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May 18, 2009 02:53 PM

Vermilion or Red Light?

My boyfriend and will be in Chicago on Memorial Day weekend. We enjoy all types of food and we're trying to decide whether to go to Vermilion or Red Light on Saturday night (as the menus look interesting and we would be able to make reservations at either restaurant). I didn't find too many recent posts on either of these restaurants so I was wondering if anyone had eaten at these restaurants recently. Thanks!

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  1. Both are excellent choices.

    Vermilion is a very unique venue. How often do you see indian-latin fusion? If you are feeling adventuresome, vermillion is your pick. If you can have a good time and appreciate food that is well thought out and prepared but may not sit well in your tasting department - vermillion is your choice.

    Good luck.

    1. I think Vermilion is very good and one of the most underrated restaurants in Chicago - interesting textures, flavors and very well executed food. On the other hand, I'm not a big fan of Red Light. Yes, the menu is interesting and Chef Jackie Shen is talented, but I just find the flavors dumbed down, and several of the dishes are way too sweet. In my opinion, Red Light has seen better days.

      Below is a review I just posted on about a meal I had at Vermilion a little over a week ago.

      It's been a couple of years since I've been to Vermilion, and I'm not sure why . . . I liked it quite a bit on my prior visits and I find the Latin-Indian fusion menu to be both rare and interesting. But I am very happy that I returned, albeit for a light meal. The menu does not appear to have changed much, but what they do offer tends to be very tasty and well executed. The restaurant has transformed some in the last couple of years. Gone is the DJ area, and in its place a slightly more private dining nook.

      My meal consisted of: blue corn crusted scallops on a kali mirch latin calabasa goat cheese puree, duck vindaloo arepa with brushed pomegranate molasses and curry leaf mango, artichoke pakoras with an eggplant chili coconut sauce and garam masala Mexican hot chocolate with miniature churros.

      The blue corn crust on the scallops did not excite me as much as I expected it would, but the puree was very nice and the scallops were pristine and cooked just perfectly. The condition and preparation of the scallops showed me that Vermilion is serious about food.

      The duck vindaloo (shredded duck) was served on what Vermilion calls arepas. Perhaps true to the Latin-Indian fusion Vermilion offers, the arepas were closer to miniature naan in my opinion. But the duck was delicious, and there was some good spice to the dish which pared well with the sweetness of the mango.

      The pakoras were less pakoras as I know them, but rather, very lightly battered artichoke pieces with a delicious and spicy dipping sauce. But the star here was definitely the perfectly fried artichoke - crispy and not the slightest bit greasy.

      My favorite part of the meal, however, was definitely the hot chocolate: thick, rich, hot and spicy. Even Mindy Segal of Hot Chocolate should give this version a try. The churros could have been a little more crispy on the outside, but nonetheless, this was a fantastic finish to a very nice meal.

      Overall, a very nice re-introduction to a restaurant that seems to be forgotten in this city. The menu and presentations are quite creative, the food is executed very well, and for those considering a meal along the lines of a Marigold, for instance, I think Vermilion offers much better food (and a lot more spice). In addition, one thing that has impressed me on each visit to Vermilion has been the excellent and well informed servers. I will not wait so long to return to Vermilion.

      1 Reply
      1. re: BRB

        Thanks for the information - much appreciated!