I've been staying at the Hilton Garden Inn O'Hare on a somewhat regular basis (that is, when the room rates aren't outrageous), and I've been exploring the area to see what the options are for restaurants. I had a list of restaurants around the hotel that a girl at the front desk had given me and I found an Indian restaurant that was listed - Maharaja. It was just down the road and around the corner from the hotel, situated in a strip mall on the south side of Higgins Road. (see map)
According their website, Maharaja boasts a celebrity chef - Durga Prashad Bhatt. I have no idea what makes him a celebrity, but he evidently has 25 years experience working in five star Indian restaurants. I couldn't back up the claim to where he worked or if he was even some sort of a celebrity, but I'll tell you now that there were a number of people from Indian descent in his restaurant when I walked in around 7:30 p.m. That's always a good sign, I think.
I was seated at a table near the distressed glass wall in one of two dining areas. There was a large buffet area along the wall opposite where I was seated for their daily lunch buffet. As I looked through the menu as one of the wait staff dropped off some of the puffy Indian naan -style chips and a green sweet chutney and a spicy chutney sauce. The sweet chutney was different from other green chutney's I've had - it didn't have the forward coriander taste and wasn't as sweet. It was good, but more mellow than what I've had in the past. I figured out later that they didn't put mint in the chutney like I've had at other Indian restaurants. I actually like the spicy chutney a little better.
The menu features typical Indian fare - tandoori, chicken, lamb, seafood and vegetarian entrees. They also have a handful of southern Indian entrees, as well as a somewhat full Indo-Chinese menu. If you were a little crossed-up as what to get at Maharaja, they offered a dinner special with a little bit of everything - tandoori chicken, seekh kebab, shrimp, chicken tikka, rogan josh, and dal makhani. They also had the Maharaja mixed grill which had tandoori chicken, fish tikka, chicken tikka, dal makhani and butter chicken.
I've been leaning toward lamb dishes during my past few visits to Indian restaurants. The Rogan Josh in the mild tomato and onion sauce sounded good, as did the bhuna gosht - tender chunks of lamb cubes cooked in a tomato, onion, ginger and herb sauce. There was a hot pepper next to the lamb vindaloo denoting that it was a spicy dish. Most of the time I get my Indian food medium-hot and I've always been willing to kick it up a notch at some point. Well, this was going to be the point. I ordered the lamb vindaloo with some garlic naan bread. I also got a tall bottle of Kingfisher beer.
My meal came out in less than 15 minutes. The lamb vindaloo was in a small bowl with chunks of lamb and potatoes. I took a little bit of the garlic naan and dipped it into the vindaloo sauce to give it a try.
I have to tell you, from the first bite, it was HOT!!! Holy crap, was it hot! I couldn't drink enough Kingfisher or water to make the burn go away from my mouth. But the interesting thing was, it didn't detract from the taste of the lamb. The chunks were big, tender and flavorful. But, oh my GOD!!! Was it hot!!
Then I didn't do myself any favors - I spooned what I thought was a piece of lamb out of the serving bowl and took a bite. Only it wasn't lamb - it was a hot pepper. OH! MY!!! GOD!!!!!! I'm now swishing ice water and beer alternately in my mouth to try and get rid of the spicy taste. What an idiot I am sometimes. Served me right for wanted to step up to the big leagues of spicy Indian food.
But I have to say that I actually liked it. Spiciness aside, the lamb was flavorful, I liked the garlic naan and the service at Maharaja was good. It was a pleasant experience all the way around. I probably won't sign up for the lamb vindaloo the next time, but the bhuna gosht is in my crosshairs. There's no telling if the chef is actually a celebrity or not - maybe he is in India. But all I know is that he certainly got my attention with the lamb vindaloo.
(Update - I've since been back for the bhuna gosht and it was outstanding. Let me put it this way - Have you ever eaten yourself into a painful state, but you're still pissed off that the meal is over? That was me with the bhuna gosht with garlic naan.)