Date of Last Visit: Wednesday, January 5th
The Victims: Too many to mention thanks to Grubwithus.
The Damage: $25 each
The Background: I used to be a sucker. Big time. Big big time. Back in the late 90s, the head of my division at work was leaving the company. So we of course decided to throw him a going away party. (Which in some ways, I always think is odd. You DECIDED to leave. Why should we throw YOU a party?) Anyhow, in the course of conversation, we asked John if there was any particular food he wanted at his going away party.
Because he said Indian. And not just any sort of Indian. He wanted Indian from Hema’s Kitchen. And this was YEARS before she had an outpost on Clark. This is when Hema’s only kitchen was on Oakley. 6400 North Oakley. 6400!!
And somehow, I was the person nominated to get the food. Me, who made $23,500 a year and had no car.
But it gets better. Because I arrive at Hema’s little storefront to pick up the big trays of biryani and samosas that we ordered. We’re talking over $100 worth of food here. I pay the bill and turn to leave when Hema shouts, “What about the tip for my cooks?”
Tip? But this is take out?
I turn around and look at her silently. She repeats her request that I tip her cooks who have worked so hard to prepare my food. (“But isn’t that their job?” I wonder.) She asked for $25.
$25! On a bill of just over $100. Highway robbery.
I will forgive her because fast-forward to 2011 and her saag paneer is very delicious. Rich. Dense. Not overly spinach-y. I don’t want to know how much oil is in here, really. But this may be the best saag paneer I’ve ever had, and I consider myself a connoisseur. The tandori chicken and the samosas are a bit less delicious–the tandori missing that bit of oomph! and the samosas a bit too pastry-like for me. (I need more savorynesss.)
But almost as good as the saag paneer was the lamb vindaloo. Not lip-numbing enough for me, but still with an appreciable kick. I must have lived in the UK too long because most at the table felt this too hot for them. (Hmmm…I’m reading that wondering if that’s an oxymoron to my American readers? The UK, breeding ground of spicy food? Why yes, in London, I might say that’s true.)
Throughout it all, service was prompt and sweet. Well done.
The Verdict: I liked it here at Hema’s in Lincoln Park. The restaurant is actually quite well decorated and makes for a nice night out. Inexpensive, to boot. Oh, and BYOB! And luckily, no one came out at the end of the meal to harass me about the tip.