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Is the best Indian food in Chicago from Pakistan - Sabri Nehari

Vital Information | Nov 15, 200311:20 PM

Our slightly less reclusive friend, Zim, is desperately trying to prepare me for my upcoming role as an expert on the food of the Indian-Pakistan sub-continent. He has taught me that for many years, India did not really have a restaurant tradition, and that the first restaurants were geared towards hotel tourists and served a slightly translated version of palace or mogul cooking. This version of mogul cooking has been replicated at various places around town, India Garden, Klay Oven, Tiffin. Believe me, these places can serves some very good food, but all one has to do is peruse the vegetables at Fresh Fruit on da' bomb (Devon) or even the frozen vegetable section at Patel Brothers, to see that they are barely scratching the surface of Indian food. What I really enjoy is a place that seems deeply rooted in home cooking, Sabri Nehari. At Sabri, even the tandoori chicken comes in a puddle of grease, and I mean that as a sincere complement.

This is the food of the Muslim northwest and it featurs practically none of those vegetables sold across the street. This is meat country, meat and breads to sop up the gravy. According to Zim, tandoor food in India is never home cooking, and that it is very common to get tandoor food and breads at a shop to supplement the house made dishes. At Sabri, from the tandoor side, we got the chicken boti, chunks of boneless chicken and naan bread. From the home cooking side, we got three stews, the name-sake dish, nehari, fronter chicken and maybe lamb, maybe goat, mabye mutton, in a brown gravy, rich from yoghurt. We also got fresh griddled parantha and a parantha stuffed with potatoes and something green (Zim?). We also got two servings of the snack food, samosas. Here a very crisp version with ground beef instead of peas/potatoes. All rich, spciy and terrific tasting.

I think everyone at out table had different favorites. Mine remains the nehari. A horribly ugly dish of beef shank completeley submerged in a thick, shiny, brown sauce. The flavors of this dish come at you in a varity of directions, sometimes you will taste some heat, other times something almost sweet, but no two tastes are quite the same. The bowl with all the gravy, could really feed about ten.

For dessert we got the kheer, the rice pudding. Sabri grinds their rice almost into a powder (sweet laab?) and then takes a heavy hand with the spice drawer. Both my mom and I did not take to the frequent cardamon seeds, but I had a better ability to overcome them. One of the chowhounditas did not care at all, and could have eaten a second bowl.

Service was excellent, straddling perfectly, the line between wanting you to like a new food without being overly solicitious. For all the talk of secret menu's, Sabri's is extremely user friendly, with color pictures of most of the dishes. The room itself, while not posh, shows a bit of decoration. A real plus on da' bomb.

2511 W. Devon Ave
(773) 743-6200

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