From its Uptown location to its modern menu, Marigold is not at all your standard Indian restaurant. When India-born owner Sandeep Malhotra wanted to open a restaurant in Chicago, he brought his family's cooking techniques and spices to the table but asked executive chef Monica Riley, of Hopleaf, Meritage and Treat, to bring her experience in designing menus and executing mouth-watering dishes. Now that Riley is gone, her former sous-chef Alan Giles carries on the torch. The result is a menu that's bursting with Indian flavors as well as ingredients that are typically more American, in a colorful, inviting space.
With almost all dishes priced between $7-$19, the Marigold menu is divided into an equal number of firsts, second and thirds. Large, flaky samosas, stuffed with spiced potatoes and peas, compete for attention with melon chaat, a sweet salad of seasonal melons, lime juice and tangy masala for appetizers.
The duck leg dum is a popular entree, served with tomato chutney and green beans that have been coated with mustard seeds and stir-fried in a kadhai (Indian wok). On a recent visit, the masala scallops, grilled and dusted with garam masala and served with asparagus and shallots, had all the spicy familiarity of Indian cooking with a new, fresh flavor that left us scraping our plates.
If you're looking for something a little lighter, or to take home, consider one of the naanwiches ($7.95-$9.95), with combos like chicken tikka and lamb vindaloo wrapped in fresh naan bread and served with pappadum chips. There are also curry bowl samplers, featuring smaller portions of Marigold's house-made curries, for $6.95-$7.95 each.
The deep red walls, narrow dining room and peek-a-boo partitions make for a surprisingly intimate meal, with minimal wall decorations to distract you from the flavors on-hand. While you're dining, enjoy a drink from the full bar, which boasts a hand-picked wine list guaranteed to suit Indian spices. By the time the check arrives, all thoughts of Devon will have vanished.
Average cost: $10-$20
Centerstage Reviewer: Kate Rockwood