By J.P. Anderson By J.P. Anderson | February 1, 2023 | Food & Drink Feature
Exquisite presentation and a daring mix of flavors make Indienne one of the most exciting new restaurants in River North.
Designed by chef Sujan Sarkar himself, Indienne’s interiors feature soothing tones and colorful artwork inspired by the Indian festival of Holi by Chicago-based Ken Andjulis.
From white-hot NYC gastro bar Baar Baar to Michelin-starred Trèsind in Dubai and ROOH on Chicago’s Restaurant Row, chef Sujan Sarkar has spent much of his career redefining what restaurant guests expect from Indian cuisine. The latest move from The Times of India’s 2016 Chef of the Year awardee? Aiming even higher with Indienne (217 W. Huron St.), a tasting menu concept that fuses Sarkar’s years of training in contemporary European cuisine with bold, authentic flavors from India.
Lamb burra is served with potato pave and a colorful sauce of peas, pepper, varuval curry, coconut and hemp seeds.
“I don’t think there is anything like Indienne in the city,” says Sarkar, who now calls Streeterville home. “Our goal is to shed a new light on the recipes found throughout the Indian subcontinent. My fine dining background has allowed me to get creative and present the flavors of Indian cuisine in a sophisticated tasting menu format. We are thinking of every detail—the food, the wine, the cocktails, the service points, the ingredients, the dining room—[and] it all comes together to create an exciting dining experience. We also offer a vegetarian tasting menu in addition to our nonvegetarian menu, and we don’t cut any corners. I encourage our guests to try both, even if they are not a vegetarian.”
The Kolkata cocktail tempts with Indian single malt whisky, fresh ginger and roasted mango.
Based on a recent visit, one thing is certain: Sarkar’s vision of progressive Indian fare translates thrillingly to the plate. Highlights came one after another: a delicate mushroom eclair filled with truffled goat cheese and just a tease of heat; sweet and savory yogurt chaat with crispy potato, raspberry and chutney; comforting, full-flavored egg curry with peas; scrumptious chicken terrine with leeks; and accompaniments of rich, deeply flavored dal and perfectly puffy naan, all seamlessly melding European technique with enticing Indian flavor profiles. Even head mixologist Chetan Gangan Maverick’s cocktails—each named after a stop on Sarkar’s career path, from Kolkata and Dubai to New York and Chicago—demonstrate beautifully rounded flavors; combined with the careful yet casual service and the buzzing vibe of the understated dining room (packed with an international crowd even on a frigid Wednesday night), it’s a place that has established itself as one of the city’s must-try fine dining spots.
Lobster with butternut squash, moringa podi and sanas (steamed rice cakes) is a supplemental tasting course dish that’s not to be missed.
Says Sarkar of his ultimate goal with Indienne, “Indian food is definitely becoming more popular, but it seems to be thought of as a carryout option rather than a fine dining option. I want to show people that it can very much play in the same sandbox as the more classical fine dining establishments.” Our verdict? Mission accomplished—and a seriously compelling addition to the city’s fine dining scene.
Photography by: PHOTO BY NEIL BURGER