Chutney Villa Fine South Indian Cuisine

Restaurant: Chutney Villa Fine South Indian Cuisine
Cuisine: Pacific Northwest/European/Eclectic/Fine Dining
Last visited: March 28, 2012
Location: Vancouver, BC (Mount Pleasant/Main Street)
Address: 147 E Broadway
Transit: SB Main St FS E Broadway
Price Range: $10-20 (Mains $15-20+)

1Poor 2OK 3Good 4Very good 5Excellent 6FMF Must Try!

Food: 4-4.5
Service: n/a
Ambiance: 3
Overall: 4
Additional comments:

  • South Indian cuisine
  • Family owned/operated
  • Neighbourhood favourite
  • Family friendly
  • Good for groups
  • Casual
  • Vegetarian friendly
  • Vegan friendly
  • Dine In/Take Out/Delivery
  • Accepts credit card
  • Monday – Friday: 11:30am – 3pm & 5pm – 10pm
  • Saturdays: 11am – 10pm
  • Sunday & Holidays: 11am – 9pm

**Recommendations: Manga Thenga Sundal, Chicken 65, Nandu Puttu, Madras Lamb Curry, Kothu Rotti

Butter Chicken, Chicken Korma, Chicken Tika Masala and Rogan Josh. These seem to be the common associations when people think of Indian food in Vancouver, BC… and I guess nowadays I can throw Butter Chicken Poutine in the mix too. All of the mentioned (except for the last one) fall into the category of Northern Indian food, so if you’re looking for any of the above, then you’re not at the right place.

Chutney Villa specializes in Southern Indian food which is different than Northern Indian food. Generally speaking, Southern Indian food is much lighter in spices and curries and more often than not vegetarian. There is also a heavy use of coconut since it’s widely available in Southern India and more likely the dishes will feature seafood since it is closer to the water as well. Within the 4 states of Southern India the ingredients and tastes will vary again, but I wouldn’t be familiar enough with the food to get so specific.

When it comes to Southern Indian food in Vancouver, the choices are limited and not many people are familiar with it. Southern Indian restaurants make up a very small fraction of the Indian food available in Vancouver, and even out of those, most of them are dosa only places. Dosas are very good and have their place, but there is so much more to Southern Indian food that isn’t being showcased. So when Sherman invited me to go check out Chutney Villa with friends I was more than ready to explore the cuisine.

I’ve tried a few Southern Indian restaurants including Desi Dosa Madras, House of Dosas, Canra Srilankan PlusDhaka Fish & Biryani Halal Restaurant, and Mayuri Indian Cuisine, but this was the first time I really felt like I got a taste for what it really was. Although the other restaurants listed were good, Chutney Villa introduced me to items outside of dosas and curries.

I won’t focus on authenticity since my knowledge is limited in this cuisine, but when it comes to whether or not I enjoyed the food, I did. It helped that we tried almost half the menu, which was 18 things, but since the menu is extensive there’s still a good half that I want to go back for. The food was home made, flavourful and well presented and I was quite impressed and satisfied with my whole dining experience.

On the table:

Indian Coffee SERVED HOT OR COLD – 3.5/6 (Good-Very good)

  • Bold, strong “latte”, made with beans grown on the Nilgiri slopes, laced with earthy chicory. A must for coffee lovers! Have it steaming hot in a steel tumbler, or cold over a tall glass of ice. $3
  • We started off with the Indian Coffee which was prepared at the table side.
  • It reminded me of the South East Asian style pulled milky teas, but instead it was with coffee.
  • It was almost like the coffee version of Chai, without the spices, and the flavours and texture were creamy and rich.
  • Sugar is served on the side so it wasn’t sweet.

Complimentary Papadums – They were crisp and fresh, but I do like the ones with the cumin in them.

Complimentary Assorted Chutney

  • Coconut, apple, spicy onion and peach.
  • The chutneys are made in house and they went well with all of the dishes, but the orange coloured coconut one was my favourite. It had a nice sweet and spicy balance.

Aachi Varuval 2.5/6 (Okay-Good)

  • Cauliflower fried in a crunchy, peppery, rice and lentil batter. $7.50
  • The cauliflower was bland, but the batter had flavour although it didn’t make up for the blander cauliflower.
  • They were quite heavily battered, but the batter adhered well and didn’t slip off.
  • I didn’t find them spicy and they weren’t too greasy, and the cauliflower held its shape and texture.
  • They were crunchy with smoky cumin seeds in the batter and there was an herb flavour, but it could have used salt.

**Manga Thenga Sundal4/6 (Very good)

  • From the beaches of Chennai: green mango, coconut, and chickpeas. $7.50
  • I’ve never tried this before and I loved it. Given that all the ingredients listed are things I really like, it wasn’t a surprise.
  • It was a sweet and salty nutty warm salad that I considered more like a side dish. There were no nuts in it, but the nuttiness was just from the coconut.
  • The coconut flakes were unsweetened and not dry and sauteed with sweet onions, chick peas and mustard seeds.
  • The chick peas weren’t as firm as I prefer, but the dish had good texture.
  • I actually barely got any of the raw green mango though so I would have liked more of that for crunchy tartness.
  • I would order this again because it was different and I did enjoy it.

**Chicken 65 4.5/6 (Very good-Excellent)

  • Deep fried spicy chicken served with red onions, green pepper and red pepper. $10
  • This reminded me of Tandoori Chicken. It wasn’t that different from it, but it was well executed and the chicken was excellent.
  • It was boneless and skinless dark meat chicken thighs and they were tenderized perhaps in yogurt (?).
  • The chicken was incredibly juicy, succulent and cooked perfectly.
  • The chicken was really well seasoned and it wasn’t even that spicy even though it looks like it was.
  • They were nice and salty and there was no batter although it was deep fried so it was slightly crispy.
  • The vegetables were still crunchy and kept their vibrant colour, but I wouldn’t mind them sauteed a bit more.

Era Varuval4/6 (Very good)

  • Perfectly spiced prawns, deep-fried without batter. $11
  • These were almost the same as the Chicken 65, but instead with prawns.
  • The seasoning tasted like a dry tandoori rub again, but it wasn’t that spicy and instead quite salty.
  • I have a high tolerance for salt so I thought they were fine, but it could be too salty for some.
  • The prawns were crispy, crunchy and juicy and the tails were crisp enough to be edible.
  • I would have loved this to be served with raita for a tangy contrast, but the squeeze of lime helped.

**Nandu Puttu 4.5/6 (Very good-Excellent)

  • Tender crab tossed with coconut, roasted spices, and a hint of lime $12
  • This was another dish that was my first time trying and I really liked it! Forget the crabcakes, just give me a pile of crab!
  • It was another sweet and salty dish and it was like the seafood version of the Manga Thenga Sundal (coconut chickpea salad) I tried above.
  • It was served warm and it was very flaky and moist with the combination of grated coconut flakes and crab.
  • There was probably an equal ratio of crab to coconut and there were some crunchy bites of nutty lentils giving it texture.
  • It was sauteed in perhaps curry power and some mustard seeds and there was actually a decent amount of crab and I was surprised.
  • The crab wasn’t plump, juicy and obvious in big chunks, but it was in there.
  • It was naturally sweet from the unsweetened coconut and then savoury with a very mild acidity from the lime.

Masala Dosa 2.5/6 (Okay-Good)

  • Crispy rice and lentil crepes stuffed with potatoes, peas, and carrots. $10
  • They don’t specialize in dosas, so I wouldn’t really have to order the dosas here. They weren’t bad, but they do get better.
  • If you’ve never had a dosa it’s pretty much an Indian style savoury crepe and the crepe is made from rice and lentil flour.
  • It came with a small bowl of Sambar soup on the side which is a vegetarian lentil soup. This is how it is traditionally served.
  • The dosa is best enjoyed with the 4 home made chutneys (pictured above).

  • It was stuffed with very minimal potatoes, peas and carrots, but the crepe was fresh, thin, slightly crispy and soft.
  • Dosas don’t normally come with much stuffing, but this one was even less than normal.
  • I just wasn’t too keen on the stuffing and there was nothing particularly memorable about it.
  • The curry was a but spicy and decently creamy and not dry, but I appreciated the crepe more.
  • I prefer my dosas from Desi Dosa Madras or even House of Dosas does a satisfying job.

Idli3/6 (Good)

  • Steamed rice and lentil cakes $7
  • For what they were they were good, but if you’ve never had them then they might not be a big deal.
  • These steamed rice and lentil cakes are usually dipped into the Sambar (vegetarian lentil soup) served on the side.
  • They’re fluffy, moist, light and soft and quite grainy in texture.
  • Think of steamed cornbread, but not sweet and instead of cornmeal it’s rice flour so it’s more neutral in flavour.
  • They aren’t particularly amazing here, but they’re good for what they are and quite standard.
  • The Sambar soup was thick, but not creamy and it’s almost like a hot and sour soup with a bit of tang from tamarind. It’s nice and spicy and well flavoured.

Katrika Pall Curry3.5/6 (Good-Very good)

  • A Ceylon special Eggplant delicately spiced and cooked with coconut milk. Ala Carte $12 – Thaali $15
  • I love eggplant so I was happy to see this.
  • Unlike the Punjabi style of curries, the Southern curries are more soupy with a thinner sauce.
  • The curry sauce was also coconut milk based rather than tomato and cream based so it was on the sweeter side much like Thai curries, but it tasted Indian.
  • There were big chunks of tender eggplant which held their shape and weren’t overcooked.
  • The curry sauce wasn’t intense with particular spices or aroma, but it wasn’t bland and not as rich and creamy as it looks.

**Madras Lamb Curry5/6 (Excellent)

  • Boneless lamb cooked with our special masala. A true favourite. Ala Carte $16 – Thaali $19
  • The thaali included rice, papadums, dahi (home made yogurt), sambar soup, a cabbage salad, vadai (lentil fritter or savoury lentil doughnut) and a dessert (tapioca pudding).
  • This was probably my favourite dish and I thought about it days later.
  • I’ve had lamb curries at Indian restaurants before, but this one was really stellar.
  • It wasn’t gamey so if you’re not into lamb, this was almost like beef and there were so many flavours that the gaminess was masked – to my palate anyways.
  • It was shredded spicy and dry fried lamb that was intensely coated with a rich and flavourful sauce that reminded me of an Indian style satay sauce.
  • The lamb was likely braised and then sauteed into this sauce until the flavours absorbed into every crevice of meat. It wasn’t saucy, but nice and thick.
  • The spices were just so perfect with cumin, cardamom, and coriander, but nothing was overpowering and the meat was so moist.
  • It was likely tomato based, but that savoury flavour was just so dynamic and glorious it was hard to describe. It had umami.
  • The dessert was almost like a sweet and gluey warm apple sauce pudding with cardamom and I wasn’t too keen on it. I would have preferred the typical rice pudding.

Mutton Devilled4/6 (Very good)

  • Ceylon special spicy mutton dish with red onions, red pepper and select spices. Ala Carte $16 – Thaali $19
  • This was a bit more adventurous, but I don’t mind mutton. It’s not really that gamey, but it depends where you have it.
  • Mutton is not goat. It’s sheep. It’s a bit stronger in flavour than lamb and it’s a bit more pungent, but this one had so much spice and flavour that the gaminess was still mild.
  • I’m sensitive to anything really gamey (like SUPER goaty goat’s cheese), but this was okay and nowhere to that level.
  • The meat is naturally tougher than lamb or beef, but here it was very tender and it almost shredded apart like pieces of beef brisket.
  • The meat was quite lean and it was covered in a sweet and creamy tomato and onion curry sauce with a good kick to follow.
  • Totally not comparable, but if you want to warm up to mutton try the Mutton Kebabs at Vij’s.

Deluxs Special2/6 (Okay)

  • Blue crab, from Ceylon, cooked with roasted of black pepper, fresh coconut, fennel, chillies & curry leaves. Ala Carte $19 – Thaali $22
  • This was a first for me. I’ve had Blue Crab before, but it’s not common in Vancouver let alone to be served in South Indian restaurants here.
  • If you’re the kind of person that thinks crab takes too much effort, then I would pass on this because it requires even more effort than Snow Crab, Dungeness Crab or King Crab.
  • The crab has very little meat and it’s a lot of shell.
  • The meat it does have is supposed to be sweet, but since it was previously frozen you didn’t get to appreciate its natural flavour as much.
  • The sauce was also strong for the meat, but that’s how it is traditionally, so I can’t have issues with that.
  • The sauce was the best part. The crab was covered in a spicy and aromatic black pepper and ginger sauce with lots of whole spices, coconut flakes and chillies.
  • Th sauce was nice and thick and very pungent and flavourful, but I wasn’t digging the crab so much.

Paratha5/6 (Excellent)

  • $2
  • It was a South Indian style paratha and I loved it! It almost reminded me of the Malaysian kind.
  • It was fresh, home made and the outside was a bit crispy.
  • It was soft, stretchy and flaky with a nice chew and I was enjoying it plain.

Biryani (Chicken)3/6 (Good)

  • Served with hard boiled egg, special onion pachadi, and eggplant. Check with your server for todays selection.
  • Briyani is a special dish from South India. It is normally served on special occasions but now is a favorite dish of Indians. Basmati rice is slowly cooked together with meat or seafood combined with spices. The whole pot is sealed with dough to keep the aromas intact and finished on a hot grill.
  • Chicken: $16 Prawan: $18 Fish: $18
  • There was a lot of food on the table and this wasn’t one that really caught my attention although it wasn’t bad.
  • The rice was moist and not wet, but I found it on the bland side and it lacked the fragrant spices.
  • The hard boiled egg was overcooked and there wasn’t much eggplant, but the 3 pieces of chicken (drumsticks) were moist.
  • There was some whole cardamom in it, but I coudn’t taste its flavour in the rice and it just fell flat despite the way it looked.

**Kothu Rotti 4.5/6 (Very good-Excellent)

  • From Ceylon, Kotthu is a Tamil word which mean chop. For this dish we chop parata, onion, green chilli and spices on a flat grill top with 2 spatulas. Then add egg, meat or seafood and more spices and chop some more. This dish so tasty and made with such fanfare; listen to the cooks ‘chopping’ away.
  • Chicken: $10 Mutton: $10 Vegi: $8 Seafood: $12
  • We had this with chicken and I would highly recommend trying it here because you pretty much won’t find it anywhere else.
  • The dish is a speciality here and it might not blow you away, but it’s different and unique to what’s available.
  • If you’ve never had it before it’s almost like Chinese style stir-fried rice noodles with chicken and vegetables, but without the soy sauce.
  • It’s almost like a stir-fry but instead of rice noodles it’s chopped up paratha with veggies and scrambled eggs.
  • Having mentioned already that their paratha is excellent, it just helped support the dish.
  • The paratha ends up being soft and chewy and the dish is savoury, spicy and fragrant with herbs and spices.
  • It’s a very substantial dish since it’s so starchy, but I liked it.
  • The only other place I’ve tried it was at Canra Chicken and Fish – see here, and while that was still good, this version was even better.

Kesari n/a 

  • $4.50
  • I’m not a fan of Indian dessert so I’ll just put n/a. In terms of my personal enjoyment level I’d say it was 1.5/6.
  • This is a warm dessert made from semolina flour, clarified butter, cashews and sometimes raisins, but this one didn’t have any.
  • It’s quite dense, doughy and mushy and a bit oily from the butter which keeps it all together and moist.
  • It was too rich for me just in concept and texture and again I’m not really keen on Indian desserts to begin with.
  • It was soaked in sugar syrup and it was quite sweet.

Kothu Rotti Mango Ice Cream4/6 (Very good)

  • $4.50
  • The menu says Kothu Rottti, but it was just Mango Ice Cream (they told us upon ordering though).
  • It was good mango ice cream, but nothing special and not made in house or anything.

Gulabjamun n/a

  • $4.50
  • Again I’m not really keen on Indian desserts to begin with. I usually find them too sweet.
  • Gulabjamun is probably one of my least favourite Indian desserts so I’ll just write “n/a” .
  • I tried it, but it was just really sweet again and I’m not keen on deep fried milk balls soaking in rose scented sugar syrup.

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  • Dilara says:

    I’ve only been to Chuteny Villa once, years ago, but after reading your post I think it’s time for a return visit. There are a few dishes you described that I’m interested in trying out. I totally agree with you about their parathas – I remember really liking it! Thanks for the reminder Mijune 🙂

    Also, for the record – Dhaka Fish and Biryani is not a South Indian restaurant. The owners are actually from Bangladesh (Dhaka is the capital of the country) and the cuisine is better described as home-style Bengali food. The Bengal region of India is located in the north-east part of the country so while the food there isn’t the typical Northern Indian (ie: Punjabi) fare Vancouverites are accustomed to, it most certainly isn’t South Indian cuisine either.

  • Sara says:

    That looks amazing, especially the lamb and the Katrika Pall Curry. Reminds me I have to be more adventurous when I eat Indian. I always choose the thalis and here it’s like 6-7$ so yours is more on the higher end of Indian food for me. And that blue crab looks delishhhh, too bad it’s not good crab.

    And I love indian eggplant!!! So good! Now you make me crave Indian food again!

  • Mimi says:

    Like Indian food….yammmmmmm……thank~

  • Mijune says:

    @Dilara – yes!!! Yummy paratha!! And YES! Thank you for correcting me! I knew they were from Bangladesh, but I thought they had some south indian food too… I’ll edit that! thanks for watching out for me dear!

    @Sara – I’m happy you’ll be more adventurous! The thalis always have the “safe” things or the typical things because it has to appeal to the majority and that’s why I like to order a la carte! I hope you try this place!! LOVE EGGPLANT! Thanks Sara!

    @mimi – yum!

  • fmed says:

    Dhaka Fish and Biryani has a South Indian section on the menu, but they are no longer serving any dishes from there. The owners (husband and wife) are from Bangladesh and currently serve a pan-Indian menu adapted to the Bengali/Bangladeshi palate and – as Dilara said – all cooked homestyle . They have plans to update the menu to add more Bengali etc dishes very soon. So make sure to check them out again in a month or two.

  • southindian says:

    The food seems to be Sri Lankan Tamil.The cuisines of the four south-Indians are quite different from each other .The four states have a fee dishes which are common but overall each state Haas it own unique dishes,ingredients and sub-regional styles

  • Mijune says:

    @fmed – you always know the background info and operation of these small family businesses nobody knows about… i loved it!!! thanks!!

    @southindian – thank you so much for your comment and clarifying things! I really appreciate it and learned something new!

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