Hema's Kitchen

Chicago, Illinois


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rating star

I have yet to find the perfect, gourmet, subtle and smart North Indian restaurant I've always been looking for. Indian food in the US tends to be greasy, oily, heavy and full of non-vegan dairy products such as ghee, yogurt, cream and butter. It's aimed at the all-you-can-eat-buffet crowd.

All that said, Hema's Kitchen is the first Indian restaurant I've been to which I actually think I'd return to. The food here was light, simple and freshly prepared. The service was friendly. There's no buffet. The decor and ambience are a little bit lacking, but oh well, you can't win them all.

We had an aloo palak ($10) and a dal ($10), both of which were vibrant and tasty. They weren't bogged down in oil and the portion size was big enough to get a second meal out of each.

I do have a few gripes, though. Hema's doesn't offer brown rice, and they actually have the gall to charge $2.99 for a plate of white rice. White rice is dirt cheap and should be given out for free, as it is at most East Asian restaurants; that rice cost Hema's at most a few pennies, but they have no issues in charging an exponential markup on an inferior product.

Second, Hema's is seriously lacking in the bread department. Their naan is not vegan, but they do have vegan-izble phulka ($1.25) and paratha ($2.95). Neither of those two options are particularly great, though the paratha is slightly better than the phulka (but is also more expensive). Hema's, why don't you offer tandoori wholemeal roti? You have a tandoor and could make tandoori roti if you skipped the white flour and went old-school, as is right and proper in the subcontinent.

Third, the menu doesn't list what is and isn't vegan. Our waiter at least understood the "non-dairy" concept and it seemed like most of the vegetarian section of the menu could be made vegan, but make sure to ask questions anyway. But it's always nice to have that confirmed with a green "v" and maybe some extra-special tofu or soy-meat options, which are all too rare in Indian restaurants.

Also, the restaurant supposedly opens at noon, but when we got there at 12:20, it was still closed. No one came to the door to explain to us what was wrong, but another waiting customer had found out they'd be open at 12:45. Call ahead to confirm they're open, otherwise you might end up waiting like we did.

In conclusion, Hema's is good North Indian food, which is a rarity in the US. It has some room to improve, but I'm glad it's around. Hema, why not open a vegetarian restaurant, too?

rating star

Hema's Kitchen has really excellent food; I enjoyed a plate of dahl with garlic naan (make sure they don't put butter on it). The prices are quite reasonable as well. However, the service was exceptionally slow and inattentive when I went. They really weren't *that* busy either.

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