Fans of Indian food buffets (and I count myself among them) will be comfortable at Curries & Chutneys (8840 N. Michigan Road, 559-4221).
Not that C&C is a buffet—it isn’t. But Indian buffet enthusiasts are used to relatively inexpensive platters, to rich mixes of colorful—if not always adventurous—offerings and to one entrée spilling over into another on the plate. And they are used to not having to remember or pronounce the names of the dishes.
Curries & Chutneys takes this eye-and-buy process and fuses it with the move-on-down-the-line, no-tip design of sandwich and burrito shops. If you can rationalize stopping into Panda Express for Chinese food, you should be happy getting a far more satisfying Indian fix here.
A single entrée platter runs $4.99; two choices raises the tab to $6.99. The curry choices fluctuate depending on the availability of ingredients, so what you liked last week might not be back today. Patrons are encouraged to sample—although those behind you in line may grunt if you take too long.
My visits found high spice content almost across the board, with the Chili Chicken and Pepper Chicken particularly debilitating. But in a good way. Three vegetarian options are always in the mix. I tried the hearty Chole Masala, thick with softened chick peas.
Your plate comes with one of a pair of rice options (on our visits, the choices were steamed or mint), a folded piece of flatbread, and a pair of chutneys. The latter include eggplant, ginger, tomato, green chili, meetha (a sweet chutney from dates, cumin and tamarind), and mango pickle. Have a water glass handy. You’ve been warned.
The highlight, though, proved to be an add-on. A Samosa ($1) is a fried dumpling whose thick, crunchy shell contains flavorful spiced potato, onion and other ingredients. Even if you are getting takeout, I suggest having one of these street-food classics hot before you leave the restaurant.
While the counter server was friendly and accommodating, her knowledge of the food was limited. When asked by a newcomer what causes the redness in Tandoori Chicken (another $1 appetizer choice), she was stumped. (Answer: cayenne pepper or red chili powder). She was also mixed up about northern and southern India when explaining the absence of naan, the staple puffy bread so easy to overdo at other Indian restaurants.
But Curries & Chutneys does have something others don’t: Its own line of crunchy, bagged snacks—C&C Bites ($2.99/bag). As I write this, I’m alternating between the Ribbon Pakota (strips cooked with flours, sesame seeds, ajwain seeds and curry leaves … and butter) and the Boondi Mixture, a trail mix perfect for your next hike from Darjeeling to Kurseong.•
Second in a month-long series of reviews of full-flavored restaurants.