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Arts and Entertainment Friday, May 31, 2013 6 years ago

Chutney's: dual cuisines, single restaurant

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For those of us who crave real ethnic food on a regular basis, Sarasota has a range of offerings from which to choose. True, some ethnic cuisines are underrepresented in town, while others seem ubiquitous. However, on balance, Sarasota does offer a diversity of ethnic dining options.

One unique and creative dining option that has fulfilled Sarasota's ethnic food cravings for over 25 years is Chutney's. Located on Hillview Street, Chutney's is the culinary combination of husband-and-wife team Ash Shukla and Denise May.

With an emphasis on Middle Eastern and Indian cuisines, Chutney's offers a diverse array of dining options on its menu. In fact, the dinner menu is divided into two distinct sections: one offering a selection of Middle Eastern and Greek dishes, the other offering a range of Indian specialties, curries and vegetarian options. For our meals we chose the following:

Middle Eastern Platters

Create your own dinner by selecting two different Middle Eastern dishes. Your meal is accompanied by a Greek salad and hand-made pita. Combo Platter $14.95

  • Lamb Kabob: Lean cubes of lamb marinated, grilled and served on a skewer. One skewer of thinly-sliced, tender, mouthwatering lamb, full of flavor.
  • Mousakka: A Greek casserole with layers of roasted eggplant and seasoned mushrooms, topped with an egg custard and baked to perfection. If you like eggplant, you will love this mousakka: sweet, moist and earthy, a real Middle Eastern comfort food.
  • Spanakopita: Layers of filo pastry filled with feta cheese, spinach and our secret spices, then baked. This was so delicious, flaky, tangy and full of richness … a real pleaser.
  • Pastichio: A Greek style casserole. There are several versions, just ask for the daily special. We had ground chicken with baked mashed potatoes. It was a hearty, full-flavored casserole, a simple combination of flavors and textures.

Indian Platters

Create your own dinner by selecting two different Indian dishes. Your meal is accompanied by Basmati rice, Greek salad and hand-made pita. Vegetarian Combo Platter $14.95. Mixed Combos $16.95. Two Meat Choices Combos $18.95.

  • Lamb Vindaloo: Spicy chunks of lamb in a fiery hot and sour gravy with red pepper, coriander seeds and a splash of vinegar. This dish is not for the faint of heart. Rich, spicy and full of fiery flavor … I like spicy food and this pushed my limits! My mouth is watering as I type this.
  • Chicken Makhani: Grilled chicken pieces in a velvety tomato cream sauce with fresh cilantro. Such a great combination of fresh flavors in a silky smooth sauce.
  • Chicken Masala: Chicken pieces in a rich tomato curry with caramelized onions and a blend of Indian spices. One of the original dishes and a true classic … spicy, but not overpowering. Great flavors.
  • Saag Aloo: Spinach and potato stir-fry with minced garlic, ginger and whole coriander seeds. Presented like a quiche or pie. If you like coriander, you will enjoy this.
  • Bread Pudding$6.00 Delicious. Light, not overly sweet. Simply outstanding! One of the best in Sarasota. Certainly can become addictive.
The bread and salad that accompany this meal are noteworthy. The pita is soft and delicately delicious, while the salad is bold and distinctively Greek with feta and a flavorful herb dressing. Chutney's offers an adequate selection of beer, wine and soft drinks to complement your meal. The wait service was fast, efficient and friendly.

The question remains: are Middle Eastern (Greek in particular) and Indian cuisines similar? My short answer is no. Although there may be some cross-over between the cuisines in the use of ingredients, lamb being one example, the preparations, spices and presentations of the respective dishes are significantly different. However, Chutney's seems to make this unique culinary cohabitation work seamlessly, consistently and creatively. With a simple yet warm décor, one is invited to explore widely varied cuisine in a welcoming, friendly setting. A simple idea, well-executed.

If two is better than one, then Chutney's creative menu of two ethnic cuisines in one locale is just right!

Chutney's

1944 Hillview St.

Sarasota, FL 34239

941-954-4444

http://www.chutneysetc.com/index.htm

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Chutneys-etc/146626088725042?ref=br_tf

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