Grand Trunk Road, the first of a barrage of four upcoming modern South Asian restaurants soon arriving in Chicago, is now open in Lincoln Park. Most will recognize the Indian menu items like tandoori chicken, naan, and biryani. But chef/owner Behzad Khan, who’s worked at Topolobampo, presents his food with a twist. For example, chicken kebobs (Malai murgh) are soaked in a marinade that includes mozzarella to give the bites a more creamier taste.
The restaurant replaces Knife & Tine in a space near DePaul University at 1417 W. Fullerton Avenue. There’s an upscale feel. They’re not offering take out, at least not initially: “This is my house,” said Khan. “And I want people to come in and enjoy the food.”
Khan is from Pakistan, but his family is Indian and his cooking reflects that heritage. He uses a tandoor to cook many of his items. New Zealand lamb chops are marinated overnight and left in the clay oven only until the temp hits medium. Many South Asians aren’t accustomed to a little red in their meat, but Khan’s accustomed to American tastes. He actually prefers his lamb medium rare. They’re served with thinly sliced potatoes flavored with mustard and pepper. Khan described it as a “desi au gratin.” The tandoori chicken also gets a unique kick thanks to mustard oil.
“It just gives a little nutty flavor to the chicken,” Khan said. “I would say it’s like desi umami.”
There’s that word “desi,” again. It has nothing to do with Lucille Ball’s husband. Think of it as an American of South Asian descent.
When it comes to Indian food, many make a big deal of spices. Chicago isn’t blessed with a large wholesale supplier, so Khan just grabs the spices he needs at Patel Brothers store on Devon. Though Khan’s goal is to give Chicago the type of Indian food the city’s not seen, he’s also aware that some people don’t deal well with change. He doesn’t want to go so avant garde that customers will say his restaurant “isn’t Indian enough.” That’s why some items, like the tarka daal, are presented traditionally. But that doesn’t mean he won’t have fun. How many Indian restaurants have tandoori lamb livers on its menu? Grand Trunk Road does.
The desserts include a gulab jamun cheesecake with vanilla and turmeric and meethi puri. Khan takes the classic pani puri street snack and makes it sweet by filling it with custard. There’s also a full bar with drinks like an alcohol-spiked lassi, an Old Fashioned made with chaat masala Demerara bitters, and more. Brunch service should kick off in March.
Check out the space below. Grand Trunk Road is now open.
Grank Trunk Road, 1417 W. Fullerton Avenue, reservations via OpenTable, open 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Sunday; 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. on Tuesday through Thursday; 5 p.m. to 11 p.m on Friday and Saturday.