Dining Out: Kama Indian Bistro

October 30, 2011 § Leave a comment

I was somewhat of a late adopter to Indian food.

The first time I actually ate the stuff was at one of the nondescript buffet places up on Devon when I was 24 or so. The girl I was dating at the time was an oh-so-sophisticated Manhattan transplant who’d been eating the stuff since junior high, and she thought what better way for me to meet her parents (even thought it wasn’t that serious) than for us all to go strap on the feedbag Indian-style. I’d always been skeptical, mainly because the first thing I usually thought of when I thought of Indian is the infamous Standard India restaurant on Belmont just east of the Red Line which looks like it absolutely could not pass muster from a city inspector without a little palm-greasin’. But off we went.

Walked into the place and I wasn’t sure what to think. When I finally could think, the first thing I noticed was how mushy everything looked. Brown mush, yellow mush, green mush. “There’s really goat in that stuff?” Everyone else loaded up their plates and went to town, so I did too. Know what? The mush wasn’t bad, and I was hooked. I was even more hooked the next time I went for Indian a couple weeks later when I discovered that much like American grub, there were deep-fried appetizers involved.

Time went by and I chowed down more than my fair share of times at India House for their lunch buffet, Gaylord for weekend dinners and the unknown and underrated Baba’s Village (which I am pretty sure used to be the office for the Union Station parking garage) for takeout. Then along came the Great Exile from city to suburbs and all of a sudden Indian wasn’t so accessible anymore. About a year ago, Kama Indian Bistro opened in downtown LaGrange and both Mrs Ilk and I took notice. Well, “took notice” means it got added to our list of places to try when we had the time. That time finally rolled around this Saturday night.

Kama is in a nice space. Relatively narrow and deep with purple (my favorite, shh don’t tell any0ne) walls and nice lighting, it doesn’t try overly hard. Upon being seated, we were presented with a cocktail menu and their newly revised beer list. Our server made a point of telling us all the syrups, etc for their specialty cocktails were created in-house which is pretty cool. However, what’s not so cool is that they break one of Ilk’s Important Rules, which is that the definition of “martini” is vodka or gin mixed with a tick of vermouth and NOT some froo-froo concoction that gets the martini designation just because it’s served in a martini glass. Beer list is impressive (15 choices, wholly unexpected at a suburban Indian joint) and they also have wines by the glass and bottle (the latter is also something I don’t recall seeing at an Indian place before). I went with a Flying Dog Imperial Gonzo Porter and Mrs Ilk had a very drinkable pinto from South Africa.

For appetizers, we went with (what else but) deep fried goodness. The lamb samosas were HUGE, baseball sized. Meat wasn’t greasy visually but had a slightly greasy feel that did nothing to dampen the great taste. Nice spice. The breading stood up well to the forceful assault from my fork. Plenty of peas mixed in. Also had mushroom pekora, which was absolutely perfect. Fun to look at too – like a nice deep-fried flower. The tamarind sauce served alongside had a nice burn to it, while the cilantro chutney seemed a little out of place because it was so bland.

Main dishes were Yellow Dal and Lamb Roganjosh. I paired mine with a Kingfisher, because I don’t know how well Imperial Porter goes with Indian. Server asked how much spice we wanted in the Dal, and we told them “medium hot” – probably could have gone an octave higher without having to worry about the heat overtaking the great flavor. The lamb was flavorful but definitely could have benefited from a bit more heat. They do have a couple of bhut jolokia entrees and maybe I’ll take a crack at one next time just to press the spice envelope a bit.

Although I left fat and happy, I’m sure that I could have crammed a couple gulab jamun down my gullet if they were offered. If memory serves me correct, I ate them like cereal back 0n that first foray into Indian on Devon way back when.

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