A group of us approached Kohinoor Indian Restaurant & Lounge late last week as Visit Champaign County’s Restaurant Week 2019 had kicked off. On night one, it was clear to us that Kohinoor was a place to go to as a part of this year’s festivities.
Hopefully, by now, you’ve gone to the restaurant to try for yourself. In case you haven’t, this type of event is the perfect reason to dip your foot in and test the waters. Kohinoor is an easy one to miss when assessing options for RW — and I hope you reconsider your plans to visit because of how good their offerings are on the whole, not just for this week.
The restaurant was quite busy, as is expected for a Friday night, but with the snow coming down outside, I figured it might be a little lighter. I was wrong — and as we walked in, the bit of a wait we had to endure was OK, because the service is excellent in my experiences, and there’s something about the restaurant being full on the first night of Restaurant Week that makes things a bit easier when you’re chomping at the bit to get a seat.
We were seated in the bar section of the restaurant, and right away ordered two of the non-vegetarian entree offerings for RW: one Chicken Tikka Masala and one Shrimp Dopyaza. If you’re keeping track at home, the veggie option is $15, while the meat option is $20. I actually visited Kohinoor for last year’s Restaurant Week, which essentially had the same menu, but I wasn’t discouraged as I offered up my eating services to visit once again.
Each entree includes a samosa appetizer, mango lassi, and homemade green salad in addition to the main (and your choice of rice or naan). Perhaps it has been a minute since I last visited Kohinoor, but the samosas are simply giant now — and delicious.
I sorta/kinda bypassed the salad initially because when these came out, I wanted to dive in immediately. They were crispy on the outside and soft on the inside; the warm potato and peas inside that crispy nugget might burn your tongue if you’re not willing to wait a minute (let’s just say I’m an impatient eater sometimes). I moved back to the salad offering, which really, there isn’t much to it — the salad is a bit bland without any sort of dressing, though if you take the lemon slice and squeeze the juices out for a little bit of lemon zest for your lettuce, tomatos, cucumbers, and all the rest, you’re in a better position.
The entrees did not disappoint: Both the chicken and shrimp options were very good. The chicken tikka masala is your standard chicken and tomato sauce mixture, and the shrimp dish includes onion, bell pepper, and grilled tomatoes in curry. For a couple, I’d say one of these is enough to share, but if you’re feeling ambitious, you might be able to take down a whole entree and the rice/naan that accompanies it.
I will say, if you’re planning on visiting Kohinoor this week, you might budget a little more time due to the popularity of the RW offerings. (This all according to one of the owners, who was very excited about all the patrons visiting for this week’s festivities.) At least from our experience, on a Friday night, so take that for what it’s worth here.
Thankfully, we had a fairly flexible amount of time budgeted, but I could see this being an issue if you are in a pinch. Not to worry though, we had a few beverages, and additional appetizers to buy us some more time. In the end, the food came out piping hot and delicious.
I’d recommend visiting Kohinoor not just because the food is simply good, but you’ll have the opportunity to explore a lot of options within the structure of a fairly simple and straight-forward offering at the restaurant.
Visit Champaign County’s Restaurant Week continues through February 2nd.
Kohinoor Indian Restaurant & Lounge
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.
Photos by Anna Longworth