Sunday, October 3, 2010

Philadelphia Chutney Company

1628 Sansom Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103



I was really excited to have a new addition to the center city lunch scene, and a unique Indian place sounded great. And it IS good, but I have a few gripes.

[As seen below, "dosas" are rice flour crepes stuffed with various fillings and wrapped like a loose burrito.]

First off, the line. The line was understandably long for a new lunch spot, but the space is small, and each order took about two minutes to process. While waiting to order, I thought to myself, "luckily they take cards," (because that's always a bonus when trying to decide where to eat) but the guy at the register didn't know how much each item cost, so the time-saving efforts in paying with plastic were completely counter-acted. Especially strange for an employee, considering I could handily recite the prices for most of the menu items after the first ten minutes of standing in line (which I continued to do for another fifteen minutes). See the line below.

See the lone front-of-house worker, actually looking up prices, below.

I was also overcharged, as was everyone else in line who ordered the "chef's special". He was constantly giving refunds and explaining that he had it wrong in the computer. My suggestion? Change it, or manually enter the price each time. This was getting embarrassing - even for me. Next off, they don't specify where you are supposed to wait for your order, my assumption is that you are supposed to spend this time hovering around one of the tables in the small space, praying for a place to eat when your food is finally up.

At this point, it's nearly been forty minutes before I get my food. I wanted to use the bathroom, but it is kept locked, and you have to awkwardly push through the crowd of people hovering around the counter waiting for their food to get back up to the singular employee working the register. When you get there, you are handed a single key. No chain, no rope just a key. Kind of gross, considering the person handing you the key is the same person handing everyone their food, as he is (need I mention it again?) the only person working up front.

I do like the variety of chutneys served with your order (pick one, additional flavors available for extra charge), and the concept of the place. What I wish for, however, is less "Americanization" of the Indian street food. I ordered the chef's special, in which they don't tell you what is inside, only that it's "whatever the chef wants." I can dig this, and the chef's special was a nice blend of spiced potatoes, diced tomatoes and onions. Definitely my favorite. The only complaint, is that it's all for show. The thing looks huge, but in reality is sparsely filled. It was also lacking the POP of flavor I expect from Indian food. It was subtle, and tasty, but I was left wanting.

I also tried the dosa with smoked paneer, spinach, jack cheese and balsamic roasted onions. This one was not as good. There was very little to it, and although it looked terrific, much like all of their dishes did, it lacked flavor and substance. The paneer was not smokey, and was actually totally bland. The spinach was wilted and wet, the jack cheese was out of place, and the balsamic onions had me longing for the Indian onion chutney served at most places.

I also tried to order the samosas, whose namesake was prominently displayed behind the cashier on a chalk board, but alas, they did not have any. Instead I went with the "medhu wada," a fried lentil cake, which for lack of a better description, looked and tasted like an unsweetened doughnut. The chutneys helped a bit, but I was still underwhelmed. Below from the left are the tomato, curry, and cilantro chutneys. Tomato, surprisingly was by far my favorite. The other two were just okay.

All in all, while it's nice to have a new place to eat in Center City, a place whose name screams 'good idea,' there are some major kinks to work out. If you visit, just keep in mind the crowd, the line, the small interior space, the locked bathroom(?), the fact that you will be hungry again in two hours, and that everything is vegetarian. That aside, I hope they do well, and look forward to a better experience when they get it together.

UPDATE: One of the owners contacted me promptly to assure that they are still working out the kinks, and invited me back to try them again. That is EXACTLY the kind of thing that will make these guys successful, and I can't wait to take them up on it, and relay my experience. Well done, Philly Chutney, well done.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

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