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The perfect 1990s restaurant offers comforting, spicy cuisine


Because of an editing error, an article in Wednesday's A La Carte section gave an incorrect date for the buffet dinner sponsored by the Vegetarian Resource Group of Baltimore at Sitar of India restaurant. The correct date is March 20. For more information, call Brad Scott at (410) 583-5859.

The Sun regrets the errors.

Sitar of India could be the prototype of the perfect restaurant for the '90s: an inexpensive and casual place that serves up lots of incredibly comforting, tasty food. It's the kind of restaurant, in fact, you wish you lived next door to for those days when you drag home from work disheveled, defeated and too exhausted to cook.

The owners, Shyam and Anu Aggarwal, opened Sitar of India four months ago in Pace Plaza in Woodlawn next door to their Indian grocery store, Shyam Foods.

They offer an all-you-can-eat buffet for $5.95 at both lunch and dinner or you can order from the menu. The buffet includes different dishes every day, but there are always two vegetarian entrees, two chicken entrees, raita, green salad, rice, dal, chutney, pickle, papads, parantha and naan (both Indian breads) plus a special such as lamb or shrimp curry. Pakoras and samosas are also available at the buffet counter for an extra fee.

Those who want a smaller meal can fill a platter with any 3 items for $3.99.

The menu includes several kinds of dosas, idli sambar, chicken kabobs, lamb kabobs, dal, tandoori chicken, kachori, pani puri, samosa chaat plus many other curries, side dishes, beverages and desserts.

As the weather gets warmer, they will open their salad bar which is filled with silk flowers during the winter months. Next month they will begin offering soft-serve frozen yogurt in mango, pistachio and "two or three American flavors," Mr. Aggarwal says.

The chef is Mike Athwal and both the Aggarwals do some of the cooking. Mrs. Aggarwal, who has a certificate from a culinary school in her native Jaipur, makes all the desserts. All the food is prepared from scratch using fresh ingredients.

Mr. Aggarwal designed and built the interior of the clean-lined, 50-seat restaurant which has bright blue and white tile in the buffet area and terra-cotta floors throughout. Children are welcome at the restaurant.

The grocery -- which was selected as the best Indian grocery in Jim C. Lawson's book, "The Baltimore Ethnic Food Store Guide" -- has a huge selection of frozen foods plus all kinds of breads, spices, dried beans and chutneys by the dozen. They also have a number of fresh fruits and vegetables including bitter melon, okra, green and ripe mangoes, ginger and garlic. In the refrigerated section are 32 varieties of Indian sweets.

Besides Indian foods, the grocery also has a selection of Chinese, Thai, Middle Eastern and Jamaican foods, plus tapes and CDs of Indian music. There are also more than 3,000 Indian movies for rent.

The Aggarwals also offer vegetarian and non-vegetarian catering.

On Friday, the Vegetarian Resource Group of Baltimore will have an all-you-can-eat vegetarian buffet at the restaurant beginning at 7 p.m. The dinner is open to the public but reservations are required. Send $12 for adults and $6 for children under 12 to the Vegetarian Resource Group, P.O. Box 1463, Baltimore 21203.

The grocery, Shyam Foods, is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sundays. The telephone number is (410) 265-5119.

Sitar of India is open from 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and from noon to 8 p.m. Sundays. The telephone number is (410) 265-5140.

The restaurant and grocery store are located in Pace Plaza at 1724 Woodlawn Drive in Woodlawn.


On March 31 you'll have a chance to taste the culinary offerings of 20 of Baltimore's top chefs at Share Our Strength's Taste of the Nation, the annual benefit for hunger relief.

The event, sponsored locally by the Taste of Baltimore and Martell Cognac, will have a fairy tale theme entitled "Once Upon a Time" and will be held in the ballroom of the Sheraton Inner Harbor Hotel.

Local organizers Alison Dugdale, chef at Foster's Oyster Bar, and Debra Rollins, owner of Art of Food Catering, have recruited chefs from some of the area's best restaurants including Linwood's, Pierpoint, Peerce's, the Polo Grill, the Pavilion at the Walters, the Milton Inn, Harbor Court Hotel, the Brass Elephant, Rudys' 2900, Spike and Charlie's, the Admiral Fell Inn, Sheraton Inner Harbor Hotel, Foster's, Moscow Nights and Sisson's.

A dozen U.S. wineries are to contribute wines, and the Boston Beer Company is sending Samuel Adams beer for the food and wine tasting.

Baltimore is one of 100 cities holding tastings during the week of March 29 to April 5. Share Our Strength oversees the events which support groups fighting hunger, its causes and effects.

Tickets are $35 a person. The entire amount goes to local beneficiaries: Second Helping, which collects prepared foods from restaurants and caterers to give to shelters and food banks, and the Salvation Army's Next Step Educational Program.

The Polkats and Swing Central will provide music for dancing. There will also be a silent auction, door prizes and a "Taste of Baltimore" book for those attending.

For more information or to order tickets, call (410) 560-0951.


This month, Williams-Sonoma stores are giving away a wonderful little cook booklet. It's called "Fresh, Light & Fast," a primer on healthy food that is easily prepared.

The booklet contains 12 recipes including several by Deborah Madison, author of "The Greens Cookbook"; Emalee Chapman, author of "15-Minute Meals"; and Martha Rose Shulman, author of "Entertaining Light." Among the recipes are vegetarian pizza, chicken stew with vegetables, sabzee (green herb sandwich), and seared salmon steaks with tomato vinaigrette.

It also has several pages of tips for cutting fat when cooking and lists of foods and cooking equipment to have on hand.

The booklet is at Williams-Sonoma stores at Owings Mills Town Center, Towson Town Center, and the Gallery downtown. Or write to Williams-Sonoma, "Fresh, Light & Fast," P.O. Box 7456, San Francisco 94120-7456.


An Irish Stew Cook-Off is set for 5 p.m.St. Patrick's Day, Tuesday, at Baltimore's Original Sports Bar in the Brokerage, 34 Market Place. Chefs from local restaurants will prepare competing versions of the potage. A panel of media personalities will select the best stew.

A $2 donation at the door benefits the Maryland Food Bank, Inc., and the Maryland Food Committee. Bob Kilpatrick, of Lite-102, the FM station sponsoring the event, will preside over the eating of Irish stew and the singing of Irish tunes.

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