Their first project together is proving to be a hit in the neighborhood, as it combines lesser-known ingredients and presents them in some very familiar ways.
On its face, Superkhana International looks like other pseudo-hipster Logan Square restaurant, with a quiet corner, a busy bar, a multi-cultural dining room and that twee back patio. Everyone here is eager to try the food from business partners Zeeshan Shah and Yoshi Yamada. Shah’s father is Indian, while Yamada spent significant time studying there.
Their collaboration is “more of a natural evolution and outgrowth of our love of Indian cooking and also of just our experiences as cooks and diners,” said Yamada.
EXTRA COURSE: Steve tries a tiny dessert at Superkhana International in Logan Square
Chickpeas are everywhere in the Chana Chaat. They’re first covered in tangy yogurt and tamarind, then get a crown of cilantro, mint and radishes. Sev and boondi – both based on chickpea flour but seasoned differently – provide crunch, while chat masala gives it that distinctive Indian aroma.
Yamada is half Italian, so a tikka masala, or butter chicken, is embedded in a soft pillow of dough, covered in cheese, then baked into a calzone the size of a football. When it emerges from the oven, it gets a generous brushing of ghee – clarified butter used in many Indian dishes.
“Hits the beautiful parts of eating butter chicken with bread, and sopping up sauce,” said Yamada.
The Bombay Sandwich is really a gussied-up grilled cheese.
“Roasted beets and jalapenos and chat masala and sev and boondi and then we do an amchur ranch dressing; we take ranch dressing and we fold in kalonji seeds and amchur powder which is the dried powdered unripe mango,” he said.
Naan is typically baked in a vertical tandoor oven, maybe stuffed with chilies or cheese. But here, it’s simply a chili-cheese naan pizza, topped with that spicy cheese and salted jalapenos.
“We decided just to present it as a pizza and do everything on top and outside,” Yamada said.
And just before serving, a healthy brush of ghee around the edge.
Methi chicken is pressed thin, served with seared cabbage and sweet dates, blanketed by a refreshing salad and a crispy-crunchy garnish of crushed fried chicken skin. Vindaloo is another classic, slightly reinterpreted here.
“Vinegar is heavy in it. The dish traditionally comes from Goa. The fatty, rich belly of the pork is one of the traditional meats that you’d eat with it and it balances out the vinegar perfectly. We tie it, we roll it, we braise it and then we use French technique to bring the braising liquid down into this thin, nappy clear sauce,” said Yamada.
So with a pizza and a grilled cheese sandwich on the menu, not exactly the kind of Indian dining we’re accustomed to in Chicago. But with the flavor combinations and the spices they use here at Superkhana, it’s definitely reminiscent of an Indian meal.
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