Think of Indian food, and you may conjure the delight of spooning up savory stews with hunks of flatbreads. But aside from the occasional specialty like pav bhaji, the Mumbai street-food snack that fills a roll similar to a hamburger bun with a potato-based curry, we tend not to think of Indian food in the context of sandwiches. Even the dosa, despite its resemblance to a wrap, is really more like a filled crepe. So Chutney's, a new Harvard Square counter-service purveyor of various Indian stews and kebabs served wrapped in flatbread, is something of a novelty. Chutney's aims to bring the low cost and portability of the sub shop to Indian fare. This turns out to be a pretty good idea.
Start by choosing your bread: paratha (thin, slightly salty, orange tinted), masala paratha (much darker and spicier), or naan (slightly risen, chewier and more substantial). Next add the main filling, mostly Northern-style curries like aloo masala ($4.50), curried potatoes, peas, carrots, and onions; chutney lamb ($5.49), full of savory, slightly overcooked lamb; and chili chicken ($4.99), the standout, boasting beautifully tender, juicy breast chunks. To this, add one of eight chutneys, thin condiments varying from sweet (pineapple) to tart (tamarind) to fiery (chili). Next decide if you want optional fillers like basmati rice, lettuce, cilantro, tomatoes, fresh chilies, red onions, and a squeeze of fresh lime. You can opt to have a naan-based sandwich warmed and flattened on a sandwich press, in which case it's called by the goofy portmanteau "nanini" (and costs $5.75). To keep the whole loosely rolled assembly together, leave the foil wrapper on, peeling it back as you eat.
Sides consist of two flavorful deep-fried items ($0.50 each): momos (minced-chicken dumplings) and samosas (triangular turnovers filled with potato curry). Sadly, steam-table warming wilts their crisp exteriors to a regrettable softness. Drink options include mango lassi ($1.50), lukewarm, watery masala chai ($1.25), Indian juice drinks in flavors like guava and lychee ($1.75), and Thums Up ($1.75), an Indian cola. Seating is limited to a few tables that would benefit from more-frequent cleaning between customers. But at these prices, and with the option of ordering extra chutneys ($0.50 each) on the side as an easy way to add variety to each bite, Chutney's adds up to a pretty attractive, tasty deal — one of the better fast-food options for tourists, students, and time-pressed workers in Harvard Square.
Chutney's, located in The Garage at 36 JFK Street in Cambridge, is open daily from 11 am–midnight. Call 617.491.2545.