To the Finish

To the Finish

The music of Sitar: Flavors of India, a physical and spiritual revamp of the restaurant thatโ€™s stood at Grove and Orange Streets since 2006, has been muddied by neighboring construction work ever since it reopened. But if you can will yourself past the orange warning colors and cement barriers flanking the entrance, youโ€™ll find a restaurant that doesnโ€™t seem to need any work at all.

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The food menu looks similar to House of Naanโ€™s, with the two being owned by the same family. But the recipes for the dishes I tried were noticeably different, and the ambience is a world away. Where HoN is dark and flirtatious, Sitar is bright and elegant, the colors and textures relaxing yet uplifting, which goes for the music too. Good attention seems paid to almost every detail. Even the table water was immaculateโ€”filtered, clearly, and served in a tasteful contemporary glass pitcher.

Looking to test the classics, my companion and I started with the Vegetable Samosas ($7 for two). Each was deep-fried refinement, the chickpea batter shell crispy and flaky, the silky potato inside threaded with spices and, from somewhere, a light and lovely floral quality. Itโ€™s not an insult to the condiments but rather a compliment to the samosas that I almost forgot to try the mint chutney and the tamarind sauce.

Next came our entrees, both ordered mild: the Chana Masala ($16) and the Alu Gobi ($16). The Chana, tawny-colored with a blush of red, was more complex than youโ€™d think: sweet, savory and herbaceous with an undercurrent of heat. As they should, the chickpeas almost melted in my mouth, while leaves and stems of cilantro added bits of crunch and chew.

They did that, too, for the Alu Gobi, while contributing streaks of green to a saffron yellow and burnt orange stew. Thanks largely to the cauliflower, the dishโ€™s textures roamed more widely, yet the flavor was more focused, decidedly savory. The salt level pushed hard but not quite too far, an audacious final touch to a meal that felt finished from the start.

Sitar: Flavors of India
45 Grove St, New Haven (map)
Daily 11:30am-3pm & 4:30pm-10pm
(203) 777-3234

Written and photographed by Dan Mims.

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