A bit of authentic India has moved into a space on New Wilke Road in Rolling Meadows. Let the smell of something savory bubbling in the Spice Grill kitchen lead you inside.
Taking over an existing restaurant space, Spice Grill owners have made it their own. It's roomy, but seating is broken up into small sections. The simple lines and modern feel are accented by subdued but festive lights and Indian pictures and paintings. It's sophisticated while still welcoming and inviting.
Spice Grill5540 S. New Wilke Road, Rolling Meadows, (847) 258-3421, spicegrillrm.com
Cuisine: Authentic Indian dishes
Setting: Spacious and modern with some Indian decor
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday; noon to 10 p.m. Saturday; and noon to 9:30 p.m. Sunday. Open for daily lunch buffet
With water and menus, our server brought to the table light, paper-thin crackers fresh baked with coriander seeds in the dough. There were two dipping sauces to choose from, one spicy, one sweet. Delicious without being heavy. The crackers themselves had an earthy bite to them.
I find I have to study a menu when I'm not confident of my choices in a particular cuisine, but I'm adventurous, too. Here, it's better to ask. The staff was very helpful, knowledgeable and friendly.
First, we talked spices. The chef blends his own. They buy in bulk, by the pods and seeds. They grind, mix and measure what they need in-house.
Curry is really anyone's special blend. It can be hot, hot, hot; sweet or tangy. A curry is as individual as the person cooking.
So, we kept open minds and decided to pick one item from almost each of the menu sections.
My friend and I started with Keema Samosa, flaky dumplings stuffed with minced lamb. These were doughy, flaky and savory. They are filling, so splitting an order between two or four people will leave room for your entree.
We chose the Paneer Makani from the vegetable menu, the Mahi-mahi Makani from the traditional section and the Chicken Cafreal from the Goan menu.
Paneer is homemade cottage cheese, and here it's cooked in a creamy tomato broth. The cheese is cut into squares and it puffs up a bit from the steam of the sauce. The spicy sauce is cooled a bit on your palate by the cheese. It's wonderful.
The Mahi-mahi was cooked to perfection and accompanied by a savory but silky tomato puree finished with butter.
We chose the Cafreal dish on the recommendation of our server. It's listed under Authentic Goan and Coastal Flavors on the menu.
Some of the spices used in Goa were brought by Portuguese traders and immigrants over a span of 450 years. The menu reads "Goan and coastal flavors, recipes that mom uses." I like the idea of enjoying comfort food from somewhere else on the planet.
The Chicken Cafreal was cooked with fresh coriander, green chilies and spices. This had a bite of heat, and it grew as we ate. Wonderful. I find when the heat builds, you taste the spice layer used in the recipe.
A large bowl of rice comes to the table for sharing, and it can help to cool off your mouth if the heat is too much.
Talking with our server, we discussed Indian beers vs. wines. We were informed that vineyards are popping up around India and have produced some interesting vintages. But with traditional, spicy fare, I go with beer.
Enjoying an Indian meal wouldn't be right without bread, and Spice Grill offers a whole menu from the well-known Naan to Poori, Aloo Paratha and Onion Kulcha. Each one sounds better than the last. We tried the Keema Naan, bread stuffed with minced lamb. A treat for sure.
The menu is rounded out with a few Indochinese dishes offered with a choice of chicken, lamb, fish or shrimp. Kung Pao, sweet and sour and fried rice, just to name a few.
Desserts are along traditional lines, including sweet, spongy dumplings and saffron-flavored rice pudding. The fried golden brown dough balls served with syrup are Gulab Jamun, and they're delicious.
We went with the Orange Kulfi, pistachio ice cream made from condensed milk and frozen into orange shells. Dig the ice cream out with a spoon or bite into the orange slice for a citrusy, creamy treat. It's beautiful and slightly sweet. Perfect for balancing the meal's flavor palette.
While we were happy with the dishes we picked, I'm ready for a return visit so I can make different choices.
• Restaurant reviews are based on one anonymous visit. The Daily Herald does not publish reviews of restaurants it cannot recommend.