Table Hopping: Exotic flavors of India in Long Grove
The famous Indian appetizer, samosas, crisp turnovers stuffed with potatoes and peas, can also be made with chicken on special order ($5). | Lee A. Litas~For Sun-Times Media
Urban Tandoor Indian Grill & Bar
3970 Route 22, Long Grove
Lunch: 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; Dinner: 5-10 p.m. Monday-Sunday
(847) 438-6700 or see urbantandoor.com
Updated: January 2, 2013 2:26PM
“Our dream was to start a ‘fine-dine,’” said Nidhi Trikha.
Trikha, along with her husband Miki opened Urban Tandoor Indian Grill & Bar in Long Grove last April. “We want this to be a destination restaurant,” she added.
Their dream took off some years ago. But because the two budding entrepreneurs had no previous experience in the restaurant business “whatsoever” they decided to start small. They had begun by launching an Indian spice store in Vernon Hills, and over five years expanded it to include an “Indian street food stand.”
Finally feeling seasoned enough themselves, the Trikhas chose an exclusive setting inside Long Grove’s lush woods for their entre into the world of fine cuisine. That decision, Nidhi says, was calculated.
“Everyone said ‘oh it’s so out of the way, it’s out in the boonies,’ but we didn’t take it that way. We want people to come here just because they want to come here,” she said.
Of course, the cuisine is Indian but the focus, say the Trikhas, is the whole community. The idea was, said Trikha, “to make people aware that there are spices out there beyond salt and pepper.”
To that end, Urban Tandoor’s executive chef Nadeem Rahamat and sous chef Francisco Garcia are charged with creating a bounty of northern Indian delicacies spiced with exotic flavors and scents of turmeric, cardamom, cumin, star anise and cloves.
Prices at for the various curries and dishes range from $2-$22 and guests are welcomed with a plate of pappadam (Indian “cracker”) made of lentil flour, and an array of chutneys made from tamarind, cilantro and mint, or the spicy chopped onion chutney to whet their appetites.
Chef Rahamat makes the traditional Indian cheese for their reshmi paneer tikka in-house. Subtly-spiced and grilled inside the tandoor oven with onions and bell peppers, the filling appetizer has the consistency of tofu and is a fun, comfort food. ($8).
A good vegetarian option is the Gobi Manchurian made of cauliflower florets flash-fried and tossed in Manchurian hot, red sauce ($6). The dish can be made with meat. Try the Chicken 65, a fiery, red stir-fried version seasoned with mustard seeds and curry leaves ($8).
The must-tries are the delicious pancharatni dal, made of a mixture of five different lentils cooked with tomatoes and onions, and tempered with chilies, garlic and cumin ($11). And the jhinga til tinka is not only fun to say, it’s a tasty treat featuring jumbo shrimp enveloped in crunchy sesame seeds and drizzled with a savory cilantro-cumin aioli ($9).
For dessert, cool off your taste buds with mango or pistachio kulfi, a traditional Indian ice cream Urban Tandoor makes from scratch ($4); or try the succulent deep-fried gulab jaman — condensed milk dumplings soaked in rose water ($4).
“It’s like any other fine-dine, not just Indian. It’s classy, it’s chic, it’s good, it’s tasty. It’s the whole package,” said Trikha.