Cuisine from all over the world - in one spot

October 29, 2009 8:41:35 AM PDT
It's not a hallmark holiday, and no one gets the day off from school or work. But if Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon was in Chicago. I would take him to a fascinating strip mall in Mount Prospect where he could taste the cuisine from several countries -all in one place.From the outside, it's just another drab, suburban strip mall at the corner of Elmhurst and Oakton in Mount Prospect. But look closer: on the North end, there's Pad Thai Restaurant, offering authentic flavor combinations from Thailand, including the namesake dish, wok-fried with shrimp, tamarind and egg plus Northern-style kao soi - jammed with chicken and coconut milk; curries are vibrant and fresh.

A few doors down, the flavors of Turkey are on display at the Istanbul Market, a 10-year-old family-run grocery store offering imported coffee, olive oil and exotic cheeses.. plus sticky-sweet baklava and kadayif, layered with pistachios and phyllo dough. If you ask nicely, they might even offer you a sample. "I think we are lucky in a way, because of the demographic; we're right on the border of Des Plaines and Mt. Prospect, adjacent to Arlington Heights, Rolling Meadows. They have a unique population," said Jerry Iseda, the owner of the shopping mall.

Adjacent to Istanbul, the Japanese Steakhouse offers more kitsch than authenticity. It's a fun diversion, where the chefs put on a show, but the steak, egg yolk-coated lobster and teriyaki chicken are more for beginners.

Next door, sushi fans flock to The Kampai, where the oval-shaped bar contains wooden "boats" - each carrying freshly-made maki rolls, ngiri pieces and other Japanese sushi bar favorites. Decisions are tough. If you prefer white tablecloth dining, next door is YuYu's, which offers Japanese-French fusion in a more sophisticated setting. Samplers of mussels, shrimp tempura and crab cakes are nearly as impressive as a flaky, miso-marinated filet of black cod.

Don't rule out Indian. For the past 12 years, Cuisine of India has occupied a double storefront here. A daily buffet is loaded with samosas, basmati rice and spice-laden vegetable dishes. Naans glisten straight from the oven, while tandoori chicken is sizzling and moist. The restaurant draws visitors on layover at O'Hare, plus Indian food-loving conventioneers from Rosemont. It's yet another reason to visit a mall with a worldly menu.

"It is one-of-a-kind, as far as I know unless you go to downtown Chicago you'll see all the restaurants, but this particular place around here, right in Schaumburg or the neighboring areas, this would be one-of-a-kind.," said Rahul Saigal, owner of Cuisine of India.

There is also an Indian grocery store and a deli in the mall, plus, a Jazzercize franchise, where you can work off all the calories.

Pad Thai
2310 S. Elmhurst Rd., Mt. Prospect
847-472-9000
www.padthaifood.com

Istanbul Market
2324 S. Elmhurst Rd., Mt. Prospect
847-290-9740
www.istanbulsupermarket.com

Japanese Steakhouse
2330 S. Elmhurst Rd., Mt. Prospect
847-640-6700
www.kampaisteakandsushi.com

The Kampai
2330 S. Elmhurst Rd., Mt. Prospect
847-640-6700
www.kampaisteakandsushi.com

YuYu Sushi & Seafood
2340 S. Elmhurst Rd., Mt. Prospect
847-640-6760

Cuisine of India
2348 S. Elmhurst Rd., Mt. Prospect
847-718-1522
www.cuisine-of-india.com
(also: 1255 E. Ogden Ave., Naperville, 630-548-9440)


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