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Review Sat Jun 12 2010

Cumin Brings the Tastes of Nepal and India to Wicker Park

cumintandoorisampler.jpgWicker Park is a neighborhood dense with restaurants but short on cuisines from South Asia. It was therefore with much anticipation that I recently visited Cumin, which opened last month in the heart of Hipsterdom. With an open, rectangular space, elegant in the simplicity of its decor, this new eatery offers an extensive menu of traditional Nepalese and Indian fare.

We focused much of our meal on the Nepalese section of the menu given the relative rarity of this cuisine in Chicago. Had I eaten Cumin's Chicken Momo, or steamed dumplings, as they usually are--as inexpensive street food in Nepal or Tibet--I might have been perfectly satisfied. But as an appetizer at a white-tablecloth restaurant, the momo were plump but too heavy, enveloped in dough that was too thick and had a reheated, rubbery texture.

Gorkhali Khasi, a rustic bone-in goat stew, heralded on Cumin's menu as the "quintessential festive Nepalese dish" lacked flare, distinction and substantial goat but not parsley for garnish. Parvate Aalu Tama Ra Bodi, potatoes, bamboo shoots and black eyed peas cooked in Nepalese spices, proved inoffensive and again raised the question of context. Had I sampled this dish from a steam table at a bargain buffet lunch on Devon Avenue or during a late-night stop at a cabby joint anywhere in town, it would have made more of an impression than as a $12 dinner entree in a gussied-up space on a bustling stretch of Milwaukee Avenue.

The Indian dishes we sampled were no more remarkable. A tandoori sampler, the Cumin Tandoori Collage, arrived at our table in a sizzling cast iron boat masted with a carrot stick and green pepper ring. The chicken, lamb and shrimp were conservatively spiced and neither dry nor succulent. Paneer Kulchha, naan with house-made cottage cheese, was served warm but barely filled.

Fortunately for Cumin, it has no serious competition given the cuisines it showcases, in a neighborhood that is a destination hot enough for all of the mediocre restaurants located therein.

Cumin Restaurant, 1414 N. Milwaukee Ave., 773-342-1414

 
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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

The State of Food Writing

By Brandy Gonsoulin

In 2009, food blogging, social media and Yelp were gaining popularity, and America's revered gastronomic magazine Gourmet shuttered after 68 years in business. Former Cook's Illustrated editor-in-chief Chris Kimball followed with an editorial, stating that "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds...
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Drive-Thru is the food and drink section of Gapers Block, covering the city's vibrant dining, drinking and cooking scene. More...
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