In 1996 the Spice Girls revolutionized the term girl power and implored women everywhere to remember they are capable of anything. Just under a decade later, female restaurateur Rohini Dey opened Vermilion, an Indian-Latin fusion restaurant in the heart of River North against a sea of male driven eateries. After seeing a serious lack of successful women in the industry, Dey went onto launch the Women in Culinary Leadership program with the President of the James Beard Foundation, Susan Ungaro.
This preeminent program allows women to attend six month to yearlong training programs that help refine their chef, entrepreneurial and restaurateur skills in both the front and back of the house. It gives women the ability to polish their leadership skills and have more confidence in the kitchen. Women empowering women in this way is a beautiful thing, and the epitome of girl power.
No one knows this better than Titik Suprapti. After working at several restaurants on the West Coast, she came to Chicago and spent one year training within the Women in Culinary Leadership program. She is now the Sous Chef at Vermilion and with a background in pastry it’s no surprise that she brings her magic touch to the dessert menu.
WHAT TO ORDER
The kitchen and menu at Vermilion are an extremely collaborative effort and one thing is certain — the entire menu shreds any stereotypes around Indian cuisine. And while I’m all for enjoying a meal in standard succession (i.e. appetizers, entrée and then dessert), it wouldn’t be wrong to begin with something sweet.
Caramelized Banana Paratha
A specialty of Suprapti’s, this dessert sings. (It’s so delicious you might find yourself singing at the table!) The course begins with a sea of salty and sweet coconut caramel dip where the perfectly caramelized bananas are situated in a bowl and topped with coconut crumble and mango mint cubes. A crispy dosa (lentil rice crepe) sits next to the banana to help soak up the extra caramel dip and the creamy scoop of luscious cardamom ice cream. Every bite made me feel as if I had died and gone to heaven.
Served in a cycle rickshaw, this appetizer is as adorable as it is tasty. Artichokes are fried into bite sized Indian fritters and are served with banana peppers and hearty eggplant chutney. It’s an inventive combination that is hard to forget and after they were gone I found myself longing for more.
Blue Corn Crusted Scallops
These scallops are bold and brazen. Packed with flavor, the duo is served atop a Peruvian corn and squash puree that sits next to a healthy helping of goat cheese. The smoked hot chili pepper ignites the palate to put the finishing touch on this audacious dish.
Plantain Crusted Seasonal Whitefish
No knife required. The delicate whitefish is creamy and melts in the mouth. Served on a bed of roasted corn tomatillo sauce and seasoned with cilantro and mint, the exquisitely prepared fish marries well with its accompaniments. The crispy plantains are the pièces de résistance of the plate.
The Dosa Frankie Bar
For brunch in India, the aforementioned dosa is a crispy rice lentil crepe that is traditionally served with potato filling, hot sambar and chutney. Frankies include a layer of egg, picked onion and chutney inside of a kebab-stuffed flatbread. At Vermilion, diners can build their own by making selections from a wide variety of filling and chutney options. This customizable brunch is available all day long.
Pani Puri Margarita
Unlike a typical margarita, this one comes with a tamarind chili mint infusion. The subtleties of the herbs and spices pair well with the tequila to give the traditional cocktail a creative twist. It is happy hour’s new best friend.
This woman driven restaurant boasts a bold and globally innovative menu inside of a sleek and contemporary space. Diners here will find an unabashed take on Indian-Latin cuisine that showcases familiar ingredients with a Vermilion twist. It is unlike anything else in the city.
10 West Hubbard Street, Chicago, IL 60654