Hours: Lunch: Sunday, Tuesday-Saturday; dinner: seven days
Restaurant serving both Nepalese and Indian cuisine. At lunch a buffet is served; at dinner ordering is a la carte.
It's always been a mystery to me why more South Asian restaurateurs don't explore areas with less competition than the dense Devon Avenue enclave: there are plenty of underserved neighborhoods where the enterprising could make a killing. Brothers Sanjeev and Rajesh Karmacharya (a veteran of Evanston's Mount Everest) have done just that, opening Cumin, a not-atypical Indian restaurant with a typically vast menu that also doubles the number of places in the city where you can try a smattering of Nepalese dishes. Apart from those--and prices a few dollars higher than on Devon--there's little here that deviates from Devon's white-papered-table Indo-Pak standard. But that's OK—for anyone within a couple miles of the place, it's all about location. Once you're in the door, there's the staggering list of serviceable dishes in lamb, chicken, vegetable, seafood, and tandoori categories, and an army of white-shirted, black-tied, front-of-the-house operatives ready to leap into action anytime anyone's water sinks below the glass rim. And then there's the short list of Nepalese dishes like chicken momo, steamed dumplings with subtly spiced filling wrapped in a just-too-stiff dough, or aaluko achar, potatoes and pickled cucumber in a nutty sesame-lemon sauce with a side of crunchy chewra, flat "beaten rice." That terrific and novel little snack accompanies four out of the seven Nepalese appetizers and adds a texture I'd be happy to see duplicated in the entrees as well. Those included some fine, gnarly, bone-in meat dishes (two goat, one chicken) and a number of vegetable or legume offerings, including a trifecta of mildly spiced potato, bamboo shoots, and black-eyed peas. I had much better luck on this side of menu than on the omnibus Indian side, where a few familiar dishes turned up dull, cold, and flavorless, making me suspect that maybe the heart of Nepalese chef Min Thapa remains with his homeland.
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