Sitar Indian Restaurant, and I really enjoyed myself. Indian food is my favorite. We thought about going here when we first moved here, but it seemed a bit more expensive than other Indian restaurants in the area. When I was out of town last week, Scott went there (because the Garden Bistro was closed). He reported back that while it is more expensive, the price includes naan or rice (some of the dishes also include a vegetable). He also reported back that it was really good.
There are quite a bit of Indian people in surburban Detroit (where I am from) mostly because of engineering opportunities in the auto industry. I worked at a Blimpie sandwich shop throughout college, and it was owned by an Indian couple. To this day it remains the longest period of time I have ever worked anywhere. The owners were really great to my ex-boyfriend and I. The whole family was very much like the family in Jhumpa Lahiri's novel "The Namesake" (the father was a science professor, the daughter was named Sonia, the son dated white girls, the mother seemed to miss certain parts of India a lot, valued family above anything else, and tried to replicate things she missed as closely as possible). I only mention all this because in her kitchen I had the best Indian food ever. I was consistently blown away by what she would pull out of foil packets in her oven after what hadn't seemed like that much effort at all. The chicken tikka especially was juicy, tender, and full flavored. From my point of view, the Indian food available in Brooklyn and Queens in the years following that point in time couldn't compare at all to her cooking. It didn't hurt that her cooking had been served along with a large helping of kind hospitality, but the food was definitely the best judged on it's own too.
When we moved here, I was lucky enough to be invited over for lunch at someone's house whose mother-in-law was staying there from India. She folded over layers of naan dough and cooked them up right in front of us as we scooped up chickpeas and eggplant. With international cuisines, it is difficult to beat something made from scratch by a person who is actually from there. It didn't take Scott and I long to check out Shalimar. We've been going to the Delmar location for the last couple years, and we really like it (including the lunch buffet). We tried Karavalli, which we admitted is probably better than Shalimar, but it is also more expensive and a farther drive for us, so we really don't go as often.
What I have to say about Sitar is this: it is the first time since I sat at my former boss's counter waiting for the chicken tikka to be scooped out of the steaming oven, the smell of charred meat and strong spices drifting through the house, that I felt any Indian food has even compared. That is to say, this could possible be the best Indian food I have eaten at a restaurant in nine years. Also, it doesn't feel like a takeout place. To me, it felt like the house of my boss in college - totally comfortable and ready for friends and relatives to stop by with delicious Indian food offerings from their own kitchens, and probably a strong helping of gossip. I kept expecting my former boss's daughter to walk through and talk about what she had to do to get into the University of Michigan. I really enjoyed myself. This really was Indian food done completely right.
I had the hot tea which was spiced very nicely. Scott had the tandoori chicken the first time he went, and the tandoori sizzler when he went with me. I thought the tandoori was great. Tandoori often doesn't hold up well on Indian buffets or when driven home for take out. It really has to be taken out of the oven and eaten immediately. This was really fresh, juicy, and sizzling. I had vegetable samosas and the pastry part of it was much flakier than at Shalimar, Delmar. Then I had the shrimp palak: shrimps cooked with spinach and mildly spiced. The spinach was a great texture, and not at all like some of the palak dishes in Brooklyn and Queens which often just tasted like creamed spinach.
I think we will continued to frequent the Delmar Shalimar. It is a closer location, the people are nice, and we've enjoyed it over the last couple years. But I think if we are in the Central Avenue area, and in the mood to spend a little more money, we will go back and enjoy the tasty food at Sitar Indian Restaurant and it's comfortable ambiance. Then, I can close my eyes and be transported to a time when I was in a suburban kitchen in Farmington Hills, MI, eagerly gnawing on a chicken bone that was so good I didn't care I was getting spices all over my fingers.