The impact of Chipotle continues to make ripples; fast-casual restaurants are moving on from watered-down Mexican to include cuisines from all over the globe. Chutney Kitchen (856 Eighth Avenue; 212-247-6200) is Manhattan’s latest addition. The recently opened spot offers a menu of light and healthy Indian cuisine, all priced under $10.
Partner Silu Narvekar was inspired to serve the kind of fare her Mumbai-born mother prepared when she was a kid. “Indian food tends to be heavy in restaurants,” says Narvekar. “This is healthier, fresher, cleaner. I wanted to open a business with the recipes I ate growing up.”
Narvekar brought those recipes together, building an assortment of bases that customers can combine with different toppings. Spice and flavor profiles traverse the subcontinent, with each individually spiced ingredient pulling from different regions. Choose a roti wrap, rice bowl, mixed salad greens, naan tacos, or chaat bowl with potatoes, chickpeas, yogurt, and chickpea crunch. There are four different chutneys and two sauces, some of which are vegan and gluten-free, all using as little salt and oil as possible.
Narvekar also created a list of kitchen specials intended to meld the individual flavors. Each has been named after an important person in Narvekar’s life. The All Sunshine ($7.95) was named after her younger daughter, Sianna; it’s a gluten-free, vegetarian blend of rice, lentils, cucumber, and tomatoes with date-and-cilantro chutney. The Viva Las Vegas ($8.95) was inspired by a friend who lives there. It features pulled pork, vindaloo, carrots, cabbage, and pickled onion topped with yogurt and mirchi (green chile) chutney on two house-made naan tacos. The Alto Energy ($9.95), comprising shredded steak, cucumber, tomatoes, spiced corn, pickled onions, spicy cashews, and lemon-cumin-dressed greens, earned its moniker from Narvekar’s architect, Eric Alto.
While Narvekar has always been into food and cooking, she didn’t think it would become her career — her eight-year-old daughter inspired the change for the former financial analyst. One day, Narvekar was giving Sonja a talk on the importance of following one’s dreams. Sonja responded, “Why aren’t you cooking, then, Mom?” That question hit Narvekar like a brick. Within a month she’d quit her job and begun working on turning her passion into a career. She enrolled at the French Culinary Institute (now the International Culinary Center) for formal training. From there, she started down the path of developing business plans and branding before finally lining up financing and a location. Narvekar’s goal is to spread the concept to multiple locations throughout Manhattan before branching out to other cities on the East Coast. “I wanted to show my daughters that you really can make your dreams a reality,” says Narvekar. “I wanted to be an example for them.”
Follow Sara Ventiera on Twitter, @saraventiera.