By Le Connoisseur
Cold, crisp winter evenings seem ideally suited to warm, tantalising meals; there has to be something to keep us going until the balmy days of summer reappear. We hadn’t been to The Sitar Restaurant since they moved to their new, spacious premises at 2, Cecil Rhodes Drive in Newlands, and the call of a genuine curry was loud and strong. So we braced ourselves against the freezing evening air and set out in search of tantalising Indian cuisine.
The new location and roomy dining area are great. I have to say that I kept my jacket on all evening, as the front door kept opening, just a fraction, but enough to let in the cold night air.
At least it wasn’t stuffy, and I was grateful for the clear night air because there were several smokers among the dinner guests. I thought the word was out on the dangers of smoking?
Obviously not, but I wish that smokers would go outside to smoke and not expose the rest of the restaurant to passive cigarette smoke.
Bar the toxic cigarette smoke, the rest of the evening was idyllic. The menu is positively packed with an excellent selection of authentic Indian dishes.
Our waitron was quick to let us know what was not available, which we really appreciated because often you make your choice, only to be informed, after the decision, that certain dishes are not available. We took our time deciding what we wanted to order because everything sounded so gorgeous.
The menu includes interesting information, explaining how various dishes are cooked and their origins. There is a wide and appetising selection of vegetarian dishes, which is so good to see. Normally the “veggies” are left out of main menus, with a choice of only one or two token vegetarian meals.
My whole family loves chicken and the selection of chicken starters was too good to pass over. We chose the chicken samosas, chicken livers and chicken wings. Each starter was priced reasonably at US$4. Crisp and succulent, the samosas were the best I have tasted in a long while. The chicken wings were served with a delicious tangy sauce, and the chicken livers were quite heavenly; tender and full of flavour.
Appetites whetted, we went on to our main courses. I love the array of sauces and condiments which accompanied our meal. There was a fabulous butternut sauce which was sweet enough, but not cloying. We ordered Dhal as a side order and piled it onto fresh naan bread and rotis. I couldn’t resist the chicken korma; mildly spicy and tender. It really was a magnificent meal that left me feeling that all the elements of taste, from salty to sweet, had been satisfied. For me, that is a mark of an excellent Indian dish. Rupert , braver than the rest of us, chose the mutton vindaloo.
He requested a medium version of this traditionally powerful curry, and felt that his request was carefully adhered to. Nervous of “chili-hot” food, my daughter selected the murg masala asking for a very mild version.
Once again, her request was sensitively fulfilled, and she loved the dish, eating every last morsel. Beef curry satisfied my son and he enjoyed the taste of the different spices, rather than having the roof of his mouth blasted off by too much “hot stuff”.
Braver diners are free to order the “heat strength” to suit their palate, and we felt that this personalising of your meal was a great plus for The Sitar. The other thing that we appreciated was that you can have your meat cut off the bone for a small extra charge. So when your meal is served, you don’t have to contend with bones. This was particularly nice for the mutton dish.
The selection of wines at The Sitar is comprehensive and is displayed so that you can see what you want to order, and not just read the name of the wine in a wine list. We chose a magnificently smooth and subtly spicy du toitskloof cellar shiraz which complemented our meal to perfection. I’m glad the children are not old enough to share our wine!
Replete and satisfied, we didn’t need dessert, but felt we had to try the Indian delicacies tempting us from the menu. It’s a hard job being a restaurant reviewer. Kulfi, the satin smooth Indian ice-cream was an automatic choice. It was rich and creamy and very satisfying. There are other Indian delicacies available, but the Kulfi is our dessert of choice.
Expect to spend US$20 to US$35 per head
2 Cecil Rhodes Drive, Newlands, Harare.