Naan stuffed with blue cheese or served with truffles aren’t traditional items found at Indian restaurants in Chicago, but chef Behzad Khan isn’t looking to open a traditional Indian restaurant. Khan and wife Basma Arain have taken over the Knife & Tine space in Lincoln Park and plan to open Grand Trunk Road later this month at 1417 W. Fullerton Avenue.
Though the couple’s from Karachi, Khan’s family hails from New Delhi. The restaurant’s name refers to the long stretch of road that links India and Pakistan. At 1,700 miles, Grand Trunk Road is one of the longest roads in Asia. The name doesn’t mean the restaurant is limited to specific parts of the countries. Khan said he’ll showcase flavors from all over.
But don’t expect a large menu like at many Indian restaurants. Khan wants to keep it succinct. He lamented how restaurants on Devon Avenue, the epicenter of the city’s South Asian population, are stuck in serving familiar (and sometimes boring) staples like chicken tikka masala. There’s a handful of South Asian restaurants closer to downtown, but Khan said they follow that same formula. That’s left Chicago with a void for creative Indian food, lagging behind cities like New York and Washington, D.C. Rasika in D.C. is from James Beard Award-winning chef Vikram Sunderam, while New York has entries such as Junoon, a one-starred Michelin restaurant.
Grand Trunk Road should break out of Chicago’s norm as more of an elegant and casual type of restaurant. Khan’s resume sticks out. He’s worked at Moto, the molecular gastronomy-focused Fulton Market restaurant, and Rick Bayless’ Topolobampo. He arrived in America in 1987 and graduated in 2002 from the Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago. He also ran Spice catering. Arain said it’s a shame Chicago didn’t have a restaurant that could serve food like her mother-in-law would make, and it’s time to rectify that situation.
“It’s the same cuisine, but we’ll present it in a modern way,” Kahn said. “It’s about plating and some new recipes and ideas.”
Arain mentioned that their spices are proprietary blends. They’ll also have a tandoor for authenticity, there won’t be any smoke-and-mirror techniques to emulate the clay oven taste. Highlights include mint-crusted tandoori lamb chops, a lamb seekh kebab, and king crab curry. They’ll offer classic naan, but may add a cheddar- or mozzarella-stuffed variation. Shrimp biryani will be baked in a clay pot covered by dough to help saffron and other flavors mingle.
Mango Pickle in Edgewater proves Indian-spiced cocktails can be refreshing. Grand Trunk Road will serve similar drinks like spiced margaritas and turmeric-infused beverages. But customers won’t have to drink alcohol to have a good time — they’ll also be able to drink a blueberry lassi.
Grand Trunk Road’s owners are targeting a mid- to late-October opening. Look for more details soon.