Sitar Chattanooga is a delicious Indian restaurant located in Downtown Chattanooga Tennessee, near the Tennessee Aquarium.
Sometimes choosing new places to eat (and write about) can be daunting. I’ve written a lot of blog posts! There are times that I feel like I’m running out of restaurants. I know that’s far from the truth, but sometimes it feels that way when I’m trying to find a place that (a) is open when I want to do a restaurant post; (b) serves something I’m in the mood for; and (c) fits into my budget (we try to save the upscale places for special occasions. Now, I know there are a ton of restaurants around that I haven’t tried, so if you have suggestions, feel free to make them!
In an attempt to make Saturdays my “blogging day” we are going to start doing as many of our restaurant trips as possible on Sundays (adjusting that schedule, of course, for those restaurants that are not open on Sunday). This week we decided to try out Sitar Chattanooga, an Indian restaurant located next door to 212 Market downtown. We’ve been on a bit of an Indian cooking kick around the house lately. We’ve heard lots of great things about Sitar and considered going for our anniversary two weeks ago but I ultimately decided that I just wanted to enjoy my evening with Philip rather than concentrate on blog-type things, so we went to Sweet Basil instead.
Now, we don’t go out on Saturday nights very often because we don’t do crowds. Sunday night definitely turned out to be the right time to head downtown for dinner and Sitar was gloriously uncrowded (though there was a steady stream of diners while we were there). We were seated immediately. The floor plan is open and the place is not very decorated…tablecloths, goblets, cloth napkins, and paper placemats on the tables and some Indian artwork scattered around (particularly behind the bar). A server poured water for us immediately and our glasses stayed filled the whole time (we drank water, of course).
The menus were fairly large, divided into the following sections: appetizers/condiments, roti char (homemade bread), lamb/seafood (yes, an odd combination), chef’s specialties, chicken, vegetarian, biryanis (rice dishes), and desserts. Philip had a different menu from me and his menu included goat dishes in the lamb/seafood section (more on that in a minute). We decided to order some panir pakora-cheese fritters made with the fresh Indian cheese panir (also spelled paneer). The fritters were large chunks of panir with spices wrapped in dough and deep fried. They were served with a sweet, thin dark sauce that I did not get the name of. The pakora was good, but I didn’t really fall in love with it. I did really like the sauce and thought that it added a lot to the flavor of the pakora.
I had a difficult time deciding whether to order sag panir (spinach and homemade cheese with ginger and spices) or vegetable biryani (basmati rice cooked with fresh vegetables). Ultimately I decided to order the sag panir so that I could compare the version that I make at home to theirs. They offer you the option to get the spice level at mild, medium, or hot; you guys know that I opted for mild (once I made this dish to the specifications suggested on Food Network’s website and had to make myself something else for dinner because it was so hot). Each dish was served with basmati rice and we also ordered a side of homemade naan bread (pictured below with Philip’s food). The sag panir (by the way, that’s also spelled saag paneer and I’ve also heard the same dish called palak paneer) was delicious, perfectly spiced with decent-sized chunks of cheese. The rice was cooked and seasoned perfectly as well. For me, though, the naan was the crowning glory of this meal. It was slightly charred, crispy around the edges, chewy, and dripping with butter. What more could you ask for? I could have made a meal out of naan alone.
Okay…back to the goat. When we visited India Mahal last year, Philip noticed goat curry on their menu and decided that he wanted to try it. Now, here in Chattanooga we don’t eat a lot of goat and it kind of gave me a little shiver…I’m not very adventurous when it comes to trying new types of meat (Philip, on the other hand, will try anything once). The meat was cut into large chunks and was served still on the bone, which was not an issue since it had been cooked in the spices and its own juices until it was completely falling apart. Philip compared it to a combination of beef and pork, so I gave it a try. And it was good! It was extremely tender and you guys, I promise that goat doesn’t taste weird at all! The curry spices were delicious.
While I’m not the biggest fan of rice pudding, Philip loves it and he really wanted some kheer. Kheer is a lightly sweetened rice pudding made with basmati rice and spiced with cardamom. It was nice and creamy, a little thinner than what us here in the States usually expect of rice pudding, and just sweet enough to taste like dessert. I loved the cardamom kick in it-that was definitely my favorite part.
Including the appetizer, two entrées, an order of naan, and the kheer our dinner was $35 pre-tip…not inexpensive but definitely not exorbitant. The staff was very friendly and attentive. As I mentioned before, the place was not packed out but there were quite a few tables occupied, many of them by regulars. The food was tasty but I’m not qualified to testify to how authentic it is. They serve a buffet for lunch and a full menu for dinner (can someone explain the Indian lunch buffet to me? All of the Indian restaurants around here do it). Sitar is actually a very small (five locations) chain that, based on my reading on their website, I believe is based out of Knoxville.
If you like Indian food, give Sitar Chattanooga a try!
Sitar Chattanooga is located at 200A Market Street, Chattanooga, TN 37402. You can call them at 423-894-9696. You can check out their website: http://www.sitarknoxville.com and “like” them on Facebook. They serve lunch from 11-2:30 Monday through Friday and 11:30-3 on weekends; dinner is served Sunday-Thursday 5-9:30 and Friday & Saturday 5-10.
Parking: Park on the street or in one of the lots. Carta lots are less expensive than Republic lots. If you are willing to walk you can save some money (and if you are really willing to walk-which we are-you can find free parking in some of the lots at night and on the weekends).
Accessibility: Sitar is located on a city street with wheel-chair accessible sidewalks. The entrances are a little cramped. The open floor plan allows a bit of space for maneuvering a wheelchair. There is a handrail in the restroom.