Mango Pickle on Broadway is not the usual buffet since the kitchen is run by Marisa Paolillo-Patel - an Italian cook who married into the culture. The dishes look Indian and, if you peer in the kitchen, you'll see plenty of Indian ingredients.
"We consider it to be authentic flavors, we try very hard to keep the flavor intact, but it's through our impression of living in India," said Marisa Paolillo-Patel, the restaurant's co-owner and chef who married an Indian and lived in Bombay for a few years.
Chana Masala is a typical dish featuring chickpeas, but here, the stew also contains fresh chickpeas, okra and tomatoes, seasoned with coriander and turmeric, topped with sev - a crunchy Indian snack.
Eggplants are roasted and pulled apart by hand, mixed with spices and turned into a hearty dip. Other vegetables are roasted in a claypot, served with chickpea fritters embedded with cilantro and coconut. Even that British-Indian staple - butter chicken - is turned on its head somewhat.
"We marinate the chicken in red chile, turmeric and yogurt, and then we do a very slow cook of tomatoes, garam masala, black cardamom, green cardamom, cinnamon, bay leaf, black pepper, cloves, garlic, ginger and we let it cook like grandma's marinara sauce all day long," she said.
It's served with oven dried tomatoes and mushrooms, a clear departure from the Devon Avenue standard. Saag Paneer is typically a combo of wilted and pureed greens with homemade cheese. In Paolillo-Patel's hands, the mustard greens and kale also contain carmelized ginger and garlic, and are crowned with mushrooms, cashews and cauliflower. It looks nothing like what you'd see at a traditional Indian restaurant.
"If mustard greens and kale is the main ingredient of the dish, why not also garnish with some thinly-sliced kale on top," she said.
So even though we're just a few blocks from Rogers Park, the food at Mango Pickle nothing like what you'd see on Devon Avenue and certainly you can tell right away, from the presentation alone.
EXTRA COURSE: ABC7 food reporter Steve Dolinsky talked about some of the unique desserts at Mango Pickle
5842 N. Broadway, Chicago