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Indulging in Indian

The chicken curry is luscious blend boneless chicken cooked Indian spices creamy almond-cashew curry sauce. | John J. Kim ~

The chicken curry is a luscious blend of boneless chicken cooked in Indian spices in a creamy almond-cashew curry sauce. | John J. Kim ~ Sun-Times

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cumin ★★1/2

1414 N. Milwaukee; (773) 342-1414; www.cumin-chicago.com

Hours: lunch buffet 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. Dinner served daily (except for Tuesday) starting at 5 p.m.

Prices: Lunch buffet weekdays $11; weekends $12. Appetizers $4-$8; entrees $12-$15; desserts, $4

Wheels: street; wheelchair accessible

In a bite: Pristine, modern and nicely upbeat. The clientele is on the thirty-and fortysomething side, but my 70-something neighbor fit right in and has adopted Cumin as one of his favorite Indian restaurants. Cumin would be an excellent choice for anyone on a vegetarian diet. Service is efficient and knowledgeable (mostly) about some of the more exotic dishes. Good for children.

KEY:

★★★★ Extraordinary;

★★★ Excellent;

★★ Very Good;

★ Good;

Zero stars: Poor

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Updated: December 9, 2010 12:59PM



My prediction for the year ahead (read more of my predictions in my “best of the year” column on Dec. 31) is that Indian cooking will be hot, hot. And Cumin, a relatively new restaurant on North Milwaukee Avenue, just might be the paradigm for a new approach to this undersung cuisine.

Cumin’s menu is an interesting read. A dozen or more dishes are listed as “Modern Nepalese” (think Himalayas). On the “Gateway to India” section of the menu the choices go on and on, so lovers of Indian food (including me) get to choose from those seasoned fritters known as pakora (vegetable, chicken and shrimp versions) then head on into dishes like chicken curry and chicken sahi kor, which is boneless chicken cooked in Indian spices along with a creamy almond-cashew curry sauce. The menu notes this dish as being a “royal indulgence, which indeed it is. And more. The Cumin menu is a veritable stew of choices ­— dishes that incorporate chicken, lamb, vegetables and rice.

One of the hallmarks of any Indian restaurant is its breads (flatbread/roti), and Cumin rises to the occasion with no fewer than a dozen choices that are plucked out of the tandoor. On the simple side there is a basic naan, which is excellent. But a more interesting experience would include naan stuffed with chiles and Indian spices.

One of the Nepalese dishes ­— an appetizer — that had me enthralled was “goat chhoela.” Presented on a rectangular platter (along with a chewra, a style of beaten rice) was a rubble of boneless goat meat that had been anointed with Nepalese spices and herbs (the most common being coriander, cumin, ginger, garlic, chiles, black pepper) that brought every element of the taste spectrum — sweet, salty, sour, bitter — into play. Excellent dish.

Vegetarian dishes abound in Indian cooking, so for the veg-heads I can highly recommend a Nepalese entree that is made up of potatoes and green beans sauteed with tomatoes and onions (and spices) called aalu ra simi.

On the “Gateway to India” part of the menu the choices go on and on and on, so lovers of Indian food (and you can count me as one of them) get to choose from those seasoned fritters known as pakora (vegetable, chicken and shrimp versions) and on through to chicken curry or my favorite chicken dish sahi korma : boneless chicken cooked in Indian spices and creamy almond-cashew curry sauce. Indeed, this was a chicken dish that covered a spectrum of exciting and delicious flavors (the curry sauce one of the best I’ve had).

What else pleased my palate at Cumin? More than I can write about here. But the cumin rice (laced with cumin seeds) flavored with cardamom and clove was a dish that I could eat often.

One of the better ways to enjoy a cross section of the menu (or if you are not familiar with Indian cooking and what to order) is to order the “Monsoon Wedding Platter” for two. Vegetarian ($35) or nonvegetarian ($38), which features tandoori chicken, chicken tikka, boti kebab (boneless lamb) , dal makhani (lentils) lamb curry, naan, matar pulau (basmati rice), raaita (yougurt with mint) and kheer (rice pudding).

And to wind things up? The kheer, an elegant version of rice pudding (pistachios, raisins), would be a good choice. Or the ultimate palate cleanser would be kulfi (ice cream). Pistachio and mango were the choices.



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