Since the Indian restaurant we were originally searching for in Aurora appeared to be swallowed up by the earth, as there was no trace of the address garnered from the yellow pages, we regrouped and journeyed on to Naperville. I wanted sushi, but the wife had her heart set on Indian, so I luckily remember seeing this place out of the corner of my eye on previous travels. Its stuck far back in the corner of a two story strip mall, a rare and interesting form of this often maligned architectural form. Let me only say this about Naperville; its a place people move to who originally settled in Lincoln Park after moving to Chicago from out of town. Homogeneousness. Sorry.
You know how the food at some Indian buffets can be nice and tasty and satisfying but suffers a bit from either sitting too long or not being prepared with as much care as it would be if made in smaller quantities to order. This wasnt that type of food and they do not offer a dinner buffet, only lunch. With that said it was very rewarding and Indian Harvest offers a small selection of South Indian Specialties.
We started with a sour lime drink, consisting of probably only seltzer and a lot of lime juice. Simple and refreshing. For an appetizer we tried to Keema samosa stuffed with well seasoned ground lamb. Freshly prepared and full of meat and spices it was served with the usual yogurt and tamarind dipping sauces. Also on the platter of sauces was a real eye opener of raw mango pickles. Wow! After one quick taste I had to flag down the waiter to find out what they were. Salty, tangy and spicy with a great texture, they were also surrounded by little green orbs looking like peas or capers. I didnt find out what these were. Baby chickpeas maybe?
We ordered an embarrassing amount of food for two people, but wanted to try as much as possible. We went with a Non-Vegetarian Feast for 14.95 which includes one vegetable curry, Saag Paneer aka spinach and cheese, one non vegetarian curry, which was either Roganjosh or the Harvest Lamb Special. It also included assorted tandoori items of half a chicken and some great Seekh Kebab. Basmati rice and naan rounded out the starches.
All of these offering were deftly prepared and I hate to focus on the ubiquitous tandoori chicken, but this was great chicken. Not enhanced by the red food coloring, this was chicken that was just filled with flavor from the surface to the bones. I wish I could make chicken this good. The Seekh Kebab as well was seasoned with an extra spice Ive not encountered before giving it a perfumed or musky flavor, but in the best way possible.
We wanted to try some paratha as naan is always at the forefront of bread offerings. We chose Aloo Paratha stuffed with spiced potatoes and sprinkled with fresh cilantro. Yum good.
Feeling the need to dig a little deeper in the menu and being inspired to try something after the Keralan dinner, we chose an Uttapam or thick pancake of white lentils and rice stuffed with peas tomatoes and onions. It came out looking for lack of a better analogy, about the size, color and thickness of a personal pizza. All similarities to pizza stopped there. Accompanying it was samber, which to my understanding is a yellow lentil, chana dal soup. Either chunks of the uttapam mixed with the samber or the samber poured over the uttapam was a great combo. This samber was one of the few soups Ive had so well spiced with many layers of flavor, I barely noticed the lack of salt.
My only complain about he meal was that I got talked into a dessert of Orange Kulfi. Ice cream made of sweetened condensed milk, orange juice and crushed pistachios and almonds all stuffed into the shell of a hollowed out orange and sliced. It was a nice palate cleanser.
Service was excellent and all our questions were answered with great enthusiasm. This unassuming restaurant really surprised us and my satisfaction was validated even more so when I saw the large professional looking chef step from the kitchen. Always beware of skinny chefs.
1021-23 West Ogden Av.