Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Hema's Kitchen

I had heard much about the ethnic mecca of Devon. A trip was in order. I should've researched exactly where on Devon all the Indian restaurants were though because I ended up walking a long way from the nearest Red Line stop (Granville). But, that is neither here nor there.

I chose Hema's at random simply because it seemed authentic and on a gut level, it reminded me of other Indian restaurants I had enjoyed. That was it. The fact that it was empty at 1:30pm didn't keep me away nor did the bird who pooped on my ear before entering.

The menu listed typical Indian dishes with an interesting Light Fare category and I settled on two things: vegetable samosas ($3) and haryali chicken ($12).

The steaming hot samosas - flaky homemade pastries stuffed with potatoes, green peas, and coriander - were perfectly flaky and crisp and nicely browned. Their insides were well spiced and they matched up in very interesting ways with the two accompanying sauces. The green chili sauce had a medium spiciness and a bitter aftertaste while the melted-cherry-slurpee colored sweet sauce had an awesome tamarind-based flavor. I wouldn't recommend combining the sauces on a single bite of samosa and I found that switching back and forth between them struck the ideal balance.

When the giant portion of glistening naan got dropped off at my table with the haryali chicken, I couldn't've been happier. I had the choice of naan or rice when I ordered the chicken dish and I was so glad I went with the naan. It was delicate, a bit crisp, and warm and buttery - it practically melted in your mouth. And the chicken, which was cooked in ground cilantro, green pepper, yogurt, ginger, garlic, curry leaves, and coconut, showcased rich and complex flavors with small tender chunks of chicken. I appreciated the cilantro on top and how it brought out some of the more subtle spice notes. The gentle heat also proved complimentary; it heightened the flavor without overpowering it.

Hema's Kitchen is a touch expensive and a touch slow, yet still a great place to enjoy Indian food in a big and simple dining room with a very friendly atmosphere.

Back or Forth? I will be going back.

Hema's Kitchen - West Rogers Park - (773)338-1627 - 2439 W. Devon Ave, Chicago, IL 60659 - Public transportation: bus 49B or 84.

Vegetable samosas - $3 for 2
Haryali chicken - $12 (comes with free side of naan or rice)

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