Restaurant review: Aangan India Bistro both familiar and forward-looking

G.A. Benton
Menu items at Aangan India Bistro

This last week of December can feel like a weird time. The fevered buildup to the new year is in full swing just as everyone is also saying “So long, it’s been real” to the year that’s ending. Are these days more about looking forward or backward?

I found myself doing both while in Aangan India Bistro.

Aangan is a noteworthy new eatery, but much of its delectable fare tastes familiar. That’s because I’ve enjoyed many of its skillfully prepared, time-tested recipes before at Amul India Restaurant, the previous business founded by Aangan’s chef-owner, Lakhvir Singh.

Singh, who recently sold Amul following a 16-year tenure there, runs Aangan in the Crosswoods area with his wife, Balvinder Kaur, and his son and co-owner, Jay Singh. Aangan isn’t a modest, little family restaurant, though.

Named after the Hindi word for “courtyard” — a courtyard brightened by strikingly painted, life-size statues leads to its entrance — Aangan is a big and snazzy place with white tablecloths; glittering, cut-glass chandeliers, and a tall, vaulted ceiling. A large mural featuring warm tints and titled “A Soldier of the Sikh Empire” stands out against the airy space’s gray-and-purple color scheme. Service is teamwork-oriented and generally quick and efficient.

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Terrific deals on cuisine-compatible wines and other adult beverages are easy to find. Among the best: a bottle of Domaine des Combiers Beaujolais Village ($23.95), the vodka-spiked, mango-flavored Sassy Lassi ($7.50), a 22-ounce Taj Mahal beer ($7) and a peachy — in both senses of the word — Lychee Martini ($8.25).

The latter is a great match for the Veg Manchurian ($9). Deviating from the North Indian favorites blanketing Aangan’s menu — which strongly resembles Amul’s menu — this addictive Indo-Chinese appetizer features about a dozen vegetarian “meatballs” made with battered-and-fried cabbage and carrots. These are swamped in a thick sweet-and-sour sauce enhanced with soy, minced onions and peppers plus an adjustable chile kick — “medium” supplies a nice bite at Aangan.

Fried-food fans will delight in the huge, bargain-priced Mixed Sampler ($7): a flaky samosa with a zesty, ground-chicken filling accompanied by an assortment of puffy-yet-crisp pakoras variously encasing potatoes, cabbage, paneer and chicken.

Feeding at least two, the Mixed Grill is an even bigger sampler ($16; served with exemplary basmati, like most entrees). Here, “mixed” means three different versions of chicken presented sizzling with onions and peppers on a skillet, like fajitas. The bird arrives in the guises of mild-and-tender boneless tikka, a leg and meaty wing of straightforward tandoori chicken, plus juicy slices of tender-and-fragrant sheesh kebab. The best of the bunch — the sheesh kebab — can be a $14 entree.

I didn’t taste much ginger in the Kadahi Ginger Paneer ($14), but I loved what I tasted: notably fresh and supple, house-made paneer drenched in a curry sauce supporting strands of sauteed onions and peppers. The sauce is thick, rich and delicious enough that you’ll likely want one of Aangan’s impressive house breads to sop it all up with — such as the potent Garlic Nan ($4).

The spicy curry sauce in the Lamb Rogan Josh ($15) is so rich with yogurt, cream and butter that the entree could star in an ad for the National Dairy Council. The indulgent and nuanced dish, which features extremely tender meat, is worth the splurge.

You can find decent vindaloo all over town. But with tender meat ($15 for lamb, $14 for chicken) and an uncommonly bright, vinegar-spiked sauce, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better version of this classic, tomato-based curry than at Aangan. And eating the well-made old favorite in this welcome new restaurant is a good thing to do at any time of the year.

7520 High Cross Blvd., North Side


Aangan India Bistro