Wazwan Supper Club, the nomadic South Asian pop-up, has found a home — at least through the end of 2019. The fine dining dinner series from chef Zubair Mohajir is taking over the space that once housed a Michelin-starred restaurant in Lakeview. Starting on Wednesday, diners will find Wazwan at the former Entente space at 3056 N. Lincoln Avenue.
The restaurant will offer a 10-course tasting menu. For a more casual experience, there’s a separate a la carte menu available to anyone. The restaurant is BYO — Entente took its liquor license to its new home in River North. Mohajir said he’s hopeful for a workaround and has spoken with city officials about perhaps securing daily liquor licenses, similar to the ones used by festivals. Reservations are available via Tock for both experiences, but the tasting menu requires customers to pay up front. It’s available for one seating on Fridays or Saturdays and he hopes to expand it down the line.
This summer, Wazwan casually popped up in West Town, introducing customers to a tandoori-fried chicken sandwich and halal smoked brisket made from prime beef. Customers lined up down Damen Avenue waiting for a seat. Those items and more will be available on the a la carte menu.
Mohajir has been scouting spaces for a permanent restaurant. His food blends traditional flavors from the subcontinent with Western-style presentation. He’s not giving customers a glimpse of Indian food trends, like what Rooh is doing along Randolph Street. Mohajir wants everyone to enjoy Wazwan’s food, but the prime audience may be those who grew up in America with South Asian roots. That’s the demographic that will crave halal charcuterie, including beef bacon butchered on site.
For the new tasting menu, Mohajir did research and saw a void in South Asian mushroom dishes. While vegetarianism is more prevalent overseas compared to America, mushroom dishes aren’t as popular. There’s a fear among some vegetarians when it comes to mushroom’s texture. Some describe it as meaty. Mohajir created a dish using morels (haddar yukkhn). He likens the dish, on the a la carte menu, to a Kashmiri masala.
A tasting menu highlight is a giant tiger prawn. It’s marinated with garlic, ginger, and red chili powder. Then its poached in ghee and grilled. The tasting menu will have vegetarian options, but vegans are out of luck. Can’t escape the ghee.
The new Wazwan will offer bread service. Chef’s mother, Nasrin Mohajir, has visited to teach staff how to properly make paratha. Nasrin Mohajir and husband Murtaza Mohajir grew up in Chennai, India before moving to the states. Wazwan staff will also fry up fresh poori. They’ll use a pasta maker to hand-crank the dough. The bread will be wheeled out in a cart once used in airplanes. Homemade achaar will complement the breads. It’s free of preservatives and better than the stuff shoppers will find at Patel Brothers and other stores, the chef said.
The space is BYO, but there are non-alcoholic options. Wazwn’s working with Rare Tea Cellar on a pink Kashmiri-style chai. There’s also too spirit-free drinks: “Waz Wan Spritz” (wild Thai banana, papaya seed, green peppercorn, Pinot Gris verjus, sparkling water) and “Tea Time” (mango, coriander seed, coconut water, persimmon vinegar, chinotto, chai).
Mohajir is building up to eventually offer a 36-course meal. Wazwan means banquet and the traditional offering includes that many courses. Look for more info on that as 2019 comes to a close. But for now, check out Wazwan’s next pop-up which debuts today.