Now that I have embraced Chowhound with the zeal of the recently converted, I decided that the Chowhound slow lane was not for me. If I was to be accepted as a full fledged Chowhound I needed to keep up with the big boys, and the big boys eat brains, more specifically, masala brains at Shan.
In the past I have not had a single positive experience with brains, eating them that is. Cesos tacos were a soft mucus like mess dripping out of my taco like a ten-year-old with a runny nose. Indiana Amish country breakfasts of scrambled eggs and brains were loose and runny on my plate, yielding a viscous combination of textures even a lover of Japanese natto couldn't dig into.
When I started to order brain masala (#25 Mughuz Masala) at Shan this morning I could almost hear my mother in the background....If Jimmy jumps off a bridge, does that mean you have to jump? I guess the answer is yes, I ordered brains, dal, a side of naan and a cup of tea.
Outwardly I was the picture of calm, reading the paper, sipping my tea, ignoring my vibrating cell phone, but inwardly I was quite anxious at the thought of embarrassing myself. I could picture them talking at Shan for years to come, how the large white guy ran from the restaurant babbling like a loony tunes character scared witless by a plate of brain masala. Was I on my way to becoming a subtly ironic cartoon in the Indian version of the New Yorker?
No, or should I say Yes, hummm, confusing, well it was a confusing moment, the brain masala was delicious, yes, delicious. The texture was a bit gelatinous, but not in an unpleasant way, with a subtle flavor of mild curry. The textural effect was soft, yielding, but not unpleasant, with a full rich flavor not unlike sweetbreads. I am focusing on the texture as in the past it was not the taste I disliked, but the texture. The dal side dish, served on the plate with the brains, was a curried mix of garbanzo beans that were both left whole and pureed, and the naan was, well the naan was naan. I should also add that the brain masala itself was very rich and quite filling, I could only eat about half of the offered portion.
I have been going, off and on, to Shan for two or three years and, with each subsequent visit, Shan seems to become cleaner, friendlier (in a very subtle fashion) and more non-Indian accessible, e.g. the menu now has English translations.
When I was leaving I asked the counter man, Shawn, who turned out to be one of the three partners who own Shan, when the kitchen/chef/shift change occurred. Shawn said that they prepare much of the food twice a day, once at 8am and a second time at 3pm. He went on to say that they rarely kept food from one shift to another, much less from day to day and that, dependent on the item, it may be either reheated or made on the spot when ordered.
I seemed to get a bit of conflicting info, Shawn mentioned that the chef goes home after the 8am cooking session and then comes back for the 3pm, but he then went on to say that there is more than one cook, himself included. It is my impression that there is one main chef, but others may do some light cooking and reheating.
Next Chowhound stop, goat consommé at Taqueria Traspasada.
5060-A N. Sheridan Rd
Chicago, IL. 60640
Hours 7am-Midnight 7 days a week