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

Istanbul Market
2324 S. Elmhurst Rd., Mt. Prospect

Japanese Steakhouse
2330 S. Elmhurst Rd., Mt. Prospect

The Kampai
2330 S. Elmhurst Rd., Mt. Prospect

YuYu Sushi & Seafood
2340 S. Elmhurst Rd., Mt. Prospect

Cuisine of India
2348 S. Elmhurst Rd., Mt. Prospect
(also: 1255 E. Ogden Ave., Naperville, 630-548-9440)