I'll be the first to admit that having Indian food for lunch often sounds unappealing simply because it's hard to return to my desk and work after a rich, filling, often spicy meal served from an all-you-can-eat buffet. Ironic because I LOVE Indian food. So when I heard about the new fast casual Indian restaurant Chutney Kitchen, which opened up shop in Hell's Kitchen in February, I couldn't wait to try it.
Chutney Kitchen is the brainchild of former finance 9-5'er Silu Sao and her friend since grade school, Pankaj Amin. One morning Sao's 8-year-old daughter asked her why she was working in finance when all she loved was to cook. That week she quit her hedge fund job and enrolled in culinary school. After 2 years of creating recipes reflecting the fresh, high-quality Indian food she likes to eat at home, Sao opened the restaurant with Amin with the goal of providing a light alternative to this cuisine especially geared toward those with special dietary needs like vegetarians and those who eat gluten-free.
The way it works is very much like Chipotle. You choose a base--roti wrap (like a burrito), naan tacos, salad greens, rice bowl, or chaat bowl (garbanzo beans and potatoes)--and then a fill:
- Charbroiled chicken marinated in yogurt and spices ($8.95)
- Pulled pork simmered with tangy spices ($8.95)
- Shredded steak marinated in ginger, garlic and chilies ($9.95)
- Pan-seared potatoes seared with tumeric, cumin and onions ($7.95)
- Farmer's cheese (Paneer) sauteed with a 5-spice blend ($8.95)
- Lentils (Daal) stewed with onions and spices ($7.95)
You can then choose flavors including warm sauces (coconut cashew, tikka, or vindaloo), cold chutneys (date, yogurt, cilantro, or mirchi), and salad dressings (lemon cumin and spicy mango).
If you can't make up your mind (or are just overwhelmed by choices), Chutney Kitchen has some suggestions including the Viva Las Vegas (naan tacos with pulled pork, vindaloo, carrots & cabbage, pickled onions and yogurt and mirchi chutneys) and the Lucy Goosey (Chaat bowl with cucumber and tomatoes, chickpea crunch, and date, yogurt and cilantro chutneys).
I opted for the shredded steak chaat bowl with tikka sauce, carrots & cabbage, corn, chickpea crunch, and yogurt chutney washed down with an Aranciata San Pellegrino. The bowl was enough food for 2 meals for me, which I really appreciated. It was flavorful, yet slightly spicier than I expected. If you don't like spicy, make sure to let the person preparing your food know and they'll steer you clear of anything you won't like.
Other intriguing items on the menu include masala fries ($2.50), hot street chai ($3.50), and mango smoothies ($3.50). The only thing missing was dessert--I would love to see Sao's take on gulab jamun!
Full disclosure: I received a free meal from Chutney Kitchen but the opinions presented here are 100% my own.