A restaurant labeling itself a "fusion" experience often means: "We have sushi, General Tso's Chicken and Pad Thai." Instead of marrying tastes for a different twist on a dish or cuisine, it's more about mixing menus to attract a wider variety of patrons. Not so for Taste – Indian Chinese Cuisine in Downers Grove. It takes Chinese dishes and ingredients and tumbles them together with traditional Indian spices and flavors.
Hints of cumin, coriander, honey, chili oil and curry hit the spots where chili paste, hoisin sauce and five spice usually are.
Even the interior is an interesting blend of the two cultures. Curtains at the doorway open into a spacious room filled with Asian vases, paintings and pictures. In the evening, the lights are dimmed for a mellow ambiance.
Despite both cuisines being known for their big, sometimes overwhelming flavors, the fare at Taste is superbly balanced and understated. This type of fusion has been refined in the 100 years since groups of Chinese migrated to India and embraced their new country.
My dining partner and I started with an order of the Shrimp Pepper Salt appetizer. From the first bite, we knew we were in for an interesting – and delicious – meal. The breading was incredibly light and delicate. It provided a nice crunch before giving way to the tasty shrimp beneath.
True to its name, its defining taste was pepper. The recipe highlights how delicious quality pepper can be in the specialty dish of shrimp, onion and scallions. A mild garlic flavor melded it all together.
For one of our entrees, we ordered the Eggplant Chili Honey (Taste seems to let the dish names speak for themselves). It was smothered in a thick sauce that was much less sweet and more savory than anything I had received in years of takeout. The eggplant was lightly fried and surrounded with fresh-cooked green peppers, onion, pineapple and chili peppers.
For our other main course, we ordered another shrimp dish that caught our eye – Chili Shrimp. Our server suggested we try it "dry" – without sauce – and with an order of noodles.
The shrimp was the perfect blend of both Indian and Chinese – a little spicy with a lot of inviting smokey flavors. The lack of sauce really helped bring out all the subtle tastes and spices of Indian cuisine. The dish was tied together with a wonderful chili oil.
Is it your usual Chinese food? Certainly not. But as long as you aren't looking for standard Kung Pao – or Paneer – Taste is the perfect kind of fusion to jostle your taste buds and satisfy your culinary sense of adventure.
The Mystery Diner is a newsroom employee at Suburban Life Media. The diner's identity is not revealed to the restaurant staff before or during the meal. Only positive dining experiences will result in published reviews.