Thursday, March 21, 2013
Even if you're not an aficionado of classic Indian cuisine - and I admit it's not at the top of my preference list - it's hard to imagine you won't find something (or several somethings) to love at Bombay Sitar. My husband Jack and I not long ago discovered the treasures inside courtesy of our son Scott and daughter-in-law Lilla - a friend from India had recommended it to them. Ever since, my mouth has been watering for a return visit. The only reason for the delay is that its location in the Belden Village Mall in Canton means close to two hours of driving time for us coming and going.
It is, however, well worth that driving time, especially if you like authentic Indian cuisine. All food here is prepared fresh daily with no additives or preservatives, or so says the website, which also notes that the curry used isn't the supermarket variety. If you're among the some who like it hot, you'll find it here (or you can request that any dish be spiced up to your liking). And if you think all curry is spicy, think again; in fact, most of the dishes we tried were full of flavor but totally without "heat."
If you're unsure of what you'll like - or if, like us, it's your first time here - I strongly advise visiting during lunch hours (on weekends, it's around noon to 3 p.m.). The cost is a very reasonable $8.49 Friday through Sunday ($7.99 on weekdays), and you'll be able to sample a little bit of everything. As we quickly learned, it does get a bit crowded on weekends, and it's not a large restaurant, so plan to arrive as close to opening time as you can to avoid what could be a rather lengthy wait.
We did just that and were seated almost immediately (and almost immediately afterward a line of hopefuls were lined up all the way outside the door). Our server brought glasses of water right away and took our drink order - you can get bottled beer and several wines by the glass if you want.
There were five in our party, including Lilla's wonderful mum Sheila, and every single one of us signed on for the buffet. My first round included a cup of sambar, a spicy soup that was delicious with a mild (to me) kick - turns out that was a favorite of Scott's as well. I also liked the Tandori-style chicken with grilled onions and peppers - a wonderful flavor that wasn't at all hot. This dish, I decided, would be fine as a stand-alone meal, which I'll consider the next time we're there - but only if I can pass up that wonderful buffet, which is doubtful.
"We all thought the vegetable pakora were excellent (fritters of onion and other vegetables), but everything was very good and there's nothing else I'd single out," Scott told me later. I concur; there were a few standouts for me as well, but on the whole there wasn't much I tried that I didn't like.
The mixed grill has an assortment of bone-in and boneless chicken, shrimp, seekh kebob and chicken tandoori and is quite delicious, and I loved the Chicken Tikka Masala, or boneless pieces of chicken tikka in a creamy butter sauce with fresh tomatoes. Most of the buffet items were in a sauce best eaten over rice, and there were at least two kinds of rice for that purpose.
The buffet items when we were there included onion chutney and achar, or Indian hot and spicy mixed pickles, as well as "hot sauce." I tried them all, and the achar was quite hot, but I wasn't fond of the in-your-face flavor. The hot sauce, however, was another story entirely; filled with hot pepper seeds and extremely spicy hot, it went very well with a couple of the bread-type items like the veggie-stuffed appetizer pitas cut on the diagonal that were next to the soup. It is not for the faint of heart, however - just a tiny bite took my breath away.
Other buffet items I enjoyed are the vegetable samosa, dal makhni (lentils) and chana saat (chickpeas and tomato sauce with a potato here and there) and a similar-sounding chana saag, with chickpeas, spinach and ginger. The latter was good but not a favorite - ginger isn't my favorite flavor unless it's almost unnoticeable.
There wasn't much room for dessert, but I did try the kheer (rice pudding) that's made with almonds and pistachios. I'm not even close to a fan of rice pudding, mind you, but I love both of those nuts and figured maybe the flavor would come through. It did, but not enough for me; the pudding was a bit on the bland side, which might be on purpose to counter the spice in the regular dishes. However, it tasted way too much like milk with tiny lumps - and there's no way to express my distaste for milk. But then inspiration struck, and I added a bunch of sugar; it may not have qualified as Indian cuisine after that, but it sure made it taste great to me.
If you go:
4633 Belden Village St. N.W.
Canton, Ohio 44718
Open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday; 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday; and noon to 10 p.m. Sunday. Closed from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. daily.