A Different Take on Tikka

July 21, 2013

Indian fast casual restaurant Sataza opened a little less than one year ago in the West Loop. Situated near numerous office buildings and both Union and Ogilvie Stations has afforded the ethnic outpost much foot traffic from hungry 9-5ers. Sataza, which is the combination of the two words, saat meaning seven, and taaza meaning fresh, is the brainchild of two University of Chicago MBA grads. The duo set to create an Indian restaurant concept that modernized Indian food and offered it in an approachable and familiar format.

The restaurant prides itself on making most everything in-house and fresh each day. The environment is clean and warm, without being overly modern. Upon entering the restaurant, you're faced with menu boards that show you how to customize your meal. The Chipotle-style menu allows you to first pick a base of a wrap, rice bowl or salad bowl and then customize it with your choice of protein. Familiar Indian options include chicken tikka and boti steak, but also vegetarian options including tandoori tofu that is coated in tandoori spices and freshly baked.

Next, you can top your meal with chickpea salad, tomato and cucumber salad or cabbage salad, as well as a few of their six offered chutneys. All chutneys are homemade and the folks at Sataza recommend trying no more than two sauces together. There's a mango mint that's sweet and spicy, a peri-peri (most popular) that packs a little more heat, as well as a cooling yogurt sauce called raita. In terms of side dishes, the most popular, samosas, are offered in both vegetarian and chicken versions. There are masala potatoes (a fancy name for fries) and smaller versions of the salads.
Sataza's dining room
I was invited to try a sampling of the various menu items and left feeling extremely full of delicious flavors! The samosas were greasy but flavorful, especially when dipped in each of the different chutneys. I loved that I could have a completely new flavor experience with each bite. The masala potatoes are nothing special, so I'd probably skip those next time. Quite possibly the best menu items are Sataza's fresh mango juice and mango lassi. The mango juice is squeezed fresh daily and tastes just like eating a ripe mango and the lassi is a blend of the fresh mango juice and yogurt. These were especially great for cooling off the palate from the various spices in our food!

Vegetarian & chicken samosas, masala potatoes, mango lassi & mango juice
While I didn't try any of the wraps (they don't make those in-house), I did try the salad and rice bowls. The chicken tikka was nicely spiced and tender and the boti steak had great marinated flavor from a blend of traditional Indian spices. I wasn't a huge fan of the tandoori tofu because it was very dry, likely a result of the baking process. The rice was tasty, but salty, and came with a blend of chickpeas and the cabbage and tomato cucumber salads. An interesting touch is when you order a salad or bowl at Sataza, they place each topping in a corner, allowing you to blend the ingredients to your liking. I love spicy food but if you don't, there are plenty of ways to minimize the spice level, and several chutneys that have balanced, less-spicy flavors.

Salad bowls with tandoori tofu, boti steak and chicken tikka
Is Sataza the most authentic Indian experience? No. Do they try to be? No. That's where I think this concept works. Sataza offers a different lunch experience when you want to roam free of the typical chain sandwich and salad options. A focus on freshness is very key, and it's always nice to support local businesses. I think Sataza is definitely worth checking out especially if you've been afraid to try Indian food! I'm still dreaming about that mango juice...

Sataza kindly invited me to try their restaurant and comped the meal so I've reported solely on the food I tried, rather than give a star rating.

28 S. Clinton St.
Chicago, IL 60661
Sataza - Contemporary Indian Grill on Urbanspoon

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