Hanging Out in Rockford: Spicy: India House serves up exceptional food
By Mike Leifheit
Since I haven’t had someone to go with me, I haven’t been going to the India House, one of my favorite places in Rockford. I am single, and more than often going to restaurants by myself, so I tend to shy away from places where I cannot feel comfortable eating at the bar. I have been trying for some time now to get my friend Crissy, who bartends at Café Greco, to go with me. I have the feeling that if she does, she will really like it.
Sunday morning arrives. Sunday is my favorite day of the week because I set it aside for myself. Other than writing my column and settling the business from the day before, I don’t let myself do anything for the business. Sometimes I hide out in front of the television, just glad for the time to be alone. I spend so much of my time around other people. This particular Sunday, however, I am in the mood to get out.
I call Crissy, but she doesn’t answer. “Please let me take you to the India House today,” is my message. “I am jonesing for some Indian food.” A short while later, she returns my call. “Just let me have time to have a shower,” she says. Finally! We are going to the India House. I pick her up, and we drive out Forest Hills Road and then right on Riverside. We pull up to the restaurant, and there aren’t many cars. I don’t think either of us realizes how late in the afternoon it is.
Inside, one of the beautiful little daughters seats us. Saztri, Vijay’s wife, informs us it is too late for the buffet, but that we can order off the menu. We do, or rather, I do. I want to be sure Crissy finds something she likes, so I order five or six things. We get a Lamb Vindaloo, a dish of spinach with homemade cheese (Sag Paneer), a dish of lentils, a dish called Chicken Tikka Masala, a couple of the handmade breads and some Samosa appetizers. We are sitting quite a while before our appetizers come out. The Samosas are served with three sauces, a Mint Chutney, a Tamarind Sauce and a Sweet and Sour sauce of their own house recipe, all delicious. Crissy is hooked already.
Then, Saztri brings us our main courses. There is so much food, we have to rearrange the table to accommodate it, but then I ordered half the restaurant. I am again amazed by the quality and freshness of the food. Crissy is positively guarding the lamb dish. She growls when I touch it. That’s OK, because I love everything else. We have ordered enough food to feed five people, and there is a huge carryout bag, which Crissy appropriates. By this time, we realize we are the only people in the place. I ask what time they close, and we have stayed too long. I am prepared to make a quick escape, but Saztri brings us a dessert on the house, a Pistachio Ice Cream with a Mango Topping. (Crissy talks about it for days.)
After, we are in the car on our way to the Stone Eagle for an after-dinner drink. I realize they went out of their way to serve us. Perhaps that is why the food was so exceptional on this trip—they made everything from scratch just for us. That also explains why it took us a little longer than usual to get our food. It is a pleasure to wait for food of this quality. People are in too much of a hurry these days. I vote for slow food.
We sit at Jimmy Vitale’s Brunswick antique bar and have a cocktail. It is the Sunday of the snow, so the place isn’t as packed as it has pretty much constantly been since it opened. It’s nice to enjoy it at a more leisurely pace. Then, we drive to The Great Wall—I need my Sunday afternoon hit of Mai and Alex. We sit at the bar, and have one last drink. Crissy orders an egg roll. She says she cannot come here without having one. Shortly thereafter, I drop her off at her place, and find my way back to the Irish Rose. I don’t stay around downstairs—remember, I am taking the day off. I wind my way upstairs early. I have to go to the Stone Eagle with Elise for lunch the next day. I promised her two weeks ago. I’m looking forward to it.
I am making various sausages from chicken and duck for our Third Tuesday Sausage and Beer Dinner (Jan. 19, 6:30 p.m.). See our ad (probably adjacent to this article) to find out how to make a reservation.
Mike Leifheit’s “Hanging Out In Rockford” reviews locally-owned restaurants, businesses and Rockford life. Leifheit is owner of the Irish Rose restaurant in the downtown River District.
From the Jan. 13-19, 2010 issue.