The Chipotlization of the world seems inevitable at this point. A quick glance at Google turns up the Chipotle of South East Asian food, the Chipotle of Mediterranean food, the Chipotle of Japanese food, the Chipotle of mac 'n' cheese and more Chipotles of pizza than you can shake a pepperoni at.
So it will not be a surprise when you wander down a side street in Old Town Pasadena and run into California Chutney, a gleaming new restaurant that clearly would like to be the Chipotle of Indian food -- quick, handmade and almost infinitely customizable.
If you have ever assembled a burrito bowl with guacamole, sour cream and extra black beans, you already know the drill.
Instead of a tortilla, there is hot naan plucked out of a tandoor; instead of carnitas, there is chicken tikka, tandoori shrimp, chickpeas or the fresh cheese called paneer, all served out of colorful enameled iron pots; instead of salsas there is a choice of chutneys — the one made with pureed cilantro isn't bad — and instead of sliced bell peppers there are shallot pickles or red chile oil.
If naan tacos aren't your thing, you can get anything served on salad greens or a bowl of basmati rice instead. If you have neglected to ladle on enough cucumber raita or mango chutney, you can improve on your excesses at the chutney bar in the back. You snag an iced chai. You probably get change back from your ten.
The naan taco isn't exactly Indian food, but it provides many of the sensations of Indian food, which if you're racing toward a movie may be exactly what you need. But if you have time for something sweet afterward, you may as well walk down to the Ice Cream Lab for a science-lab cone of liquid-nitrogen Salt Lick Crunch. The future is now.