Chalk It up to Chutneys

Tava Kitchen makes multinational varieties to bring out the best in its dishes.


Chutney is India's salsa and makes everything better at Tava Kitchen.

Photo by Lori Eanes

Editor's Note: The Alameda location is now closed. The outlet in San Francisco is still open.


Crumbly or creamy, sweet or pickly or incendiary, chutney is India’s answer to salsa.

Tava Kitchen serves a compelling array of chutneys—cilantro-lime, yogurt raita, pickled veggies, apple-date-tamarind, and spicy Tava Lava—to complement its customizable curries and fusion-fueled roti-burrito burrotis.

“Chutneys are a wonderful way to add a burst of freshness and flavor to any meal,” said Tava Kitchen co-founder Hasnain Zaidi. “We all know how much a really nice dressing or aioli can make a dish shine. A chutney works like that but brings even more to the table.”

Serving mild, medium, and spicy varieties of the same sauces “felt like a real waste,” Zaidi said. Seeking, instead, “a broad set of flavors and spice levels that people could mix and match, we looked to the cuisines of India, Malaysia, Nepal, and Singapore, where flavored sauces are enjoyed alongside and on top of every meal.”

Ghost-pepper-powered “Tava Lava is a show-stopper,” he added, “whether you have the courage to try it or know your limits enough to stay away.”

While most fiery sauces ignite instantly, “so you don’t really taste the sauce or the food,” Tava Lava conveys “a lingering deep-burn that builds over time” alongside the taste of roasted red bell pepper and tomatoes, Zaidi said.

“Meanwhile, the heat just smolders on the back of your tongue until, all of a sudden, you’re on fire,” he added.

Scared of a six-alarm mouthflagration? “We have a secret for folks who want to try the Tava Lava but are worried that they can’t handle the heat: Combine it with the yogurt raita, and you’ve got a winning combination,” Zaidi said.

Still scared? “Guests are welcome to sample any and all of our food, including the chutneys,” he said. “We’ve spent a lot of time making sure that all our chutneys work well with all the dishes, so you shouldn’t be afraid to mix and match and explore.

“It’s pretty great to see our guests get excited about mixing several of their favorite chutneys to come up with a meal that is made just for them.”


Published online on March 16, 2017 at 8:00 a.m.

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