Friday, January 28, 2011

Review: Philadelphia Chutney Company

Under the guidance of superstar producers Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, the Philadelphia Chutney Company ignited the late-70s soul scene with a string of hits, including "Masala Child" and "(You're My) Mango Lassi (Shake It Up)". Flying high on success, things took a sharp turn when ...

Wait, that's not right.

Philadelphia Chutney Company is actually a quick-serve Indian spot that opened up on Sansom Street between 16th and 17th, formerly home of the Remedy tea bar. As this is just a few blocks from my place of employment, I've been there several times now, and it's become quite popular in my office – even with my Indian co-worker who once resolutely insisted that there were no places to get good Indian food in Philadelphia.

Maybe because this is not your typical korma-and-tikka-masala joint: the main attraction at PCC is the dosa. The texture of this enormous pancake-like disc is somewhere between a crêpe and injera (the Ethiopian flatbread). Like a crêpe, it's thin and flecked with brown, but like injera, it has a bubbly texture, owing to the batter's fermentation (though unlike injera, it's not very chewy). Inside, you can get a wide variety of all-vegetarian fillings, then the whole thing is folded up into a tube that occupies most of the length of the cafeteria-style trays they're served on.

The bulk of the menu is comprised of Western combinations featuring things like goat cheese, roasted tomatoes, and various iterations of fake chicken. But for my money, you gotta stay authentic and go with one of the "masala" combinations. The simple spiced potato filling can be dressed up with various cheeses, and now is also available with a sprinkle of a dry rub-like spice mixture for a little extra kick. I've also tried the smoked paneer, jack, spinach and onion combo, but there was too little paneer to really taste what was going on. Just grab yourself a masala dosa, tear off pieces of the outside, scoop up the delicious filling, dip it in one of the available chutneys, and you're all set.

Also, if you like things spicy, don't miss the sambar. This lentil-based soup is an ideal winter warm-up food, and it's priced at a ridiculously low 93¢ for a good-sized cup. If you're dining with a friend, you might also consider trying an order of the medhu wada, an almost donut-shaped fried lentil cake that's crisp on the outside and surprisingly light on the inside.

Even people who are averse to the usual Indian fare should give this place a try for lunch. It's quick, relatively inexpensive and satisfying. Word is the owners intend to turn this into a mini-franchise with locations at area colleges, so get in on the ground floor of this groundbreaking soul quartet innovative South Asian newcomer.

Philadelphia Chutney Company on Urbanspoon

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