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We were in Bellevue, Washington in April 2007 and found Bellevue to have a pretty happening downtown, with plenty of restaurants of all types. We'd spotted Chutneys earlier in the week when we went to Andiamo for our anniversary dinner - it's just up the street - and its elegant atmosphere and promise of upscale Indian food was enough to entice me to come. We went there on a Friday evening at about 7 PM and the place was pretty empty - I, wonder, however, if this is because people in Bellevue eat later, when we'd gone by at 8 on a Wednesday night the place was really happening.

The restaurant itself is very nice; it offers soft lighting, and walls decorated with recessed shelves with statutes of Buddha and (I think) Indian gods. Nothing is tawdry here, and it feels like the kind of restaurant where you can relax and not have your senses assaulted - though you can't help to delight in the smell of Indian food itself.

The menu presents a number of unusual offerings, including mango chicken, lamb cashew and a South Indian halibut masala. Prices, as you can expect, are high for an Indian restaurant, with meat curries at $14, fish curries at $15 and specialties at $17. Vegetarian dishes are in the $11 to $13 range.

We decided that we weren't hungry enough for appetizers and that we wanted to try something different from our usual chicken tikka masala and lamb korma, so we ordered the chicken kabuli and the lamb coconut delight. We also ordered kabuli naan ($4.50). I had a strawberry smoothie ($3.50) while Mike had a diet coke.

The meal started with your classic pappadum with a trio of sauces. The pappadum was crisp but I found that it had a bitter aftertaste. The sauces were nice and tasted very fresh, but they were served in such a small dish that it was very difficult to flavor the bread.

My strawberry smoothie (or lassi, as the waitress called it) was also a disappointment. It was orange in color and it had a subtle taste of mango, not strawberry. Still, it wasn't very fruity and not at all sour, so I can't imagine any yogurt went into it. It also came in a very small glass - for that price they could have been more generous. I would not order it again.

The food itself fared better. Mike really enjoyed the chicken kabuli, served in a ginger-cumin-tomato sauce and finished with a nut puree. I found the sauce to have a very uniform taste, that missed the acidity of the tomato or the piquancy of the ginger. The cumin, however, could be sensed from time to time. Mike would order the dish again, but I would not.

We both fought, however, over the lamb coconut delight, if that's what we actually got. The dish was described as "tender medallions of lamb sauteed with seasonal vegetables in our almond coriander coconut cream sauce with golden raisins." Alas our dish had no vegetables or raisins. It did, however, had the most amazing curry sauce, similar to a korma but richer and even more delicious. The sauce was perfectly balanced, with a hint of sweetness, and we ate every last little bit of the dish. It was so good that almost on its strength alone (I'm also considering the ambiance), I'm giving the restaurant a "good" rating. I have to suppose that other dishes on their menu are also likely to be very good.

The kabuli naan, meanwhile, was also disappointing, especially given how expensive it was. It had a cherry nut filling that lacked any flavor at all; there was no sweetness, little nutiness, no cherriness, just nothing. It served to scoop up the curry, but it was worthless to eat alone.

Service was professional but reserved.

In all, I was disappointed with the food but we managed to have a good time. I can see going back to Chutneys, if I'm ever in Bellevue again, to have that lamb and try my luck with another dish.

938 110th Avenue NE
Bellevue, WA
(425) 4670867