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A Critic Calls New Nepalese Restaurant a ‘Pure Sensory Delight’

Plus Joe’s Imports pairs global wines with worthwhile dishes

A dining room.
Vajra
Barry Brecheisen

Vajra is an exceptional Nepalese experience that earns five stars from Time Out critic Maggie Hennessy. Chef Min Thapa’s menu is “pure sensory delight,” featuring a “parade of classic Himalayan dishes.” Momo dumplings, filled with minced goat and napa cabbage, deliver a “sensory symphony” when dipped in creamy avocado chutney and sweet tomato sauce. Paneer-stuffed capsicum peppers are enrobed in a tomato and cashew sauce that provides “luscious, tangy comfort,” but the most memorable dish of the meal is the tandoori venison. Hennessy’s “never tasted deer meat this special” – the “succulent, earthy meat” is marinated in yogurt, spices and young papaya, and finished off with smoked makhani, a butter gravy. For dessert, paan pistachio kuulchi is a “fitting ender, refreshing [Hennessy] with just enough creamy sweetness to satisfy.” And to drink, the Fields of Elysium cocktail tastes “like a melted pisco-spiked lime freeze pop, mingling tropical-sweet kiwi puree and elderflower liqueur.” [Time Out]

Joe’s Imports offers a wealth of global wines along with a well-curated selection of small plates. Owner Joe Fiely, one of the original partners of Francesca’s Restaurant Group, does a fine job of pairing wines with “the foods native to their respective regions.” His recommendations include duck egg raviolo with a “lush and bright” Ca’De’ Medici Remigio lambrusco grasparossa; and slivers of Roman artichoke with a 2007 bottle of Castello di Monsanto Chianti Classico Riserva. Ariel Cheung also says the housemade whipped ricotta is a must-order, while the St. Louis sticky ribs provide “immense satisfaction” thanks to their “perfect texture and underlying heat.” The wine list is the spotlight of the beverage program but a mezcal cocktail, dubbed Johnny From the Block, mixes St. George coffee liqueur, chocolate bitters, and cold brew espresso and serves as “dessert enough on its own.” [Modern Luxury]

Mom-and-pop Dominican restaurant Morena’s Kitchen has moved into a bigger space but “what’s unchanged is the soulfulness of [Miriam] Montes de Oca’s food,” writes John Kessler. The star dish is the pica pollo, “crackly chunks of citrus-marinated fried chicken that can drive a person into paroxysms of bone-gnawing pleasure.” Kessler recommends ordering extra to go, “though you may not be able to resist snacking on a piece on the ride home.” Other highlights include sancocho stew — teeming with tender beef, root veggies, and dumplings — that “warms to a dose of explosive habanero sauce,” and shrimp and peppers in a garlic sauce, served with a mound of mofongo. [Chicago]

Joe's Imports

813 West Fulton Market, , IL 60607 (312) 736-1750 Visit Website

Vajra

1329 West Chicago Avenue, , IL 60642 (312) 929-4990 Visit Website

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