Ten-Buck Lunch: Sam's Rasoi, Melrose Park

"The haute cuisine of vegetarianism"

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By David Hammond

One key advantage of living in a major metropolitan area is that because you have many different ethnicities coming together, you can dine on, for instance, not just Asian food, but Indian food, and not just Indian food, but the food of Gujarat.

Sam's Rasoi is a hole-in-the-wall on Mannheim in Melrose Park that makes some tasty vegetarian chow in the style of India's western state of Gujarat. Indian chef and television personality Madhur Jaffrey has called Gujarati food "the haute cuisine of vegetarianism."

Rasoi's menu is all vegetarian, and my guess is that much of it pretty much qualifies as vegan as well. I didn't see any animal products on the menu (unless you count yeast, which some vegans probably do).

On a recent visit to Sam's we had a highly tasty, very low-cal lunch. There was a slight language barrier, so I couldn't get names for all the dishes, but we had bowls of potato, cabbage and onion; peas, cauliflower and tomatoes; and crispy noodles floating in a tomato broth.

There was also a lentil soup with surprising hints of sweetness (a characteristic of Gujarati cuisine). I mentioned to our server, a nice man named Kamlesh, that I really liked the soup, and he proceeded to bring me another, even bigger bowl of it. This should not have surprised me; traveling throughout Indian, and eating street food whenever I could, I noticed that it was quite normal for vendors to simply give you more food if you wanted it without a corresponding increase in the price. Sam's Rasoi is not a street food vendor, but it has that feel.

All the dishes had pleasing heat and a good blend of spices that made them very tasty without becoming overwhelming.

Sam's Rasoi has a large menu[http://www.samrasoi.com/sam_delicious_dishes.asp], but be advised that some preparations – like the huge pastry-filled baseball-bat-sized dosa – are usually prepared only for catered events. It seems Sam's is largely a catering operation with the restaurant almost an after-thought.

We were charged $10 for lunch, and others I've spoken to who've eaten there before said they were charged a uniform $10 as well. It seems basically ten bucks, all-you-can-eat.

Caution: this is kind of a funky place. If you like tablecloths and sparkling washrooms, Sam's Rosoi is quite definitely not for you. Me, I prefer personality and good flavors over ambiance, but your mileage may vary.

Sam's Rasoi

2321 N. Mannheim Road

Melrose Park, IL 60164



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