Chutney1290 E. Plumb Ln.
Reno, NV 89502
I love Indian food. It’s easily one of my all-time favorite cuisines of the world. So when I heard that a new place had recently opened, I dropped everything and got down there posthaste, probably plowing down a pedestrian or two en route.
I got there a little too soon.
Chutney has only been open a week or two, and they have some kinks to iron out. Their full menu isn’t ready, so they’re just doing lunch and dinner buffets ($9.95 and $12.95 respectively).
I’m predisposed to like any Indian restaurant, and I was a little less thick-skinned than usual because the place is so new, but do not let that diminish the effect when I say I was impressed.
For starters, Chutney is more elegant than Reno’s average Indian restaurant. The lighting is low and austere, the background music is tastefully traditional sitar-and-tabla music, and the colors are all muted browns and blacks. The overall effect feels surprisingly sophisticated for a restaurant that’s only serving a buffet. And the kitchen is visible behind glass from the dining area; a nice touch.
I was dining with my girlfriend, Sara, and our friends Kaleb and Kira. Our meal started out with the Indian equivalent of chips and salsa: papadum and chutney. Papadum is a kind of big cracker and chutney, the namesake stuff of the place, is a relish or sauce made of crushed or diced fruits and vegetables and seasoned with chili peppers and other spices. Chutney serves a variety of different chutneys, including an excellent mint chutney. They’re all good, though the sweet-tomato chutney tastes exactly like straight-from-the-bottle ketchup.
The buffet was quite diverse, and though Indian buffets are inevitably less spicy than their a la carte counterparts, there were still curry dishes spicy enough to enthrall adventurous diners like me. And mild dishes to console all the wimps of world cuisine.
Part of my love for Indian food stems from the years I spent as a vegetarian during my misguided youth. Nobody makes excellent meatless dishes like the Indians do. Even so, I now tend to gravitate towards the meat dishes: the lamb curry and the buttered chicken are fantabulous, and the tandoori chicken is strikingly juicy and flavorful.
The service was friendly and enthusiastic, though a little sloppy. Two different people tried to take our drink orders and, even more awkwardly, they brought us the bill twice, the second time after we’d already paid the first. (And, oddly enough, the totals were different.) But these are just the minor mishaps of a new restaurant that has yet to find its sea legs. After they get their bearings, I don’t think they’ll have these problems. Besides, it’s a lot easier to fix problems with service than it is to fix problems with food.
As we were leaving, talking about the meal, Kira admitted that she enjoyed the restaurant even though she was “not usually a big fan of Indian food.” For a big fan like me, this was shocking. But she brought up the relatively valid point that Indian dishes often “look like disgusting mush.” She was (partially) won over by chutney, and that’s what makes for the impressive cuisine: eclectic and electric enough to appease the connoisseur, and accessible enough not to offend the less enthusiastic.
Chutney pleases both the lover and the hater.