Not your everyday buffet. Sitar delivers flavor and variety, all piping hot.
My undergraduate years sowed the seeds of my frugality. Scholarships took care of my major college expenses, but the paycheck I received from the student newspaper only covered a monthly trip to Wal-Mart and one night out at a decent restaurant (and by decent, I mean a place that had cloth instead of paper napkins). So I learned how to stretch the few dollars I had left. That meant a lot of trips to buffet restaurants.
For less than $10, buffet restaurants presented me with stainless steel rows of food that employees replenished every 10 minutes. My favorites were the pizza buffets that filled kids’ stomachs before they hit the arcade and Chinese buffets that gave up on specialization and offered French fries and chicken wings along with lo mein and egg rolls. In retrospect, the meals I shoveled in were greasy and reheated. But in college, quantity trumps quality when you’re on your last $15 of your residual check.
These days, I have enough spending money to splurge on those decent restaurants with servers and cloth napkins. But I’m not above a trip through the buffet line — as long as the food tastes better than the meals I slopped on my plate in college.
Sitar Indian Restaurant offers such an option — a serve-yourself, all-you-care-to-eat lunch buffet that is the mature older sibling to the restaurants of my college years. At lunchtime, this Bardstown Road eatery forgoes a more extensive menu to instead offer a pared-down selection of Indian dishes that gives diners a nice introduction to this type of cuisine. Sitar delivers good food and attentive service for only $7.99, which makes the restaurant’s lunch buffets one of the best values in the area.
Sitar is the perfect place to escape for an hour during the work week. The bustle of Bardstown Road barely registers inside the restaurant. The lighting is dim, the music is soft and the dining room is intimate — not the atmosphere I expected at noon on a Wednesday. The environment did wonders to take my mind off of work and onto important things, like lunch.
The folks at Sitar know that the inexpensive buffet is the main draw between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., but that doesn’t keep them from delivering excellent service. You could create a drinking game based on the attentiveness of the servers. I could barely finish a glass before I received a fresh splash of ice water. I admired this attention to detail even more when I realized that the servers were also acting as food runners, bringing piping hot dishes to the buffet line every five to 10 minutes.
In terms of temperature alone, Sitar’s lunch buffet excels over competitors. I’d grown used to expecting lukewarm food on buffets, especially when other diners don’t share my love of a particular dish and would leave it under the heat lamps to languish. At Sitar, there are no heat lamps because there is no need. The size of the buffet, the steady crowd and the fast servers create a perfect storm that results in hot food throughout lunch service.
The dishes available during my visit provided me with a delicious foray into Indian food. I filled my first plate with items that looked familiar, including the rice pulao, a yellow rice dish with peas, lentils that were served in a mesquite sauce, and slices of naan bread that were crisp with light brown edges and a thin, chewy center.
I dived into the generous vegetarian options for my second trip to the buffet line. I piled on the mixed vegetable curry, a delicious blend of lima beans, green beans, onions and carrots that was filling enough for a meat-eater like me. The creamy green appearance of a vegetarian curry called saag wasn’t pretty, but I loved the subtle spiciness that settled nicely on my tongue. This paired well with forkfuls of fragrant basmati rice.
The meat dishes I tried on my third buffet sampling were more bland than I expected from Indian food, but delightful nonetheless. The highlight of my meat plate was the chicken tikka marsala. Hunks of chicken were coated in a sunrise-colored, spicy sauce that was rich and creamy. I ended my lunch with gulab jamun, fried milk balls served chilled and coated in a sweet syrup. It was hard to keep from filling another plate with just this dessert.
Sitar Indian Restaurant provided me with a wonderful glimpse into the world of Indian food at a price that’s hard to beat. The restaurant uses the buffet style to effectively deliver a fast lunch with quality superior to that of similar establishments. The food is approachable, affordable and sure to please more than just broke college students.
The Bottom Line:
Lunch buffet: $7.99
Soft drink: $1.50
Total (with tax and before tip): $10.06
Mission: Accomplished (I took pennies from the penny tray)
Sitar Indian Restaurant
1702 Bardstown Rd.