Update Feb. 14, 2017: Marigold Maison is now located at 900 N. Milwaukee Ave., Lincolnshire.
Bannockburn isn’t exactly on my destination restaurant radar, but now that I’ve been to Marigold Maison, I might just have to adjust my thinking. Suburban restaurants in strip malls aren’t generally my cup of tea, but the warm colors—marigold orange, tomato red, saffron yellow, grass green—that accent the walls make the large space pop with life. And the bright flavors of citrus, sunny tropical fruits, and earthy and exotic spices are more than a match for the décor.
There are four spice-forward cocktails ($11) to start your meal, including the Marigold Sher (made with St. George California Citrus Vodka, ginger beer and Thai bitters) and The Finer Things (Ophir Oriental Spiced Gin, saffron bitters, lemon juice and sparkling wine). They perfectly complement the “Street Food” offerings, little snacks that are often served from carts in Indian cities. Try the Gol Guppa ($7), which are crispy whole-wheat puffs served with potato-chickpea mixture and a small pitcher of spice water. Break a hole in the top of a puff, fill it with chickpeas, and pour in a bit of the liquid. Pop it in your mouth and eat in one bite. Food can be fun, you know. It’s allowed.
We loved the Masala Dosa ($12), an enormous paper-thin lentil and rice flour pancake curled around a filling of potato and onion. This South Indian specialty is served with a lovely coconut chutney and sambar, a brothy lentil dish; break off a piece of the dosa, scoop up a bit of potato, dredge it in the sambar and eat it with a little coconut chutney. Nom nom nom. (If you’re looking for dosa in the city, go immediately to Udupi Palace on Devon.)
The Seared Eggplant ($8) was a big slab of pressed and grilled eggplant brushed with tamarind sauce, but the advertised chipotle-mango aioli was AWOL. The texture was off-putting; I wouldn’t order it again.
Working the Tandoor
Tandoor specialties get pride of place—easy to see why when the Lamb Chops ($22 for three nice-sized chops) are cooked to medium-rare perfection, although a wee bit on the salty side. Chicken Tikka Masala ($16) arrives in a small copper casserole dish, the tandoori-roasted meat bathed in a creamy sauce of tomato and cashew paste, seasoned with fenugreek—just right folded into a bit of tandoor-baked Naan flat bread ($3) and gilded with a spoonful of tangy yogurt-based Raita ($4).
Another classic South Indian dish, Biryani, is done right here. The basmati rice is cooked with ginger, onions, garlic, saffron and warm spices (cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, cardamom). The Shrimp Biryani ($20), filled with plump, tail-on crustaceans and loads of flavor, is one of the best I’ve had.
Vegetarians will find much to love here. Saag Paneer ($15), cooked puréed greens with fresh farmer’s cheese, and Dal Tadka ($7), lentils simmered with onion, tomato, chili and spices, are standards but particularly well made.
Save room for one of the distinctly Indian desserts. Rasmalai ($7), a delicate Indian cheese dumpling in a pool of milk, rose water and pistachios, has a delicate perfume and a fascinating texture. My personal favorite is the Gajar Ka Halva ($7), a sweet Punjabi dish made from shredded carrots, milk, sugar and cashews cooked down together into a thick pudding. It’s the best sort of grown-up baby food.
If you’re looking to branch out of your hamburger-pizza-spaghetti rut, give Marigold Maison a try. It’s worth the drive.
4 out of 5 stars (A-)
2535 Waukegan Road
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