Nashville Restaurants and Food
Sitar Indian Cuisine
116 21st Ave North
Ready, set, go. We’re off to the races at Sitar Indian Cuisine, led to our table, seated and trying not to get in the way. A hot plate of sizzling chicken is carried by a waiter in a half run. He avoids a collision with another guy rushing to fill water. The take-out orders are stacking up on a table. Our waiter arrives, then the phone rings and he rushes off to answer. It’s a flurry of restaurant madness on a Friday night at Sitar and somehow they manage to turn out some pretty good food along the way.
Sitar is a mainstay of Indian food in the West End area. We’ve eaten there so many times we’ve lost count. They do have six locations across the mid south, so it borders on being a chain. The Nashville location is big, with several darkened dining rooms that could be romantic if not for all the bustle. Still, many diners manage to take it easy anyway and happily chat by the candlelight.
Papadum comes to the table nearly immediately. The crispy, wafer thin lentil bread has a nice crunch that can be topped with mint or onion chutney and tamarind sauce. Soon after our vegetable samosa arrive. They’re crispy and filled with a comforting mixture of potato and peas.
There’s a bit of a wait for the entrees which is appreciated. The one issue I have with Indian food is that sometimes you feel rushed through the dinner. I’ve had places where the entrees came out a couple of minutes after placing the order. You know that food has been sitting for a while. That may or may not be the case with Sitar Indian Cuisine. Either way they manage to maintain a good quality level and consistency.
The group next to us has entrees delivered in a great arm long load of food by a waiter. They make some small talk and he smiles and laughs in response. It’s not that you won’t get personalized service at Sitar you just have to work for it. When they slow down everyone is polite enough. Some of the staff though are afraid to linger for even a moment.
Our entrees arrive and we dig in. The Chicken Tikka Mughlai is a creamy tomato based sauce with some spice in the background. I order medium, but I could have easily gone with hot. Hot at Sitar is spicier than what many places serve, but not enough to cause any pain. The mushrooms make a nice accompaniment to the savory sauce and the chunks of chicken are reasonably flavorful. Tikka Mughlai is like much of the Sitar menu: dependable, tasty and satisfying. There are no real fireworks or original styles here, just the classic dishes the way American’s expect them.
Veggie Eater: I have a fondness for Sitar that extends beyond food. My mother stayed with us for about a year while undergoing chemo and radiation over at Baptist. For whatever reason, although she thought she wanted Mellow Mushroom, her body would only tolerate Indian. She spent a lot of time at the Sitar lunch buffet, because she could pick and choose on the spot what her body would allow. Although they don’t have a buffet at dinner, it is a wonderful option at lunch, especially when trying to find an option for veggie eaters.
In any case, I digress. It was bustling on this evening. I was almost exhausted watching the various service staff literally running from point A to point B. I asked for a spicy veggie recommendation and was brought the Panir Masala. The Panir has a slightly squeaky quality like farmers cheese. It offers a bit of saltiness and texture. The Masala was a silky, red sauce that did have a moderate amount of heat. The basmati rice was perfectly cooked. Food was very good, service is almost too good (it’s okay to walk, really…). Plenty left over for lunch the next day.
It’s a fun place to people watch, as folks from all different walks of life seem to congregate here. Doctors from Vandy and Baptist, students from Vandy, and first time Indian food eaters.
Meat Eater: We finish and a moment later a bus person is picking up the plates and offering us a to-go box. We pay $35 with tax and tip. 40 minutes after we came in we are back on the sidewalk and off of the express train. We’re full and happy enough, but a bit out of breath.