Upscale Indian in Uptown, South American Heat, and Small Plates for a Big Cuisine | Restaurant Review | Chicago Reader

Upscale Indian in Uptown, South American Heat, and Small Plates for a Big Cuisine 

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Marigold

4832 N. Broadway

773-293-4653

We were 15 minutes late for our reservation--blame the Red Line. Nevertheless, we were cheerily greeted by our hostess, who bouncily ushered us to a table for one of the most pleasant dining experiences I've had in months. MARIGOLD, the new upscale Indian restaurant just up the block from the Green Mill, is a family affair: co-owner Sandeep Malhotra and his wife, Laurel, did much of the work designing and rehabbing the low-lit, jewel-toned space; Sandeep's mother, Balbir, a Delhi native, consulted on the menu with chef Monica Riley, late of another Indian-hybrid venture, Treat. The collaboration pays off in dishes like grilled scallops dusted with garam masala, served with tender asparagus and sprinkled with marigold blossoms. The vegetarian dahi kebab salad was equally eye-opening: pristine microgreens paired with a warm, peppercorn-encrusted yogurt cheese in a garlicky orange-coriander vinaigrette and garnished with pistachio bits and slices of lush fig. Lamb vindaloo--a huge, meaty shank ("Here's your stegosaurus leg," said our server) that to my palate could have borne more spice--was the only plate that slightly disappointed, but a side of three fresh house-made chutneys made up for it, as did the dark horse of the meal, a meltingly tender and perfectly spiced tandoori-style chicken. Marigold offers specialty cocktails and a wine list chosen to complement Indian food; when we expressed skepticism about a suggested gewurtztraminer, our server surprised us with tastings of three other candidates, out of which we chose a light-bodied pinot noir. The restaurant has a friendly, neighborhood vibe: "Looks like we ordered the same things you did," a fellow at the adjoining banquette exclaimed to us. "How was it?" he asked. "Excellent, but here--you must try some of these chutneys." --Kate Schmidt

Rios d'Sudamerica

2010 W. Armitage

773-276-0170

Mostly Peruvian but showing some Brazilian and Argentinean heat, the menu at Rios d'Sudamerica spills over with so much promise it's tough to move beyond appetizers. We settled on causa con escabeche de camaron, an ethereally sour layered dish of potatoes, pickled shrimp, avocado, and chiles. Sole seviche came with big, toothsome kernels of hominy; traditional parihuela is a soup of scallops, calamari, and assorted other sea creatures in a pungent tomato-based broth. There's a mind-boggling range of entrees, some--like lomo saltado al pisco, tenderloin sauteed in soy and Peruvian brandy--reflecting an Asian influence. Responding, perhaps, to Chicago's mania for grilled South American meats, there are porterhouses and rib eyes. But you might want to go with rabbit--marinated, rubbed with spices, and moister than yer average thumper. Or aji de gallina, Peru's effort to make chicken breast interesting by pulling it, then soaking it in a sauce of hot pepper, cheese, and roasted walnuts. The dining room at Rios d'Sudamerica is ambitiously capacious, with comfy chairs and gigantic murals, and the restaurant's currently what they call "ultra BYOB": you bring the liquor, they'll mix the fancy drinks (beer and wine carry a $2.50 corkage fee). --David Hammond

Zocalo

358 W. Ontario

312-302-9977

Can we all agree that the martini-glass-as-serving-piece thing is so over? I admit that's a minor peeve, but most of my complaints about Zocalo, the new Mexican restaurant in the former Chilpancingo space, are of the nitpicky variety. Owners (and cousins) Edgar and Marcos Castaneda--who between them have done time at various Latino restaurants around town as well as at Lalo's, the chain founded by Edgar's father--have chosen a small-plates menu, a perfect vehicle for highlighting the many regional cuisines of Mexico. Yucatan-style pork, served with blue corn tortillas, was stewed until tender and amazingly sweet, while a sauce with pasilla chiles and mescal gave beef tips an earthy, molelike kick. A broth of ancho chiles and Negro Modelo added a similarly pungent note to steamed clams and mussels. However, the tomatillo-and-poblano-pepper broth in our seviche--sweet tuna with mango and avocado dished up in that martini glass--was overwhelmed by citrus flavors. The menu also offers larger "platos fuertos" for those who prefer a more traditional dining experience (or don't like to share). A chocolate-cake-and-cheesecake dessert was notable for its almost savory quality--an original spin on what could have been a pedestrian sweet. The Castanedas have warmed up the massive space with wood accents, rustic decor, and, most important, attentive and friendly servers. --Heather Kenny

Other recent openings

BB's, 22 E. Hubbard, 312-755-0007

Bombon Americano, 1000 N. Clark, 312-787-7717

La Cantina Grill, 1911 S. Michigan, 312-842-1911

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/A. Jackson.

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