For many years, Central Florida’s best Indian restaurant was housed in Bay Hill Plaza, a grandly named strip mall that was anything but grand, especially as the anchor tenant, Kmart, became drearier and drearier.
But that’s where Memories of India first opened, in 1999, when much of the plaza was a veritable international restaurant destination, with Japanese, Italian and Chinese (1-6-8, also one of the area’s best at that time). Memories faded. The restaurant I mean, and it finally closed just a couple of years ago. There’s a new Indian in the plaza. It isn’t in Memories’ old space — that’s occupied by a Graffiti Junktion now — but it’s nearby at the address that was Lolaillo until recently.
Chutneys is the name, and it does a good enough job with its variations of Northern and Southern Indian cuisines. Ironically, I enjoyed the food more during my lunchtime visit when the restaurant presents, as most area Indian restaurants do, a buffet of various dishes. The dinnertime visit was less enjoyable.
On that visit I had the Andhra Chicken Curry because the man who took my order said that it was probably a dish that no other Indian restaurant in the area was offering. Andhra cuisine, popular in the Guntur region, is known for being particularly hot and spicy. This one was not. Perhaps that’s because the server presumed I would not be able to handle the gravylike curry if it had been prepared authentically. Still, there were nice layers of flavoring, including a prominent ginger note, likely from the chicken marinade.
I chose to enjoy my curry with rice instead of naan, as some people choose to do. Unfortunately, the basmati rice was clumpy, as though it had been made long ago, refrigerated and then not properly reheated. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced that in an Indian restaurant before. Fluffy rice has always been a given.
The rice was nicer on the buffet at lunch. And most all of the items that I sampled there were just fine. It isn’t as extensive as many other Indian lunch buffets, but it had a nice sampling of styles even if chicken was the dominant protein.
I liked the Tikka Masala and its buttery texture. The Chicken Jalfrezi, a Pakistani recipe, had much more spicing than the Andhra on my other visit. The Biriyani featured goat and so had to be eaten carefully to avoid chomping down on a bone.
Cabbage Poriyal is something I haven’t seen on area menus. It’s a speciality of South India and a favorite of vegetarians. it can also qualify as vegan, but Chutneys doesn’t indicate that it is. In fact, the Poriyal isn’t even on the regular menu. The flavors are mild with mustard seeds, turmeric and green chilies mixed in with the finely chopped cabbage.
The tandoor chicken, something I rarely order in an Indian restaurant, was very good. The meat was moist and flavorful, even without considering the marinade and spicing that made it even more so.
Service was fine. The space is large and retains the wrought iron archways that separate one side from another when it was a Spanish themed restaurant. But the Lolaillo mural has been replaced with one of elephants in an India scape.
There was one other observation from the evening visit. The restaurant had more than a dozen tables occupied during my visit and all but two of them had families with small children. And as far as I know, there is no kids menu with chicken fingers or burgers on it. I like that.
Much has changed at Bay Hill Plaza. The Kmart is gone and most of the restaurants have changed owners or concepts. (An exception is an Italian restaurant that has merely changed location, and we’ll look into that soon.) I’m glad to see an Indian restaurant here once again.
Chutneysis at 7637 Turkey Lake Road, Orlando. It is open for lunch and dinner daily. The phone number is 407-730-9624.