Thursday, March 4, 2021
March 4, 2021

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Chutneys brings Indian cuisine to life in east Vancouver

With fantastic food, fine service, eatery a great dining occasion

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Mixed grill at Chutneys.
Mixed grill at Chutneys. (Rick Browne for The Columbian) Photo Gallery

While Asian, Mexican and pizza restaurants thrive locally, it’s pretty hard to find an Indian restaurant in Clark County. What gives?

Indian food can be breathtaking in its diversity. It’s equally loved by both meat eaters and vegetarians. And it can be anything from mild to fiery hot, sweet to astringently sour, but oh so good.

Chutneys — one of only two Indian restaurants I could find in Clark County — is a small and unpretentious yet comfortable dining place in a strip mall on Southeast 164nd Avenue. My dinner there was fantastic — full of a variety of intriguing tastes. The service was superb, attentive and extremely informative.

We ordered two starters to get things going. Paneer pakora ($7) are cheese-filled triangles battered in chickpea flour, lightly spiced and fried. The cheese itself is bland, and if thicker would be rubbery, but in this dish it was delightful, enhanced by the spices and crispy coating.

Other starters range from $4 for samosas to the garbanzo dish chole bhathoorae (try pronouncing that boys and girls) for $9.

Chutney’s Fine Indian Cuisine

Hours: 5 to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 5 to 10 p.m. Friday through Saturday; 5 to 9:30 p.m. Sunday; lunch buffet daily from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Where: 3000 S.E. 164th Ave., Vancouver.

Contact: 360-254-7254.

Health score: Chutneys received a score of 12 on Aug. 20. Zero is a perfect score, and Clark County Public Health closes restaurants with a score of 100 or higher. For information, call 360-397-8428.

Our second starter was an order of the keema naan ($5), a very tasty tandoori oven-baked unleavened bread stuffed with spiced minced lamb. It was delicious, easy to rip apart, buttery and very flavorful.

While Chutneys doesn’t really have “side dishes,” we opted to order a vegetarian dish as an accompaniment to our two entrees. Boy, are we glad we did. The malai kofta ($12) was incredible, and actually our favorite dish of the evening. The dumplings made with cauliflower, potato, rice and spices were tender, almost melt-in-your-mouth, and bathed in a delicious, slightly sweet and spicy creamy sauce, which elicited a groan reminiscent of the “When Harry Met Sally” deli scene. Wow.

Our first entree was the mixed grill ($17), a large mound of steaming food delivered in a cast-iron serving dish fresh from the tandoori oven. Chicken breast pieces, jumbo shrimp and a generous number of house-made lamb sausage pieces shared space with a very healthy portion of grilled onions, red pepper chunks and fresh basil leaves, accompanied by fresh lime wedges. I tasted bits of pepper, cardamom, and turmeric. The chicken was tender and moist, the shrimp delightfully tail-less, and the sausage provided a nice zip and tang to the platter.

Our final entree, lamb tikka masala ($12), is Chutneys’ most popular dish, especially with folks unfamiliar with Indian cuisine. It’s a bubblingly hot bowl served with a larger bowl of fragrant basmati rice. This dish had perhaps the strongest spice of the evening. The large and fork-tender chunks of lamb swam in a glorious saffron, fennel and tomato sauce. The restaurant offers all its dishes mild, medium or spicy. We declared ourselves of the mild persuasion.

I ladled the lamb and sauce over the basmati rice, and sopped up the excess with naan. It was as satisfying a dish as I’ve had anywhere in the past several months. The five other lamb iterations all ring in at $15 each. The eight chicken offerings are priced at $14 each. The 16 vegetarian plates are $12 per entree. The assorted tandoori baked sizzlers are priced between $13 and $17.

Chutneys also has a Spice Corner store next door where foodies can stock up on an incredible variety of spices, a large selection of assorted dried peas and legumes, flours, pickles, prepared and frozen entrees, vegetarian dishes and assorted naan.

We finished our meal with an order of gulab jamun ($5), two doughnut-hole sized pastries soaked in cardamom-spiced rose and sugar water. It’s a popular Indian dessert, but I prefer old-fashioned doughnut holes.

Next time you’re deciding where to go for a delightful, delicious and satisfying meal, you might try one of the world’s best cuisines.

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