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A table laid with many dishes of food.
Owners Vikram and Agnes Singh term the menu “Indian-influenced Americana.”
Kim Kovacik/Eater Chicago

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Tamarind Short Ribs Highlight This Bold New Indian Restaurant’s Menu

Walk through Kama in Wicker Park and check out an intriguing take on the subcontinent with spicy cocktails

The variety of Indian food available at Chicago restaurants has soared over the last couple of years. Thattu in Avondale specializes in a unique take on food from Kerala in Southern India with spiced pork chops and appam. Indienne in River North serves a tasting menu fusing French techniques. Superkhana International in Logan Square unlocks creativity with pizzas, noodles, and an ambitious weekend brunch.

The latest addition to this diverse lineup is in Wicker Park where Kama opened earlier this month along Milwaukee Avenue, east of the Damen and North Avenue intersection. Here, chef Vikram Singh has coined the term “Indian-inspired Americana” which gives him license to offer lobster bisque with fenugreek and tarragon, plus tamarind-glazed short ribs. There’s even a steak. Times are changing.

A dark wood restaurant storefront.
Kama replaces Miami-inspired Wynwood Kitchen & Spirits.
A plate of short ribs with roasted potatoes.
Sous vide tamarind-glazed short ribs with cumin roasted potatoes.

The original location, Kama Bistro, debuted in the suburbs in 2009 in LaGrange. Singh served up fusion-style tacos and other familiar fare powered by Indian ingredients to win over locals who weren’t familiar with Indian food. Goodness, the great American turmeric boom hadn’t even happened yet. At least Starbucks had popularized its version of chai in the ‘90s, so America’s culinary journey had already been set in motion.

At Kama, they’ve spruced up the old Wynwood Kitchen & Spirits and made it comfortable for customers who want a full meal. The takeout menu differs from the dine-in — sometimes folks just want samosas and lamb vindaloo. But there are plenty of vegan and vegetarian options available on request.

Wicker Park’s South Asian options are certainly more exciting than they used to be. Sure, Handlebar, the vegetarian-friendly bar, served an occasional samosa, but the choices in the area weren’t very vibrant. Cumin continues to hold down the strip with Nepalese food. The Coach House at Wazwan shows off a fancy side with a tasting menu. Vajra recently moved from West Town and is credited with being one of the first Indian and Nepalese restaurants in Chicago to use premium ingredients, like truffle, to augment simple dishes like naan and goat.

A long bar with two TVs and tall bar stools.
Bar patrons can expect drinks made with chutney, cardamom syrup, and Campari foam.
A bartender uses tweezers to place a dried lime round on top of a purple cocktail.
Kama Bistro aims to win hearts in Wicker Park.

Vajra also became known for its cocktails, and Kama aspires to that. When they were naming their restaurant in the aughts, there were still some fumes from 1996’s Kama Sutra, a movie that introduced Americans to the ancient Sanskrit text. Some thought the restaurant’s name was too hot for the suburbs, but now 14 years later, Singh and business partner Agnes Kalusiewicz are leaning into the branding. Their cocktail menu is split into three: Love (with drinks like an Old Fashioned with chai masala), Passion (with drinks like Smokin Berries made with berry chutney), and Desire (finally, a home for the humble mango lassi).

Walk through the space below and check out some of the food. Kama is now open.

Kama, 1560 N. Milwaukee Avenue, reservations via OpenTable.

A dining room with exposed wooden beams and dark purple walls.
Textured basket light fixtures contrast with upholstered leather banquettes.
A dark upholstered leather banquette lined with four-top tables.
Kama seats 70 in Wicker Park.
A hand dips a partially-eaten samosa into green sauce.
Samosa (spiced potatos, peas).
A blue bowl of dark lentil stew topped with orange flowers.
Dal makhani (slow-cooked black lentils).
A plate of pickled beets and layer of goat cheese topped with salad greens.
Beet and goat cheese salad (pickled beets, cumin-tempered goat cheese, candied pecans, mango chutney dressing)
A blue bowl of green curry with roasted cauliflower on top.
Saag spinach masala (fenugreek, mustard greens, dill).
A red bowl holds four grilled lamb chops in dark sauce.
Charcoal-grilled lamb chop masala (cashews, creamed tomatoes).
A blue plate of prawns in sauce.
Prawns Molly (coconut milk sauce, mustard seeds, turmeric, lemongrass).
A row of three cocktails lined up on a table.
The cocktail menu contains four sections: love, passion, desire, and dessert cocktails.


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