Cumin: A Mélange of Indian and Nepalese Flavors

Neighborhood: Wicker Park

Vegetarian Options Rating: ★★★★★

Pescatarian Options Rating: ★★★★

Affordability: ★★★1/2

Ambience: ★★★★

Service: ★★★

Food Quality: ★★★★

Overall Rating: ★★★★

Indian food is one of my favorite types of cuisines so I am always in search of delicious Indian food in the West part of Chicago since Devon is a hike.  I’ve been to Cumin a few times and it’s never disappointing.  I like that there is a lot of space here and it has a romantic, intimate ambience.  The service is decent and they are great with the water refills.  I felt a little rushed when they were taking plates away but the overall service was decent.   I like having a more “upscale” option for Indian cuisine.

Samosa Chaat

I appreciated that they give you a complementary order of poppadom (crispy, fried lentil wafers) served with a mint and tamarind chutney.  It was crispy and plentiful!  We started with an order of the Samosa Chaat and it was very delicious!  Basically, the chaat part consisted of boiled chickpeas, a little raita, and chilled tamarind-mint chutney served over crispy, warm, flavorful samosas.  It was a rainbow of colors and flavors!  There was just a really interesting and a unique combination of flavors.

Palak Paneer

For our entrees, we ordered the Palak Paneer and Baingan Bartha.  Their portions were generous and filling.  The palak paneer was tasty, had thick spinach and paneer, and a great texture.  I would have liked for the sauce to be more flavorful/spicy but this tasted good overall.  It was a creamier version of palak paneer than what’s served at some other Indian restaurants in the area.

Baingan Bartha

The Baingan Bartha was my favorite.  It had minced, roasted eggplant with tomatoes, onions, ginger, and a creamy but not thick sauce.  The eggplant tasted fresh and the ginger complemented the eggplant flavor very well.  The spices were blended perfectly with the vegetables making it a medium-spicy flavored dish.  Everything tasted very robust and it was perfectly seasoned.  This definitely stood out for me.

Garlic Naan

We did need some carbs to soak up the sauces so we ordered garlic naan and basmati rice.  I love garlic naan and always end up getting it at Indian restaurants.  I would have liked if the naan had more garlic but that’s just my preference because I love garlic.

Overall, this was a great dining experience and I look forward to the next time I am here and can try their other dishes.  Cumin is pricier than what you would find on Devon Avenue but if you don’t want to venture all the way up there and like a more relaxing environment, then it’s worth it to try Cumin.  I’d like to try their Nepalese items but I just love Indian food so much that I always get distracted.

Pub Royale: Eclectic Indian Cuisine

Neighborhood: Wicker Park

Vegetarian Options Rating: ★★★★★

Pescatarian Options Rating: ★★★★

Affordability: ★★★

Ambience: ★★★★★

Service: ★★★★

Food Quality: ★★★★★

Overall Rating: ★★★★★

Pub Royale is a true favorite of mine as someone who loves Indian food but enjoys their creative approach to it.  They have amazing brunch and dinner and have delivered excellent food consistently.  I first had an issue with the whole British Pub with Indian food theme given the context of British colonization and I still think it’s a questionable theme.  The ambience is really delightful though and the food/drinks are stellar.  They have a unique aesthetic and the lighting is perfect for a Friday night with friends or a date.  The cocktails are affordable for Chicago (around $9) and are absolutely refreshing.

Butter paneer on the left, garlic naan in the middle, mostly eaten gobi Manchurian on the right, and palak paneer on the bottom right.

Their Gobi Manchurian is heavenly with a sweet and sour flavor that is well-balanced.  It is one of the best Gobi’s I have had in the city.  I love the sweet and sour balance and they are generous with the sauce.  I am also a big fan of their butter paneer.  It’s sweeter than the traditional one but it tastes delicious and there is a generous portion of paneer dispersed with peppers.  The paneer is kind of minced up throughout the sauce and they serve it with delicious paratha bread on the side.

Avocado paratha and Alu Ko Achar

Their curry mussels are stellar as well. I want to drink the coconut curry sauce out of the bowl.  It’s just a perfect balance of flavors and it’s so well seasoned.  I have also had their eggplant curry and it is very unique.  There are fried shallots on top and the eggplant is served in chunks over rice.  The sauce is absolutely delicious, it’s a nice balance of tomato and curry.  The basmati rice is also made well and is served on the bottom of the eggplant curry to soak up the sauce.  But it’s not drowning in rice so you still get that amazing sauce.

Sweet paneer over naan (no longer on the menu) and avocado paratha

This is also a must for brunch!  Their avocado paratha is a spectacular secret.  The avocado is drizzled with chili oil and is a huge portion for brunch.  I have also tried their disco fries (which are no longer on the menu) and they were phenomenal.  There was squash in there with paneer and an amazing tomato-butter sauce.  Their fries by themselves are delicious too and are served with a tasty aioli.  And please have their bloody mary cocktail because it is one of the best Bloody Marys I have ever had!  Just wow! It’s spicy but not too intense for someone that is accustomed to spices.

The Spice Room: A Complex and Dynamic Bite of India

Neighborhood: Logan Square

Vegetarian Options Rating: ★★★★★

Pescatarian Options Rating: ★★★★★

Affordability: ★★★★

Ambience: ★★★★

Service: ★★★★★

 Food Quality: ★★★★★

Overall Rating: ★★★★★

Spice Room has become my new favorite neighborhood Indian spot.  I still love Rangoli of course.  But Logan Square needed an Indian restaurant badly in a sea of many “New American” spots (Logan Square has a lot of hip, American spots but the Asian food is lacking).  Spice Room finally graced the Logan Square restaurant scene in the spring of 2017.  It’s a small, quaint restaurant with club music, pretty decorations and lights, and a very attentive staff.  The service is consistently friendly, quick, and on top of things.  The older gentleman is always excellent with those water refills, which is necessary if you are sensitive to spice.

Veggie Samosas

Considering that Spice Room is an Indian restaurant, it is quite the haven for vegetarians.  They have a special vegetarian appetizer section and a vegetarian entrée section making it easy to know what part of the menu is safe.  At this point I have had their Veggie Samosas, Kurkure Bhindi (fried okra), and Gobi Manchurian (fried cauliflower) from their vegetarian appetizer options.  They have such a diverse selection of vegetarian appetizers and some unique items you don’t see at every Indian restaurant.  Their veggie samosas are crispy and sooo fresh!  The ginger flavor was really prominent.  The chutneys were very fresh and it was affordable being $4 total for two large samosas.  The  Kurkure Bhindi was also really flavorful and well-seasoned but could have been a bit more moist.  Their Gobi Manchurian was a perfect balance of tangy-spice and umami flavors while the breading added that touch of guilty decadence to an otherwise healthy vegetable.  The cilantro-scallion garnish added a refreshing edge to a dish with heavy flavors.


Gobi Manchurian

My favorite entrées here are the Vegetarian Tikka Masala, Paneer Butter Masala, Dal Makhani, and Okra Masala.  I have also had the Chana Masala, Mutter Paneer and Malai Kofta.  These tend to be a bit milder spice-wise, which is why I prefer the other dishes more.  But everything I have listed still is delightful.  The Vegetarian Tikka Masala and Paneer Butter Masala both have these exquisite tomato sauces that I cannot get enough of.  I could bathe in them.  There is such a complexity to the sauce and they are perfectly spiced.  The vegetarian tikka masala has vegetables like carrots, potatoes, broccoli whereas the paneer butter masala has firm chunks of paneer, onions, peppers and is creamier.


Paneer Butter Masala

Maybe paneer isn’t your thing and you want something more protein heavy.  The Dal Makhani is also another delicious favorite of mine.  I really like their take on the Dal.  Instead of just using lentils, they included kidney beans and the sauce was more tomato based than what I am used to.  I really love it, yet it is distinct from the tomato sauce that the paneer was served in.  It was also very spicy as we sometimes order it with extra spice, but that did not take away from the flavor.  If you don’t like spicy food don’t order it with extra spice as it already comes with a decent amount of spice.  It makes me happy that they can really step it up though with the spice.

Dal Makhani

Another mouthwatering dish was the Okra Masala aka Bhindi Masala.  It was also prepared in a unique way as it had a smokiness to it that I was enamored with.  The masala spices, onions, okra, and tomatoes blended seamlessly with one another and this dish serves as a really nice complement to the heavier, creamy tomato sauces.  I’ve never had smokey okra masala before and I cannot wait to experience it again.

Mutter Paneer (left) and Veggie Tikka Masala (right)
Okra Masala (left) and Chana Masala (right)

But what about the naan?!…You might be wondering about the naan since that is pretty much a necessary part of eating out at an Indian restaurant.  I can’t eat Indian food without a side of garlic naan, which is always scrumptious.  The garlic is generously applied on the naan and it is crispy and not too heavy.  They cut them up into smaller pieces so you’re not as tempted to eat the whole thing.

Garlic Naan

Maybe you don’t want to eat too much naan for health reasons so you can of course use rice to soak up these flavors.  All of the entrées come with rice, which is really nice considering that you have to pay extra at other places sometimes.  It’s also BYOB adding to the nice affordable edge of Spice Room even though it’s more expensive than what you will find on Devon.  If you’re here in the winter, it can get cold when the door opens so I would just keep your coat on if you’re someone who is always cold like myself.  Other than being cold, Spice Room provides a pleasant, uniquely unpretentious environment to eat mouthwateringly delicious Indian food in Logan Square.