Taking A Second Look At Imli

It got knocked around a bit by the critics, but the neighbors seem to love it.

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Imli Indian Kitchen, the Indian restaurant by Arshad Chughtai and Adam Stone that replaced Ulivo, has already taken a few blows. First, a one bell review and disappointment from Craig LaBan for not measuring up to his hopes for authentic South Indian flavors. Then, over at the soon-to-be-dearly-departed City Paper, Adam Erace called Imli “good enough, occasionally great,” and recommended it as a place to take the kids or the in-laws.

But still, for all the lukewarm reviews and platitudes, Imli might be killing it where it counts. Four and five star reviews pepper the restaurant’s Yelp page, and Yelpers, for what it’s worth, are praising the restaurant for delicious flavors, great value, and friendly, accommodating service. In fact, Imli’s rating is better than either Ekta’s or Tiffin’s, and they’re tied with IndeBlue and with Old City’s Tandoor. So of course, before we weighed in on either side of the fray, we paid our own visit to have a look.

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Imli has hedged a little bit on what it is they want to be. Are they South Indian, as they had advertised before opening? Are they instead serving dishes from all of India, highlighting a few Southern flavors? Or are they, like pretty much every other Indian restaurant in Philly, serving a little bit of everything from a little bit of everywhere?

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Confusion aside, it seems that what Imli is emerging to be is exactly what owner Arshad Chughtai was aiming for all along: a friendly, neighborhood restaurant with colorful food. Aloo dosa is a big, golden pancake rolled around spiced potatoes and served with three different chutneys. The medicinal perfume of saffron comes through in the zafferoni kebab of grilled chicken marinated with cashew, nutmeg, and cardamom. Delivered deep red, the tandoori chicken is coated with a chili spice mixture. Bhindi do pyaza, okra, fried crisp and tossed with onion, cumin, and amchoor powder, would be an excellent foil to nibble with whatever beer you’ve brought with you.

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Critical acclaim or no, dinner at Imli is served from 5 until 10 every night but Sunday. See which side of the fence you fall on by paying a visit yourself.

Imli [Official]