at least one day of the week. This is a very difficult concept for me to digest seeing as beef is my favorite vegetable followed closely by lamb. However, after going through the Food, Inc. the movie website I started to get on board with the Meatless Monday thing. Last night was the first installment.

Taking a cue from Indian cooking I decided to do a sort of vegetable curry type of thing. I got some cauliflower, chickpeas, carrots, onions, potatoes, and spinach and threw them together.

I first steamed the potatoes for a few minutes before cutting them into cubes so that the cooking time in the pan would be reduced. I threw some garlic and ginger in hot soy oil for a few minutes. The dumped in the onions and carrots. About 5 minutes or so later I added half of the head of cauliflower broken into small florets. A few minutes later went in the potatoes and some salt. Once everything was heated up I added the sauce I made.

The base of the sauce was a cup of plain yogurt. I added some garam masala and mixed it in. I have absolutely no idea how much. I dumped some in, stirred it around, tasted it, dumped in some more. Just add however much you like. Then I added some finely grated lime rind, a tablespoon or so of soy sauce, a pinch of salt, the juice of one lime, and some pepper.

Once the sauce fully coated all of the veggies I threw in some spinach and turned off the heat. I only wanted the spinach to wilt a little. Then I sprinkled on some sesame seeds.

I served it with some white rice and a hard boiled egg. Since an egg was never a living bird it’s fair game for Meatless Monday’s.

I think it will be hard to cook vegetarian, but I’m up for the task. Tonight I have to do something with the other half of cauliflower and the yogurt. I’ll let you know what I come up with.

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This past Saturday was date night with the wife. I know, Yuki and I are one of those cute couples everyone hates to see. We hold hands and all of that crap. But hey, she’s cute as hell, what am I supposed to do? Anyway, we decided that it was time to catch Slumdog Millionaire. Looking in The Reader I saw that the three closest theaters playing it were the one on E. Illinois downtown, the one on Clark in Lincoln Park, and The Davis Theater on N. Lincoln in Lincoln Square. Not wanting to pay $20 to park while having dinner and eating we headed up to Lincoln Square where I knew there would be free street parking close to the theater. Sorry for not calling you Scotty and Brenna as we parked by your place, but I was on a date.


There are tons of great eats on that strip of Lincoln, but since we were going to see a movie that takes place in India we decided to stop in at Essence of India at 4601 N. Lincoln, right on the NE corner of Lincoln and Wilson.


It’s a nice little restaurant, clean with Indian art hanging on all of the walls. Nothing fancy, but not bare and sterile either. We sat at a four-top near the window and were quite comfortable.


The menu looks like just about any Indian joint in the states. It’s broken down into apps, tandoori items, chicken, lamb, etc. So far everything seemed to be right in line.


We order samosas whenever we eat Indian. I guess it’s kind of like Crab Rangoon for me at Chinese restaurants, I gotta have ‘em. However, I was feeling kind of crazy that night, my friends (sorry, don’t mean to sound like McCain). I don’t know if it was that sexy Japanese woman I was dining with, or something I smoked prior to dinner, but I was definitely feeling a bit antsy, ready to go against the grains of my reality. We didn’t order samosas, instead, are you ready for this? We ordered the Vegetable Pakoras. Mmmmm, am I glad we did!


Fresh vegetables coated in a lentil batter and deep fried into golden bliss. That night’s offerings were potato slices, onions, and cauliflower (a vastly underused vegetable in my humble opinion). The coriander sauce had a shtickle of spice behind it that really kept the deep fried flavors clean going down, and a little spicy going out.


After that we decided to keep dinner simple and shared the Tandoori Chicken and Seekh Kabob. I think the true test of an Americanized Indian restaurant is how well prepared the Tandoori Chicken is. Out of the numerous Chicago contenders I’ve digested, Essence of India’s ranks right up there with the best! It was absolutely cooked to perfection. The outside had that nice almost-caramelized crust while the inside stayed moist and juicy. There was a touch more lemon in their marinade, but I like that, I like that a lot!


The Seekh Kabob was also very good. It didn’t quite rank up there with the best of them like the chicken did, but it was a tasty dish. I love a tasty dish. Very well flavored and also cooked nicely, keeping the meat juice encapsulated. There could have been a few more vegetables on the dish such as grilled peppers, a natural marriage with lamb. Grilled cherry tomatoes also would have been lovely with their little bursts of acid (don’t get too excited Mark, not that kind of acid). However, it was a satisfying dish on the molecular as well as the spiritual level.


The Naan was, well, it was Naan. My mom loves Naan so much she could make a meal out of it all by itself! And she tells us this every time we have Indian food with her.


Service was very attentive without being overbearing. Food came out on cue, water was filled as soon as our glasses became half-empty. The front house is very well run.


My only gripe with Essence of India was the cost of my Mango Lassi. For $3.50 they could have given me twice as much. My narrow Collins glass was so full of ice that there was hardly any Lassi in it. I have a buddy who would never put ice in his cup at self serve machines because he didn’t want to waste room that could be used for drink. Well, I always thought that he was just being stingy (which he is), but I understand his thinking now. I would have much rather forked over $3.50 for Mango Lassi than for a glass of ice.


All in all Essence of India is a better-than-average, typical Americanized Indian restaurant. Food and service are top-notch while the prices are consistent with other Indian joints in Chicago. While I wouldn’t go out of my way for it, I would definitely go back if ever in the mood for Indian while in Lincoln Square. It’s a great place to have in the neighborhood and actually made me jealous that there isn’t any Indian in my neighborhood. Come on Wicker Park restaurateurs, aren’t any of you Indian?

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I went to Vermilion, 10 W. Hubbard, a while back and have to let you all know about the horrible experience I had there as the bitter taste still lingers on (from the night I tried to make her stay. Bob Dylan, “If you see her say hello”, Blood on the Tracks, 1975).


The fact that the vermilion is a highly toxic red dye is really the only thing the people behind the restaurant got correct as my experience there was emotionally toxic. I have yet, to this date, experienced such a poorly run restaurant that served such bland and uninspiring food. Excitement was running high as the concept of fusing Indian and Latin cuisine seems like a homerun to me. Both use similar fruits, coriander, tamarind, chilis, and whatnot. There has to be a ton of possibilities when blending these two, but Vermilion didn’t really fuse anything. It was mostly Indian food, that is, poorly spiced Indian food, with the rare cameo from the chipotle. It wasn’t just the poor attempt at a hip new fusion, Vermilion failed to deliver on all aspects of restaurant dining.


I was with a party of 13 (yeah, I know, the “lucky” number that the superstitious would claim is the reason for my poor experience) for an 8pm reservation on a Friday night. We walked in and I couldn’t believe how boring the interior was. When I think of Indian and Latin cultures I think of vibrant colors and sensuality. Well, they sort of covered the sensuality with some photos of hot women on the walls, but everything was white! White walls, white tablecloths. There were black accents with red napkins and candles. That’s it, no other colors. To me it just looked like your typical minimalist upscale restaurant wannabe hip club. I never got the sense from the décor that this was a spicy place.



The restaurant was pretty full in the dining area while the bar was relatively empty. We went up to the host who said that our table wasn’t quite ready, just a few minutes. Ok, no big deal. Restaurants run behind sometimes, it happens. Might as well grab a cocktail while waiting. Little did I know at the time that later in the evening the cocktail I would want in hand is a Molotov ready to be tossed into that poor excuse of a host’s britches. On top of that, their “specialty” cocktails were mostly putrid! Some of those Indian spices used in cooking should stay in the sauté pan and stay out of the martini glass.



A half hour goes by and it doesn’t look like there’s any table even remotely close to leaving for us to sit down. I go to the host to see what the story is. “It’ll be just a little bit longer, I’m very sorry.” Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s obvious to me at this point that Vermilion has no idea how to book its seatings. 15 minutes late, it happens. 20 minutes late, I can understand some people eat a little slower. Once you hit 30 minutes late on a reservation there’s something wrong. I’m starting to get pissed now. We wait a little longer and order another round of drinks.



15 more minutes go by and no table ready. Now, if you have a reservation and you don’t get seated for 45 minutes it’s up to the manager to come out and smooth the situation over. Buy us a round of drinks, send us a few bites to tide us over….something! Not a thing. The manager didn’t even have the balls to walk his horrible checkered tie wearing self over to us and explain what the problem was. Instead, he kept his lowly host in the line of fire. Poor host. He had no idea the likes of who he was dealing with.



So, now an hour has gone by. I go back to the host and am noticeably upset with him. He tells me, “We’re very busy tonight, we’ll get you a table as soon as we can.” WOW! Did he really just tell this to a customer with a reservation. I know you guys are busy on a Friday night, that’s why we made a RESERVATION! You know, that thing that holds a table for us. I felt like I was in a Seinfeld episode. Furthermore, I’ve worked downtown in busy restaurants, I know what a busy restaurant looks like. A busy restaurant is 3-4 people deep at the bar with people who don’t have reservations waiting for tables. Vermilion didn’t even have a full bar, so there were no walk-ins to contend with. This was just pure and simple bad restaurant management.



I was ready to start yelling out “THERE’S A RAT, THERE’S A RAT”, get out of there and head over to Bin36 where I know I’ll get a seat, good food, and good wine, but everyone else I was with wanted to stay and try what was supposed to be interesting food. 1 to 12, yeah, I’m clearly outnumbered. Since dinner was a business expense and I’m Jewish (Free food baby!) I sucked it up.



Finally, an hour and a half after our reservation time we finally get seated. We’ve already had plenty of time to digest the menu (which would digest much better than the food did) so we were ready to go. We’re sitting, waiting, waiting, waiting. It took another 15 minutes after we sat down for our server to even come by and greet us. This is just ridiculous! He says hi, takes our drink order, and walks away before we can order our food. GET BACK HERE YOU SON OF A BITCH! He comes back and we order our food. We thought it’d be fun to share a bunch of small plates so we could each try a bunch of new flavors. I gotta be honest, I don’t know why they call their small plates Tapas. That’s a pet peeve of mine, when restaurants serve small plates and automatically call them Tapas. Tapas are Spanish appetizers meant to be eaten with drinks at a bar. I have no problem with Tapas restaurants branching out beyond that, but if it’s not Spanish cuisine then don’t call them Tapas! Call them small plates! And don’t give me that whole tapasya BS which in Sanskrit means heat or spiritual suffering. Although, come to think of it, my experience at Vermilion was a spiritual suffering of sorts, so maybe it is accurate after all.



With our orders in we wait some more for our food and drink to show up. About 20 minutes later some of the plates start arriving, but still no drinks. We ordered a bunch of sangria (again, what is it with the Spanish theme here, I thought it was Indian and Latin, not Spanish…and no, the conquistadors pillaging and plundering of Latin America doesn’t make it right) that should take no more than a few minutes to prepare and send out. Furthermore, in fine dining you always serve drinks first. If there are no drinks on the table yet you don’t serve the food.



Here we are with overcooked, rubbery shrimp with mung bean (a southeast Asian ingredient, not Indian or Latin) and daikon (a Japanese ingredient). Mussels in a coconut chili broth that tasted just like Mussels in a coconut broth at any restaurant and was nothing exciting or creative. Artichoke Pakoras, they say it’s Spain’s favorite (again with Spain), that were already starting to discolor due to the lentil batter not covering the entire artichoke (artichokes discolor if left out in open air for too long, how fresh were these artichokes?). Duck Vindaloo that was cooked like chicken and not medium rare like duck should be. Etc, etc, etc.



There was not one saving grace for this meal. The flavors were not fusion at all! The dishes tasted like half-assed Indian food. There was a lot more Spanish influence than Latin. Why can’t people understand the difference between Spanish and Latin? Just because they both speak Spanish doesn’t make them the same. Extremely disappointing.



If I didn’t have a conscience I would have dined and ditched. The fact that we never once got an apology or a comped drink from the manager compounded with the lack of flavor and creativity of the food with some lacksadaisical service thrown in for good measure ensures that I will never ever ever come back to this sorry excuse for an establishment. I wouldn’t even come back for free food! You could pay me to come back, but that’s only because I can be bought.



I can’t comment on dessert because at that point we were all so upset with this place that everyone finally decided to listen to me. We went to Bin36 for dessert and wine, so the entire evening was not all loss.



All in all, I couldn’t wait to process all of those tasteless morsels and pass them through my intestines and into Chicago’s sewer systems, exactly where Vermilion belongs.




(cartoon courtesy of Toothpaste for Dinner)



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