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[Photograph: Nick Kindelsperger]

With so many restaurants opening along Hubbard St. in River North, it's understandable to lose track of a few. That's the only excuse I have to explain how I could have possibly forgotten about Vermilion, which has been serving up a fusion of Indian and Latin American food for the past ten years. Of course, my lack of knowledge could also indicate that the place is simply coasting on its early success, but that's not what I encountered at all.

Take the artichoke pakoras ($9), which are described on the menu as "Spain's thistle in Indian fritters." Small hunks of briny artichokes are lightly bread and fried until golden, and then topped with pickled chilies that are more acidic than spicy. The crispy, salty bites are kind of the ultimate vegetarian bar snack—I could have devoured a good dozen of these. But while great on their own, the sauce deserves special mention. The eggplant chili coconut sauce brings South East Asia into the mix, lending a complex creaminess and a subtle heat. Honestly, I almost asked for a spoon so I could just slurp it up like soup.

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