147 E. Broadway Ave. (between Quebec Street and Main Street)
Open Wednesday to Monday at 11:30 a.m., closed Tuesdays
Dinner for two, including tax, tip and drinks: $52
*** 1/2 (out of 5)
Cooking in the heat seems like a bit of a fool’s game, so I venture off to a somewhat nondescript block of East Broadway to seek out some spicy food. Boy, do I ever find it at Chutney Villa, a warm and inviting place to cozy up to South Indian cuisine. A lot of care has been put into decorating the room with curios, photos, and beautiful textiles that disguise the fluorescent ceiling lights.
Owner Chindi Varadarajulu has made it a mission to spread the word about the South, even hosting an eating trip to India in a few months, and the menu features a lot of unusual things for those who are more used to the butter chicken, samosas, and tandoori of Northern cuisine. A quartet of sweet and savoury chutneys arrives first, and is later put to good use taming the flames coming out of our mouths; a Taj Mahal beer helps, too. We dive in with a small plate of Kundru chicken, pieces of chicken marinated in lots of spice and then expertly deep-fried.
The murtabak is delicious. We choose gently seasoned lamb as the filling to be wrapped up in a flat envelope of soft parata bread, but we would have been equally happy with the chicken or vegetable options.
Ordering the lamb sukka entree “taali” style means it comes accompanied with rice, vegetables, a thin sour broth, crisp pappadum, and even a brightly orange tapioca pudding for dessert. Eating the lamb itself demands some close attention, with small shreds of blazingly spicy lamb interspersed with curry leaves (we even find a small twig!), and aromatic cardamom pods, which can be unpleasantly strong tasting if you crunch down on them.