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Restaurants & Bars 6

Chutney “Gourmet Curries”, SF

Melanie Wong | Feb 25, 200310:58 PM

Thanks to the notice from Squid-kun that Chutney would open Saturday, I dropped by on Monday for lunch. The interior is contemporary and uncluttered with white walls and malachite green formica table tops. Like its Tenderloin neighbors in the previous Indo-Pak triangle, you order at the counter, the food is brought to your table, and then you pay when you’re done (cash only). There was a continuous line of customers from opening at noon till I left nearly an hour later.

I inquired about the “daily gourmet specials”, but those would not be initiated until later this week. Back to the regular menu, I ordered the lamb saag ($4.99), garlic naan ($1.99) and a mango lassi ($1.50). The menu description touts the lamb saag as being made with fresh spinach, but it was cooked down to a taste and darkness that it could just as well have been frozen. The dish was heavy with meat, in fact, almost too much in proportion to the amount of spinach in the serving. The chunks of boneless lamb were almost too lean causing them to be a bit on the dry side, but those who are afraid of bones and cartilage should be happy. The version here is not as flavorful or flaming hot as Shalimar’s, which is cooked on the bone, but I’ll concede that it’s less of a landmine to eat. The garlic naan had some nice browned bits of garlic and fresh parsley topping, but was slightly underdone and too soft, rather than chewy tender. I like Naan ‘n’ Curry’s better, and this reminded me of the early version at Shalimar on Polk. It may be that the tandoor and cooks aren’t fully broken in yet. The mango lassi was good, but had a pool of water on top, I suspect from pouring the lassi into a glass with ice that had been allowed to melt.

The man who looked like he might be the owner asked me how my meal was and I relayed all these picky comments to him as honest feedback. I also added that I thought they just needed a little more time to perfect the recipes in this kitchen and that I’d check back. I asked him whether he’d operated a restaurant before, and he said that he had, but of a different cuisine.

I did think the food was good enough to order a seekh kabab ($1.99) and rice pullao ($1.00) to go for my dinner later and I popped the containers open on site to try a little of each while they were fresh. The seekh kabab was fine-textured and rather tame in its seasonings on first bite. It was accompanied by some good-looking tomato wedges, raw onion and lemons. I think Shalimar does a better job with this. The rice pullao was a big serving too, quite a bargain for a buck. It was very tasty with a bit of peas scattered through, and lots of toasty whole spices (cloves, two kinds of cardamon, cumin and more). The rice was too moist and clumpy for my taste, lacking that roasted individual grain I associate with pullao, and it was pretty greasy too. That said, I seemed to enjoy it more at dinnertime, maybe I was too full at lunch.

All in all, the setting is nicer than the other curry houses in the neighborhood for comparable pricing. I think it will be competitive. Serving sizes are quite healthy now, although that may not last long. I’ll definitely return after waiting a week or two to let the kitchen shakedown before making a final evaluation. For now, it’s a nice addition to the neighborhood, a new corner on an Indo-Pak quadrant.

Gourmet Curries
511 Jones St.
San Francisco
12pm to 12am


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