Indian food is reimagined at Grand Trunk Road in Lincoln Park, where a Pakistan-born chef is crafting fascinating takes on curries and kebabs.
Chef Behzad Khan shows off the brightly colored, zesty shahi kachori ($7).
The hard part at Grand Trunk Road was narrowing down our selection to a reasonable amount of food. Thankfully, we failed—our forks flitted from pungent, spiced minced lamb chapli kebab ($11) to lightly sweet crab masala ($29) to Podina lamb chops ($29), our eyes happily outpacing our stomachs. Each dish proved irresistible, executed to the most minute detail. The chops, for example, are bathed in a mint marinade spiked with umami-packed mustard oil that perfectly matches the rich, tangy meat.
Chef Behzad Khan spent the past decade fine-tuning the menu for his first solo venture. After promising stints at top Chicago restaurants like Moto and Topolobampo, he left the industry to work for his family’s medical equipment company to save money to open Grand Trunk Road. “You can’t make that much working as a sous-chef,” he says with a laugh. Now the creativity borne in those kitchens combines with Khan’s passion for the food of his native Pakistan, which was part of India until 1947. “I’ve always had this vision of modernizing Indian food,” Khan says. “I wanted to do something different.”
The result is a playful menu bursting with intriguing flavor profiles. It’s easy to share a few drinks and small plates with friends or make a full meal out of the kebabs, curries and biryanis offered. For starters, don’t miss the shahi kachori ($7), a crispy semolina shell wrapped around bright, zesty tamarind chutneys and lentil dumplings. The pop of pomegranate seeds draws out the citrus notes, mingling perfectly with the bold spices. It pairs wonderfully with the deep flavors of the Grassy Knoll cocktail ($13), in which foamy egg white and lemon uplift burnt orange and cardamom shrub and bison grass vodka. Then again, there wasn’t a cocktail we didn’t enjoy, from the springy Dill Collins ($11) to the SJP ($12), named for the actress who played a certain Cosmopolitan-loving columnist. But the drink itself suffers none of the classic version’s flaws, instead proving a perfectly balanced blend of vodka, lemongrass and hibiscus. The wine list is select, with a few Indian and Hungarian wines standing out as perfect companions to dinner.