Isacco Kitchen – A World Kitchen in St. Charles

It’s extremely refreshing to see a restaurant of this caliber in St. Charles, IL.; read on and you’ll see why.

James and I just moved to the Western suburbs – if you’ve been following my posts, my husband knocked me up and we quickly made a move out to Batavia where we would no longer endure 3 hour daily commutes to our day time jobs in the western suburbs.  I was completely torn up when we packed up all our things and left our awesome downtown loft…I thought that Olive Garden’s and Chili’s would become my staple restaurants.

I first heard of Isacco Kitchen when I saw it walking to a nearby bar (no worries, I drank O’Douls) on my way to watch one of the last games of the NHL playoff’s before the Hawks won the Stanley Cup(!). I was immediately intrigued at the yellow exterior, pretty landscaping and unique spelling of the restaurant name. At first, I didn’t quite understand how to read the name but later learned it was just the letter “A” sideways.

Little did I know, restaurants like Isacco’s exist here!! Just think, “Blackbird, minus the foam”.  Unique and fresh ingredients prepared by highly skilled hands.

This trendy little restaurant was just about to close after their lunch service on a Saturday afternoon when we drove up. Luckily the waiter saw us and quickly ran into the kitchen to double check with Chef if he wanted to continue serving us.  I’m SO glad he did because this was absolutely one of the best meals I’ve had THIS YEAR (see my Macku Sushi review for the other oustanding meal) .  We were also STARVING as we had spent the morning painting our kitchen. We don’t normally eat like this for lunch but we felt it was well deserved!

It was a gorgeus day and not too hot so we opted for a seat outdoors on their cozy patio overlooking a highly professional landscape and herb pots.  J and I perused the menu and immediately a few things caught our eyes.

Should you decide to try Isacco – all of our dishes were superb, fresh and organic!  Turns out Chef Isacco was executive Chef on one of the most prestigious cruise ship lines in the world and has experience cooking using flavors from all over the world.

Let’s begin with the Beef Tartare – You can’t really see but the tartare appears to be properly chopped with the double knife method, then garnished with mustard, chives and seasoning.  Although I’m NOT supposed to eat any raw food, I couldn’t help myself but take a small taste and it was one of the best tartare’s in the city (would you believe that the tartare at Paramount Room is pretty kick ass too?)

I opted for the seared Diver Scallops appetizer and I felt like I was ripping the restaurant off by ordering this – 4 giant succulent scallops seared to perfection and paired with organic greens, ratatouille and mango papaya relish – $11 – I couldn’t make it at home for $11!!!!

One sexy dish…

Our entree’s were also outstanding and a steal for the price:

Rack of Lamb with artichoke salad (it’s artichoke season and these were yummy!), aged percorin, balsamic and crispy potatoes au gratin ($15)  I couldn’t believe there were 4 full chops – again, I can’t do it for this cheap at home!!

Finally, my entree was slightly screwed up – it was supposed to come with gnocchi but Chef accidentally made pasta but I’m REALLY glad because I was more in the mood for pasta than gnocchi’s. DID I MENTION THAT THEY HAND MAKE THEIR PASTAS???  Chef came to talk to us and told us about his Italian pasta roller – and he has every right to be proud because the noodles were soft, tender and had the perfect bite.  Served with perfectly seasoned and melt in your mouth oxtail. One of my favorite cuts of beef.

If you’re in the suburbs looking for a high caliber restaurant, please – try Isacco Kitchen – it’s definitely going to be one of my favorite restaurants in Chicagoland.  I can’t wait to go back for dinner and pay suburban prices for City of Chicago quality food. (Entrees maxed out at $21).

Categories: Restaurants, Lounges  [Edit]

210 Cedar St
St. Charles, IL 60174

(630) 444-0202

www.isaccokitchen.com

Himalayan Restaurant: A Culinary Journey to Nepal

Himalayan Restaurant & Bar

Recently Vivian and I were lucky enough to be invited by Kiran and Jennifer of Himalayan Restaurant to do a tasting of their menu, which is Indian and Nepali cuisine.  Being the food whores that we are, we jumped at the chance to try something new and exciting!  With Kiran, the owner, as our guide, we took a gastromomic journey to Nepal!

Don’t let the location fool you!  Vivian and I visited the Niles location, which is located in a strip mall.  The interior is simple and comfortable.  You might even call it “fancy” since the tables have real white tablecloths!  We went for a late weekend lunch, thinking we’d miss the crowd, but the place was still packed with Indian families having lunch!  We took this as a sign that we were in for a real treat!

First we started with a few appetizers from the buffet.  Most of the dishes in the buffet are South Indian style, with the traditional sauces such as yogurt sauce and tamarind.  We had lentil soup and a selection of salad and veggies.  I particularly liked the lentil fritters.

lentil fritter

After the buffet came a long procession of dishes from the regular menu.  Kiran was sure to emphasize the traditional Nepali dishes, especially since Vivian and I are both already familiar with Indian food.  The first dish we tried is also an appetizer called Chicken Chowela.  I love the way Kiran described this – he called it “Nepali pub food”!  This spicy dish is traditionally served in the hot summer months, with a rice-based liquor.  This was the first of many homestyle “mom’s recipe” dishes that we tried.  While the spice level was toned down a bit from the traditional way, it still had a great tomatoey, spicy kick.  Although Nepal is a relatively small country, the food is very regionalized.  Chowela is a dish mainly found in Kathmandu.  Quite fittingly, Kiran is from the region in Nepal that is known for their festivals and great food!

chicken chowela

Since Nepal is located between India and Tibet, naturally they have been influenced by their neighbors.  Nepal adopted some ingredients, such as soy, and some cooking styles, such as the use of cornstarch, from its Chinese neighbors.  Himalayan Restaurant offers a selection of Indo-Chinese dishes.  We tried the Gobi Manchurian, which is battered and fried cauliflower with green pepper, onion and a tomato-based sauce.  This dish was easily one of our favorites!  Great big flavors – kind of a sweet aroma with a smoky taste — totally unique.  Super good!  If you’re looking for something unlike anything you’ve tried before, I highly recommend this dish.  It’s so flavorful, I promise you won’t even miss the meat!

gobi manchurian

In the same way that Nepal adopted some Tibetan cooking techniques, they also adopted some aspects of traditional Indian cooking.  While there are lots of similarities between Indian and Nepalese cuisine – they use many of the same spices – there are also some distinct differences.  In general, Indian food is very rich and robust.  Nepalese food may use the same spices, but they simply use LESS of them.  The basic herbs and spices of Nepalese food are ginger and garlic.  Additionally, Nepalese cooking uses clarified butter instead of oil, and there are NO milk-based products in Nepalese cuisine, unlike Indian food which can use ingredients such as cream or coconut milk.

Next we tried the most typical of all Nepali foods – the momo.  Momos are Nepali-style dumplings.  Kiran called it “the hamburger of Nepal” because it’s a dish you can find everywhere, done a million different ways.  The momos that Kiran makes look very similar to the Shanghainese soup dumplings, xiao long bao, like little pouches without the soup!  We tried chicken momos, which are stuffed with chicken, ginger and garlic.  One of the most important aspects of the momo is the sauce.  Kiran serves his momos with a red chile sauce made of chiles, tomato and ginger.  There is another style of pan-fried momo, which is served with a sweeter sauce.  Vivian and I are dumpling lovers – we could eat them ANYTIME—so we both loved the momos.  I’ve actually had momos before, and I like Himalayan’s version, with a fairly thin wrapper (not so chewy!) and a thicker, tastier sauce.  Momos are definitely another MUST at Himalayan Restaurant!

chicken momo

Next, the manager brought out a selection of traditional Nepali dishes that he thought we must try.  We had Bodi Aloo, which is sautéed potatoes and green beans, Khasi Ko Masu, a goat curry which is a basic at ALL Nepali occasions, and the Kadhai Paneer, which is homemade paneer cooked with tomato, onions and bell peppers.  These were served with saffron rice and garlic naan and whole wheat roti.  The goat curry had a great rich sauce, but  Vivian and I were both drawn to the vegetarian dishes.  And we’re dedicated carnivores!  The vegetarian food at Himalayan Restaurant has so much depth of flavor that they would easily safisfy any meat-eater!  Even though I loved the strong flavor of the garlic naan, plain naan or roti are much more traditional.

clockwise fr bottom left: garlic naan, saffron rice, kadhai paneer, bodi aloo, khasi ko masu

By this time, Vivian and I are starting to get full, but then a sizzling plate of tandoori was brought out, and of course we had to try everything!  We recommend the Mix Grill, which comes with tandoori chicken, chicken tikka, lamb kabob and fish tikka.  I’d never had fish tikka before, and with a meaty fish like mahi mahi, it was quite delicious!  MMM, love those sizzlin’ onions!

mix grill

As full as we were, of course we had to have dessert as well.  We tried a drink called Falooda, which is actually a Middle Eastern style dessert, containing ice cream, rose syrup, jelly, some poppy seeds, and noodles!  Lots of interesting textures going on, and it’s kinda fun to suck noodles up through the straw! 

falooda

So what does one drink with Nepali food?  There is tea of course, or lassi, the Indian version of a fruit smoothie.  Himalayan Restaurant is one of the only places importing Haywards 5000 beer in the area, so I decided to try one.  Actually the beer is a great palate cleanser, preparing your taste buds for the next delicious bite!  Himalayan Restaurant has a full bar with a variety of wines.  I like that Kiran has put conscious thought into what types of beverages will pair well with his food, for example a Malbec with a lamb curry.  In fact, he is also planning a wine dinner at the restaurant!  Many people are at a loss as to how to pair ethnic food and wine, and I think it’s great that Himalayan Restaurant is showing us all how it’s done!

What Vivian took away from this experience was much more than full bellies and boxes of leftovers!  What sticks in my mind even more than the unique flavor of the Gobi Manchurian is Kiran’s passion for what he does, and his enthusiasm to share his culture with his customers.  While the 2 locations of his restaurant are both successful, he’s not just trying to make a buck.  It’s clear that Kiran and his partners have worked hard to get to where they are.  He truly wants each customer to have an enjoyable experience, and not only to taste great food, but to learn about his culture.

For a true taste of Nepal’s delicious cuisine and culture, a visit to Himalayan Restaurant is highly recommended!

Himalayan Restaurant & Bar – Bloomingdale

398 W Armytrail Road

Bloomingdale IL  60108

(630) 523-5100

Himalayan Restaurant & Bar – Niles

8265 Golf Road

Niles IL  60714

(847) 324-4150

www.himalayanrestaurant.com

Chicago Restaurant Week 2010 – Menu’s posted here!

February 19 marks the beginning of one of the best dining weeks of the year!!! We are SOOO excited to see how the list has expanded over the last three years!!! If you see a * next to the name, it’s recommended!! There is NO EXCUSE for not dining out during Restaurant Week – it’s the perfect Food Whore deal!

Adobe Reader is required to view these menus.  Please let us know if you experience any broken links!!!!

The full and complete list is found at the OFFICIAL website here but fyi, our site is easier to click!

This year, the Chicago Restaurant Week is from February 19-28, 2010 where 3 course GOURMET PRIX FIXE menus are just $22 for Lunch or $32 for dinner!

Make your reservation now at OpenTable!!!

Michelle and I have been participating in this citywide dining event since it’s inception 3 years ago  and we can’t express how much we love it! In fact, our WHOLE PAYCHECK is dedicated to this week!  It’s a great way to check out that expensive restaurant that you never dared to step into before (eh hem, Topolobampo, Spiaggo, Terzo Piano, etc).

CHECK BACK FOR FULL MENU’s – Yes, we’re linking to documents from EAT IT UP but there are menus missing from some of the restaurants – we’re going to try and get them for you – KEEP POSTED!

Here is a list of some of the participating restaurants (so far…) – we omitted some of the less interesting restaurants because that’s how we roll.

676 Restaurant and Bar – surf & turf!

Ai Japanese Restaurant and Lounge – mmm..hamachi carpaccio

Aja Steakhouse

Alhambra Palace Restaurant

Aria

Atwood Cafe – veal tenderloin – don’t see this everyday!

Berghoff Restaurant>

Bice – Chicago

Bin 36

Bistro 110 ></a> – The French Onion Soup is supposed to be to DIE FOR

Blackbird* – sorry, lunch only I am disppointed too!

Blue 13

Boka* – no choices, but solid prix fixe – one of my favorite Chicago restaurants! FLOURLESS CHOCOLATE TORTE was featured as one of Time Out’s top 100 dishes 2009

Brasserie Jo

Brazzaz – The Brazilian Steakhouse

Cafe Des Architectes / CDA – great lunch menu!  tartare, carpaccio, mmm… (btw, the peekytoe crab salad from CDA was on of Time Out’s 100 top dishes in 2009 – maybe you can order it on the side in addition to the 3 course meal!)

Cafe Spiaggia*

Caliterra Bar & Grille – Chicago – the only entree choices are Steak Oscar or NY Strip – YES PLEASE!

The Cape Code Room at the Drake Hotel

Capital Grille – Chicago

Carmine’s

Carnivale

Catch 35

Chicago Firehouse Restaurant – good selection of entrees to choose from

China Grill – Chicago

C-House Restaurant

Coco Pazzo

Coco Pazzo Cafe

Croften on Wells – no red meat on this menu. Looks just “ok”

David Burkes Primehouse at the James Hotel* – probably one of the best deals for Restaurant Week – the Kobe Beef Sashimi is probably one of the best things I have tasted – EVER

Devon Seafood Grill – Chicago* – great for groups – ask for the group tables downstairs – solid food, great service

The Drawing Room @ Le Passage

Fornetto Mei – wow, delicious sounding menu! lunch looks especially enticing for $22!

Frontera Grill

Fulton’s on the River – Mmm..steak tartare, YES PLEASE!

The Gage Restaurant and Tavern

Geja’s Cafe – nice selection at this restaurant voted “most romantic”.  Fondue anyone?

Gemini Bistro – lots of choices, where do I begin??? good for groups so you can try everything!

The Grill on the Alley – Chicago

Hard Rock Cafe – Chicago – includes coffee, tea or soft drink!

Harry Caray’s Italian Steakhouse – Chicago

The Indian Garden Restaurant – huge selection! great for groups that are adventurous!

Il Mulino

Jack Binion’s Steakhouse

Japonais* – I love this swanky restaurant!  Great choices too!

Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak and Stone Crab*

Keefer’s Restaurant What? dinner menu doesn’t feature steak…odd for a steak house!
Kinzie Chop House

La Cantina Italian Chophouse

La Madia – pizza lunch! how fun! Includes a glass of wine too!!! Great menu for picky eaters

La Salumeria del Merlo on Lincoln Ave – note that the ARTICHOKE RICOTTA RAVIOLI was one of Time Out’s 100 Top Dishes 2009! Hope to see it on the menu!

La Trattoria del Merlo – pheasant terrine, handmade pastas…

Landmark – to be frank, menu looks boring but the food is really well done here. I could be wrong.

Lawry’s The Prime Rib

Le Colonial

The Lobby

Lockwood Restaurant and Bar – Mussels, skate wing, wagyu beef burger…nice selection!

Market Restaurant and Sports Bar

McCormick and Schmick’s Seafood

Mercat a La Planxa*

Merlo on Maple – tons of handmade pastas, stewed lambshank..yummy

Mike Ditka’s

Mirai Sushi*

Mon Ami Gabi – Escargots, steak frites, beef bourguignon

Morton’s Steakhouse

N9ne Steakhouse

Nacional 27* – super awesome deal – love it last year!

Naha

NoMI

one sixtyblue – Hope to see MILK-CHOCOLATE SOUFFLÉ on the menu – it was on Time Out’s 100 best desserts of 2009

Osteria via Stato* – great for groups served family style with LOTS of selection.

The Palm Chilean seabass, filet mignon, crab cakes – nice choices!

Park Grill Rabbit, rainbow trout – impressive offerings for sure!

Parrot Cage

Pegasus –

Phil Stefani’s 437 Rush

Piccolo Sogno* – went last year for lunch and loved it.  Such a pretty restaurant with friendly staff and great wine

Prosecco

Pump Room

Rapsody – skate wing or pork belly – crap, how do I choose between those two? YUMMO!

Riccardo Trattoria – honeycomb tripe done Italian style? Clearly the best menu available for Restaurant week! I already made my reservation!! Note weekend reservations not available until 9pm.

Rise Sushi and Sake Lounge

Ristorante We – never even heard of this place but it’s at the W hotel

Riva SIX FRESH OYSTERS is one of the 1st course selections!

Rock Bottom Brewery

Rockit Bar and Grill

Rosebud on Rush

Rosebud Prime Lunch only!

Rosebud Steakhouse Lunch only!

Rosebud Theatre District

Rosebud Trattoria (fka Ballo)

Roy’s

Saloon Steakhouse

Salpicon – um, read this menu and tell me if your eyes are getting crossed.

Salute Wine Bar

Season’s Restaurant – Scampi, pork belly…

Shaw’s Crab House

Shine

Shula’s Steak house

Smith and Wollensky – 10 oz filet mignon!

South Water Kitchen

Sullivan’s Steakhouse

Sushi Taiyo

Sushi Samba Rio*

Tapas Valencia

Tavern at the Park

Tavern on Rush

Terzo Piano – CHOCOLATE SEMIFREDDO featured as Time Out’s 100 top desserts in 2009 – hope to see it on the menu!

Tizi Melloul – Offering a FIVE course meal instead of THREE!!! Wow!  & a Vegetarian Menu!  Fabulous!

Topolobampo* – Lunch only, sad – Yes, we’re curious what the menu is too!

Trattoria No. 10

Tsuki Japanese Restaurant and Lounge*

Tuscany on Taylor

Viaggio Ristorante and Lounge

Viand Bar and Kitchen

Wave

Other Menus:

ARIA
LUNCH
Choose one from Each
Starters:
wild mushroom bisque – white truffle oil, mushroom goat cheese won-ton
salad of fresee, arugula and blue cheese – organic mizuna, ciabatta croutons, haricot vert, braeburn apples, roquefort dressing

Entrees:
vegetable pad thai – tofu, roasted peanuts, preserved radish
romesco crusted salmon – chorizo, white beans, organic baby carrots

Desserts:
maple creameux – chocolate sauce, malted milk crisp, strawberry
pear almond tart – blackberry jam, vanilla bean ice cream

DINNER
Starter & Dessert same as lunch
Entree:
fiery wok seared noodle bowl – chinese broccoli, shiitake mushrooms red chilis, bean sprouts
braised beef short ribs – jade arborio rice