Too much Indian food? What’s that? We often wonder why there’s not more in Chicago, and also why we don’t seek it out every day. Our enthusiasm is based not on expertise with the culture’s traditions but on sheer enjoyment. We can’t get enough of those spices. So when Jaipur reopened on Randolph Street in October (it had closed in July 2018 after almost 11 years across the street) right next door to hip new Rooh, which offers modern Indian cuisine but is totally unrelated, our reaction was: Two Indian restaurants on one block? Yes, please.
At least for now, Jaipur offers lunch but Rooh does not, so we headed over at midday recently to check out the reboot. The space once housed Ronero, a Latin American restaurant, with rum-focused Esco Bar upstairs. Now it’s home to a polished, old-school Indian restaurant experience, a classic of the genre. If you’ve eaten in one too many tech-forward food halls lately, it’s especially welcome. Where else in this neighborhood can you eat lunch on Sunday-dinner china (with matching salt and pepper shakers) using nicely weighty flatware, while sitting at white-clothed tables? The accoutrements might be formal, but the mood is not the least bit stuffy.
The extensive menu is also a bit of a throwback; it can take some time to sift through all the appetizers, tandooris, curries, vegetable stews, meat and seafood preps, breads, rice dishes and more. Portions are generous; sharing is de rigueur. Don’t hesitate to order old favorites like saag paneer ($19), spinach with cheese, as the execution is so high and the flavors so vivid, it tastes like a great new invention. Most things can be made more or less spicy, and some substitutions (coconut milk for cow’s milk, for example) can be accommodated, if you ask. Meat-averse diners and vegans have lots of choices.