Smile Politely

Kohinoor is a popular Restaurant Week choice

One side effect of this pandemic is that in some ways, it feels like Restaurant Week is every week. Each month that passes, we learn of all the ways in which the food service industry is suffering, and we lament the closures of our much beloved eateries. So this week, during the official Visit Champaign County Restaurant Week, I wanted to be sure to spend some money supporting the restaurants I love, to do a little bit to help them make it through this difficult time.

Kohinoor is among the restaurants we most frequent, and since last March, it’s been our go-to delivery option. We have our favorite dishes, and tend to stick to them, so we were delighted to see them on the RW menu. The RW menu isn’t available through GrubHub for delivery, so on the first day of RW, last Friday, I called to place my order for pick up.  

I should have planned my day a little better, because when I did call, the phone line was busy, and stayed busy, for about 10 minutes. When I did get through and place my order, I was told it would be ready in an hour, around 7 p.m. 

When I arrived shortly after 7 p.m. to collect my food, there were about 10 to 15 people inside waiting for their orders. This made me nervous for a number of reasons: COVID, of course — though everyone was properly masked; no exposed noses — and because it was so busy I was worried that my order would be incorrect and/or I’d have to wait even longer. I ended up having to wait another 15 to 20 minutes for my food to be ready. Because it was so cold outside, I didn’t want to open everything up and to check the order, so I just went home and hoped for the best. 

Good news, all around: the order was correct and the food was piping hot. 

Vegetable biryani from Kohinoor. A rice dish with vegtables in a white styrofoam container. Photo by Jessica Hammie.

Vegetable biryani. Photo by Jessica Hammie.

We ordered two vegetarian meals from the RW menu ($19 each; non-vegetarian meals are also $19 each): the vegetable biryani and the aloo gobi. All the RW menus are served with a mango lassi, a green salad, a samosa, the entree, and choice of rice or naan. With the veggie biryani, we selected naan. We selected a side of rice for the aloo gobi. So to summarize, we received:

  • two mango lassis
  • two green salads
  • two samosas
  • vegetable biryani
  • naan
  • aloo gobi
  • rice

It’s a heck of a lot of food for two people, and we had plenty of leftovers. 

Veggie biryani is one of our favorite dishes at Kohinoor. The restaurant doesn’t skimp on the veggies, and it’s nicely spiced. This veggie biryani didn’t disappoint; it was exactly as I expected it to be: perfectly cooked rice, a well-balanced, slightly spicy sauce, and big, charred, pieces of crisp-tender veggies.

Two samosas sit on top of naan, which are all on top of tin foil. Food from Kohinoor. The samosas are pyramidal shaped fried food. Photo by Jessica Hammie.

Samosas and naan. Photo by Jessica Hammie.

I love samosas, and Kohinoor’s never disappoint. We usually order the veggie combo appetizer, which comes with one samosa, so we share that sole samosa. But for RW, I had my own samosa, and I was very happy about that. It’s just so crunchy and satisfying to crack into that thing, and then the filling is nicely flavored, creamy, and tasty.

A carryout cup of aloo gobi from Kohinoor in Champaign. The dish is a saucy califlower dish that is reddish in color topped with shredded cilantro. Photo by Jessica Hammie.

Aloo gobi. Photo by Jessica Hammie.

Since we’re friends, I can tell you that I don’t love cauliflower, but the aloo gobi made the weird, stinky vegetable much more appetizing. The sauce was nicely flavored but not spicy. Paired with the sauce and potatoes, the perfectly cooked cauliflower was tasty, and the entree paired perfectly with the biryani.

While there isn’t much to say about an iceberg salad, I will say that it had fresh, crisp lettuce, and the dressing was a little spicy and delicious. And the naan was perfect, as always. 

A plate of food from Kohinoor. Clockwise, from top left: vegetable biryani, naan, samosa, aloo gobi, green salad. A glass of mango lassi sits on the table above the plate. Photo by Jessica Hammie.

Photo by Jessica Hammie.

Before this order, I can’t remember the last time I had a mango lassi. That is a mistake. Why don’t I order these all the time? They are delicious. The tangy funk of the mango is toned down by the yogurt, so this mango smoothie drink is the perfect antidote to spicy and salty food. I had a little with dinner, but saved the rest for the weekend, and it was the most perfect breakfast beverage. I’m mad that it’s gone and am wondering if it’s strange to order a couple tonight to stash in my fridge for the next few days. 

We’ve reviewed Kohinoor a number of times, and each time we write the same thing: service was gregarious though sometimes slow, but the food was awesome. This was true this time, too, even though there was no dine-in service. The food was certainly worth the wait, and Kohinoor remains among my top go-to restaurants in town, dine-in, pick up, or delivery. RW is the perfect excuse to try the restaurant for the first time, or revisit for the 50th. I might even order Kohinoor again this week, just to take advantage of the excellent RW deal. 

6 E Columbia Ave
M-Sa 11a.m. to 3 p.m. + 4:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Su noon to 3 p.m. + 4:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Top photo by Jessica Hammie.

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