Whether in New York, New Delhi or here in Chicago, chef Sujan Sarkar seeks to bring the spirit of India to every meal he prepares – plus a little something extra.
Take, for example, an egg curry at his new gourmet restaurant in River North, Indian. A poached egg – replaced by the traditional soft-boiled – nestles in a buttery orange sauce; plain, peas and crispy garlic embedded in the depths of the curry. The little extra comes in the form of a geometric crown, a polygonal pancake made from buckwheat, inviting customers to crack into the dish with a bit of fantasy.
“For more than eight years, I’ve been cooking my version of Indian food,” Sarkar said. “It’s the backbone of what I do.”
Chicagoans may already be familiar with Sarkar’s inventive take on cuisine, which he brought to the city in 2019 with Rooh, a progressive Indian restaurant in the West Loop. But at Indian (217 W. Huron St.), he wants to set the bar even higher. Its six-course tasting menus ($90, with a vegetarian option and $60 wine pairing available) blend French techniques with the deep flavors of Sarkar’s native land in an eye-catching way.
While the restaurant was launched in late September, the recent addition of a seasonal a la carte menu features caviar service and dishes such as butter chicken and Xec Xec, a traditional Goan curry with octopus . The names of the cocktails trace Sarkar’s own culinary journey, from Kolkata, based on Indian single malt whiskey infused with fresh ginger and roasted mango; at the Chicago, which mixes toasted sesame-infused Japanese shochu with mashed butternut squash and Garrett Popcorn caramel syrup.
Although Sarkar has spread his culinary skills across continents, “it’s a great city to start something that’s never been done before,” he said.
“When you open a fine dining restaurant, you have to be 100% confident that it will work,” Sarkar said. “I’m convinced this is the best place to open a restaurant, right here, not in New York or San Francisco.”
Sarkar’s early work in prestigious kitchens in London, Delhi and Mumbai earned him major accolades, including the Times of India’s Chef of the Year award. From there, he opened Baar Baar in New York and Rooh in San Francisco before setting his sights on Chicago.
The Chicago outpost of Rooh, from where Sarkar left to open Indian, opened in 2019 as the first Indian restaurant on Randolph Street in almost a decade. Former Tribune reviewer Phil Vettel gave Rooh three out of four stars, praising Sarkar’s “masterful touch with nuanced sauces” and “modernist spirit”.
Despite several restaurants offering progressive Indian dishes, Sarkar said Indiana stands out from his other restaurants because of the combination of nuanced flavors and an elegant atmosphere.
Indiana’s pastel pink banquettes and plush beige chairs can accommodate up to 85 guests in the main dining room and 14 guests in a private dining room. Both areas are different shades of green with brass accents.
Indian is open Tuesday to Thursday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Sarkar said he’s sure the combination of service, ambience and varied menu will turn new customers into regulars in no time.
“When they come out, believe me, they will come out with a big smile on their face,” Sarkar said.
217 Huron Street West, 312-291-9427, indianchicago.com
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