Marigold Maison offers a garden of flavors

Marigold Maison, Bannockburn
A lovely thali for lunch featuring two kinds of lamb – lamb vindaloo and lamb curry along with naan bread, salad and gulab jamun. A platter is known as “thali” in Indian. (Tina Johansson)

Americans are romancing Indian Food. And now that Marigold Maison recently opened in the Bannockburn Green shopping center, the lighter, upscale exotic cooking here seems all the more appealing.

It’s the aromas and tastes of the spicy, sweet and sometimes tangy cuisine that beckons. Sumil Kumar, executive chef at Marigold has created wonderfully complex flavors in the regional Indian dishes offered for lunch and dinner.

“It’s like nothing you’ve ever experienced in Indian cuisine,” said John Kapoor, owner of the North Shore eatery which features fresh, organic ingredients and hand-crafted spice blends setting them apart from other Indian restaurants.

Chef Kumar, from Punjab near New Deli, grew up cooking in his family’s restaurant. For the last twenty years he has been in the states earning his culinary chops by working in various Indian restaurants. He also has owned a few places including one in New Haven, Conn.

“We’re offering guests a culinary passport to healthy Indian dining,” said the chef, explaining dishes here do away with heavy, fatty content including butter. Olive oil is used in its place, and coconut oil is used in preparation for many of the vegan dishes.

There are a number of vegetable-based items on the menu which are delicious and satisfying whether you are vegetarian or not. Saag paneer is ordered often.

Gol guppa and samosas are among the Indian street food on the menu, while chicken tikka and tikka masala are popular dinner entrées.

Marigold Maison, Bannockburn
A steaming dish of chicken tikka ready to be served.

Between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. lunch is served reasonably and quickly, offering a welcome change of pace. Choose from soups, salads, kati rolls, curry bowls or platters.

Indian desserts and refreshments are offered along with cocktails such as the Marigold Mango Margarita and Indian beers featuring the Kingfisher and Flying Horse brands.

If the territory here is new for you, the wait staff and management is happy to help by answering questions and making suggestions.

And if you are at home with traditional Indian cuisine, you will be impressed by the bold, new menu creations here including whole hen, tandoori fish, and seared eggplant. In fact the eggplant is prepared with tangy tamarind, chaat masala, and mango mustard normally eaten as an appetizer, is so unique and delicious, it was lauded by well-known Chef Rick Bayless.

“He came into one of the restaurants I was running in Chicago, and tried it,” said Kumar. “He told me, ‘Why didn’t I ever think of this?’” recalled the Indian chef, proudly.

Sumil Kumar Chef Marigold Maison, Bannockburn
Sumil Kumar is not only a great chef, he is quite a photographer. The photos on the wall of the restaurant were taken by him while visiting India.

Named for the edible flower which is used in India for prayer, wedding necklaces and for garnishing foods, Marigold opened in Bannockburn in May. Kapoor, a pharmaceutical company owner (Akorn Pharmaceuticals in Lake Forest) turned restaurateur, debuted his first Marigold Maison in Phoenix.

JNK Concepts, the restaurant group founded by Kapoor has other popular eateries under its umbrella including Roka Akor – an Asian fusion restaurant both in Skokie and Chicago’s River North neighborhood.

Though the food at Marigold may be upscale, the ambiance is warm and inviting. Outdoor dining in the front of the place is perfect for these summery days and nights. And inside the 4,700-square-foot eatery, the air is filled with the aroma of spices.

An open kitchen gives diners a view into the multifaceted world of Indian cooking. While freshly-ground spices line front shelves, towards the back of the kitchen there is fire. Twin tandoors, radiating heat up to 900° F standby ready to cook and smoke a variety of meats including lamb, chicken and seafood, as well as its perfect accompaniment—naan bread tinged with the taste of yogurt.

As one self-described “hard-to-please” diner said on his first time at Marigold, “It’s a place worth coming back to!”

 Marigold Maison, Bannockburn
The dishes at Marigold Maison are as beautiful as they are delicious.
Marigold Maison, Bannockburn
Seared eggplant with mango mustard is popular

Marigold Maison
2535 Waukegan Road
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