Wednesday, June 13, 2012

OMango Indian Restaurant

We recently were hunting for a Radio Shack and ran across OMango Indian restaurant on Rt 59.  We walked in liked the menu and then promptly came back that evening for dinner.  I really like this place.  I love  Indian food.  In fact we had been to Indian Harvest the night before.  But this is different than a classic Indian restaurant.

OMango is a fast food sort of Chaat-type restaurant.  In other words, quicker, street type food.  The other thing is the food is less oily and baked instead of fried.   I need to tell my Indian doctor about this, she might actually approve of it.  "Oh the oil and the white rice are so bad for you" I can hear her telling me about my love of Indian food.

The menu is simple.  They offer wraps and dosas (think Indian quesadillas), curries, tandoori and then sides, snacks items and breads.   They then offer two items (like two wraps) or one item.  So you can figure out how much you want to see.  When we went, Justin, my stepson, had a chicken wrap with marsala sauce, I think.  My wife had paneer makhani and I had a special shrimp vindaloo and dal.  The curries came with nan, white or brown rice, a little salad and a chutney.  We also had the baked samosas.

The samosas were a little dry and need a little more sauce to help it.  Without the typical oil used to make and fry, it needed a little more that way.  However, the taste was great.   I don't know much about the chicken marsala wrap, since Justin never really put it down.  The paneer makhani was very good.  Maybe not as oily/silky as a typical order but very tasty.  The shrimp vindaloo was very nicely spiced and the dal was also very very good.

In the end, we spent around $20 something for dinner.  The night before we spent about $60 for the three of us.   We ate out on the patio.  It may overlook a parking lot, but it was nice and would be better on a summer evening.

We will not give up on traditional Indian food.  I still like Indian Harvest and India House in Oak Brook Terrace.  But some days, when we have a taste for a bit of spice and we are in the Fox Valley area, I would certainly go back.   I also like it because if I'm out alone, I would love to go here and be able to get good Indian food without the fuss of a restaurant.

OMango is not easy to find, but it is next to the Red Lobster just south of the train tracks on Route 59.  Turn west on Meridian Parkway and take the first right (north) on an access road.

The web location and menu can be found  at

Monday, March 5, 2012

Pro food places in Chicago

I have a couple of places in Chicago I love to go to. These are kind of random, but are nice to know about.

The first is an important place to me. Northwest Cutlery. I don't know any place else in the Chicago Metro area that will sharpen a knife like these guys. The grinder at the farmers market doesn't come close. First a well sharpened knife will stay sharper longer and with a steel will be usable a lot longer. Second, a really sharp knife will cut better. Part of why an onion causes tears is that you are crushing the onion instead of cutting it. Listen to the sound your knife makes when it cuts an onion. Northwest Cutlery is at 810 W Lake Street, Chicago. They also sell knives and other kitchen equipment. But be careful. A very sharp knife will cut you before you can feel it. They have a supply of band-aids there. I think knives are $3.50 to sharpen and they will take mail delivery. Their web is at here.

Another neat place is Issacson & Stein Fish Company (800 W Fulton Market) near Northwest Cutlery. If you are looking for the very freshest fish or need a special kind (say a whole Roughy for a special dinner), these are the pros. It is open to the public. It isn't like going to Whole Foods, but if you want the freshest, or want it cut a certain way, this is my go to place. Their web is here.

I was going to mention Edward Don Outlet, but I understand it closed a few years ago. Too bad, it was a great place to look at stuff for restaurants and kitchens. Any more I use Sur la Tabla as an expensive alternative. I wish a place for chefs were around. I guess NW Cutlery has a lot of stuff, but where can you find stuff that makes your meal into an adventure.

If you have an idea of what you think is a great dive into foodie stuff, let me know.

Vivo - Chicago

We were going to a play downtown Chicago on a Friday Night and were looking for somewhere interesting, good and pretty quick. Seems easy in Chicago. Except during Restaurant Week.

Restaurant Week is a contrived bit of city wide advertising to get people to go out on a (probably) cold and blustery week and sample some of Chicago best and better restaurants. It is wildly popular so our first choice was out, and our second and third choices. So my wife asked a friend to recommend something a little farther out of the Loop and he recommended Vivo at 838 West Randolph Street, Chicago. Randolph street used to be the market area and there are still some wholesale places in the area. But slowly they are being pushed out.

Restaurants who are participating in the week usually have a Prix Fixe menu that is usually a little less than the menu, (but actually more than we might pay ordinarily). I don't mind anything that keeps chefs and servers employed.

Vivo is a great Italian restaurant. Kind of a neat little room with one wall slowing being built of wine bottles and lots of open brick. The menu was very good high end Italian. The prix fixe menu was $33 for a three course meal. My wife selected a fish dish as well as a salad and dessert. I only got an entree (again fish for me too). The food was excellent as was the service. The room had a nice warmth to it and with good lighting (except to read the menu) and had a nice romantic feel to it.

So here is the big question, would I go again? Yes, it is a nice after work but a little more dressy kind of place. It would be a great place to take a date. And the other question, would I recommend it to others? Yes, it is a little more foodie than say Cafe Buonaro's in Naperville. The food is a higher caliber, but of course costs more. And my other question, would I take my in-laws? No, although a nice place, it would be lost on them to drive a hour and pay that much.

Valet parking $10 (and use it, there is no parking near and the neighborhood off a few blocks gets rougher). Dress appeared to be business casual on up.

In the end, the meal was about $140 for two with a prix fixe, an entree, three glasses of wine and a coffee. A little high, but it was a date night.

Their details can be found here.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Armands Pizzeria Express - Naperville

In a previous post, I lamented the loss of Pizza Fusion. I would still like a Pizza Fusion to come back to Naperville, but a new place replaced Pizza Fusion and I think it is a winner. Armand's Pizzeria Express is in the shopping center with Dick's and Whole Foods. It is a part of a Chicago area chain with locations in three places in Chicago, Naperville and Plainfield as their "express" locations and full service in Elmhurst and Arlington Heights. The express locations have a simpler menu and more of a fast food feel.

Importantly, how is the pizza. It is a very thin crust pizza with a very good sauce and well topped. The pizza is 'well done' by some standards, but I thought it tasted more like the pizzas I remember as a kid, with a bit of brownness to the cheese etc. With the thin crust, it can come out of the ovens quicker than most so a drop in isn't a bad wait. They also offer pizza by the slice.

Naperville's location has a more take out feel. Paper plates, plastic ware etc. Salads were in take away containers, but hey they were pretty good. They have wine, but no beer as it seems even the full service restaurants only have wine.

It is not fussy or expensive. They got lucky in Naperville with a nice location and setting. I know we are going back.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Distinctive Cork - Closed

It is sad to see what I thought was a good independent restaurant not make it. Distinctive Cork was in Naperville in what has never been a good location, but had some much more going for it. First Scott the owner and chef knew what people wanted. And as a nod to him, he was a damn good cook. His wines were out of this world. The service was very good (for Naperville) and he tried to coax people in with music. He tried to give back to the community by giving up his space to causes.

Sadly, he suffered not from great food, good atmosphere (I hate that space) or great wines, he lost to the economy. When you are independent, it is tough. Those big chains in downtown Naperville can suffer through a bad month by going to their corporate masters and begging or cheapening the food or cutting an assistant assistant manager. Scott couldn't.

As a side note, we hadn't been for a while. Partly because of the economy and frankly the location. I think my wife found the prices a little high for a quick bite and a little underwhelming for a good meal. Also, we aren't eating as much for dinner these days, because well, I need to not eat as much these days. However, I think if he could have survived, we would have went things picked up for everyone.

So I salute you for trying. You were a success. I hope you will want to do this again in some form. You have the chops to run a great place. I have ideas...

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

How a restaurant sours you

My wife and I were in New York recently. She has been a few times without me and just raved about "The Harrison" in TriBeCa. So as part of our anniversary, we decided to go. And it was a disaster.

This is supposed to be a well done restaurant. Not overly famous, not overly fussy. The menu sounded good online. So we got there and were seated. I've complained before about loud restaurants and this was a little loud. It is in a quaint older building and in order to keep some of that old New York charm, I can sacrifice some noise for charm.

We ordered a heart of palm salad to split. The salad was nice and they split it (as any restaurant should do). It was a fine salad, but that isn't saying much.

And then they presented our dinners.

We had ordered the skate wing and trout. The skate was presented on a normal sized oval plate. About 1/2 the plate was covered in a salad (didn't I just have a salad?), the skate took up about 1/4 of the plate and the rest of it was a fancy tartar sauce, a gribiche, which is a tartar sauce with egg, except I didn't see or taste and egg. The poor skate was sort of semi hiding under the salad. My wife had the trout. Now I've never seen trout or any other fish served skin side up. There were three portions of dark skinned fish with a dark sauce (they say it was a sauce perigourdine). This is over a bed of tough and tasteless escarole. Allegedly there was salsify somewhere in the dish, but I don't remember where. And two halves of a cippollini onion. Well cooked, but not the most pleasant to look at.

We ate it and just didn't care for either dish. The trout was cooked (underneath the skin) and the skate was done very well. But the rest of the meal was well boring. It had no appeal to me. My wife was apologizing to me about the meal, saying this isn't what she ever had.

We complained enough that the server came over and we said, this is not good enough for this restaurant. Now we did finish the food (we were hungry! since this was to be our big deal). He did take the entrees off the tab, but we didn't want dessert or coffee, so we left.

We were still hungry, so we went to a place near our hotel and had dessert and a cheese plate.

This is a failure of the executive chef and the owner. One peek at these plates (they still serve the trout) should have told them this is a poorly designed, poorly managed plate. The plate was not visually appealing nor was it satisfying to eat.

Sadly, my wife will probably never go back. It's New York, there are tons of places to eat. But she is now disappointed because it should have been much better than that. And I'm disappointed because it looked like it was a good place, but didn't pull two plates off and we wasted a good meal.

So the morale of this story to eaters and restaurants. We as patrons have a right to a satisfying meal visually, taste-wise and quantity. And the restaurant has a responsibility to try a lot harder than they did. Yes, they comped our meals, but in the end they lost two seats, probably $50 and all they got was this bad review.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Globe Cafe - Evanston

This is a little far afield, but there are moments when a restaurant hits you as something different. On Memorial Day, we took the in-laws up to the north shore area and on our way back found ourselves in Evanston and needing to eat. Checking in with the IPad Oracle on food, we sort of ran across a place next to the Hotel Orrington called the Globe Cafe and Bar. It was a slow time (3ish), but we thought we would take a chance. We were pleasantly surprised.

First reaction is the Globe is a casual dining restaurant. Very open and airy with an outside seating area. Our server was very nice and we knew it was a slow time and therefore restaurant time moves at a different rate. We ordered soft drinks and tea and found the menu has a number of choices that really appealed. My wife and I decided to try three appetizers and split them. We had the fried calamari and shrimp, a spinach and mushroom quesadilla and the fish tacos. First, they were a lot larger than most appetizers. We could not finish them. The fried calamari and shrimp were very good (sorry guys, but the Ram Restaurant in Schaumburg beats everyones). The quesadilla was again very good with a good portobella mushroom and spinach inside. The fish tacos were two small taco salad type cups with grilled tilapia and all the fixing. I love fish tacos and these were handled with a little difference and still felt like it was a fish taco. My in-laws decided to share a 1/2 lb burger. And here is where this place stands out.

Since they wanted to share, they were trying to figure out what to order. The server says, what ever you want how ever you want it. Basically, they made the burger and cut it in half, cut the bun in half and then proceeded to make two different sandwiches.

When we left, we asked to have the apps wrapped. There was a little cocktail sauce left (very little) and the server put it in a to go cup for us. He didn't have to, but most of the meal was based on they didn't have to do what they did.

We won't get to Evanston that often. However, if I needed a casual meal and I was there, I would want to go back. I wish more restaurants near me had this menu and this level of service. I would go about every week.