Well...it's not really hidden since it's location in such a high traffic area. It's actually quite visible with it's orange sign near other Main and Broadway stand-bys like the Congee House and Reno's restaurant (a fun cheap diner experience with super friendly service, check it out too if you haven't been) but whenever I tell people about Chutney Villa, the response is usually "I walk/drive past this place all the time, but it really doesn't look like much..."
I experienced Chutney Villa for the first time about a year ago with a group of girlfriends (at my friend Jill's recommendation) and was blown away by my amazing meal and the superb service we received from the owner, Chindi Varadarjulu (who was working the floor). This woman was a bundle of energy and enthusiasm and a passion for food. She even hosted South Indian food tours abroad. I was tempted to sign up on the spot!
When my sister's offered to take me out for dinner, I went through a list of places and realized that even though I always recommend and rave about this place, I haven't made it back there. So we planned to meet up at Chutney Villa.
There have been some changes at this restaurant and right away, I noticed that the dining room had completely been renovated/ re-decorated. It was kind of a more casual mish-mash of Indian decor but now it looks like an Indian banquet hall with understated Indian decor and white linen tablecloths and napkins. The bathrooms have also been redone to reflect this new theme/decor.
We started with a round of waters and wanted to try something different in the beverage department so we ordered a Limca ($5) to share. This lemon-lime soda had a really strong ginger flavour, which I enjoyed, but was wayyyy too sweet. At $5 per bottle, I wouldn't order it again unless it was to mix with soda water or booze. Chatting with our server, I learned that she had worked at the restaurant for many years and had recently bought the restaurant with some other employees from Chindi, who moved back to India. She explained that they made some changes in decor, but were planning on keeping the menu the same, and possibly adding new dishes and new special meal evenings and brunches.
I ordered the same dish I ordered on my latest visit to Chutney Villa, Katrika Chops ($14) "Fresh Delicious Eggplant in a tomato based curry, with or without egg."
I ordered it with egg, same as last time. I really like spicy food, and when ordering, I told our server (the new owner). She recommended that I stick with medium spice and that she would bring me green chilli on the side. All of our meals arrived within 15 minutes of ordering. The food arrived on metal plates with sauces and mains in separate dishes (which I love because I'm a control freak about mixing flavours). My eggplant curry was topped with a green onion filled fried egg, and served small sides of lentil curry, mushroom curry, creamy yogurt, white rice, and crispy papadum. This eggplant is curry is AMAZING. It's so rich and flavourful on its own, but when paired with the texture and flavour of the green onion fried egg....it is a full on taste experience. The side lentils and mushroom curry were also excellent compliments to the meal. As much as I loved this dish- I really wanted it spicier, and despite reminding our server when she came to check in, she never did bring me a side of chopped green chillis.
Middle Sister ordered Masala Uttapum($10) "A thick dosa topped with fresh veggies, spices, and cooked with ghee."
This was an pretty impressive looking dish. Essentially, its a large (nearly plate sized) omelette/pancake hybrid. It's texture was soft and a nice medium thickness that is both doughy and slightly crispy and cooked completely throughout. The veggies inside and on top tasted crisp and fresh. This dish was nice and had a "savoury indian vegetable garden" taste to it. This dish came with a medium size of dahl lentil curry. Middle sister really enjoyed this dish but after trying some of my eggplant, she was wishing that she had ordered the Katrika chops.
Youngest sister, a vegan, ordered the nightly special, The Veggie Village Feast ($16* special on Weds). This was an assortment of vegetarian curries served with rice under a crispy pappadum, and mango pickle on a banana leaf with a vegan tapioca for dessert.
We were also brought 4 chutneys to enjoy with our meals. Two were more savoury, a spicy tomato/pepper coconut curry, and a coconut curry. The other two were sweet, with apple and pear flavours respectively. These were all rich, delicious and full of flavour. My favourite was obviously the spicy tomatoe/pepper option, but I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the sweeter chutneys here- mainly, because they weren't too sweet.
All in all, I really like this place. The food just tastes amazing. I do have to mention that although our server (the owner) was very nice, friendly, and knowledgable....the efficiency and accuracy of the service needs some work. We ordered an appetizer that never came (without any explanation), our water refills were few and far between, and she never brought me the green chilis to spice up my dish- even though I asked twice. I'll be back for the tasty food, my only hope is that they can work out the service issues to match the high quality of their dishes. And a special shout out to my crazy, awesome sisters: You guys are awesome. Thanks for the great night.