“Then there are those places”….Let me explain that phrase, I live a pretty blessed life when it comes to food. I get to eat a lot of great food, meet a lot of insanely talented people in the industry, go to and put on great events, and get somewhat paid for it. Truly paid for it if you consider, the friendships I have developed, the experiences I have had, and the fact I get to spend most of my time surrounded by the things and people I am passionate about. Standing in the corner of a busy kitchen during a rush, taking pictures, watching, and listening is the only “Food Reality Show” I need.
I guess my point is, and linking back to the phrase at the beginning, that even with being immersed in all this, it is so exciting to go into a small family place and have your legs swept out from under you in amazement, and that is precisely what happened today at Sitaram in Encinitas.
I was originally intending to visit one of two other restaurants and changed my mind three times before remembering about the little Indian place on I street in Encinitas I had wanted to check out a while back. I had tried to have lunch there with Chef Willy from 608 but they were closed. I will list their hours at the end of the post as they are closed three days out of the week.
I am so glad my whim paid off by allowing me to discover, what I consider, the best Indian food I have had in San Diego.
Sitaram is a small, 38 seat restaurant located at 120 West I Street, Encinitas. It is next door to the Potato Shack, off the 101.
A few things about Sitaram. First, it is vegetarian. Second, there is no food menu. The menu is a set menu of three authentically prepared Indian dishes, served with Sona Masuri rice, and Papadum flat bread. The meal is served in a Nepalese style Thali or round metal segmented plate.
They do have a drink menu featuring traditional Indian drinks and teas. I ordered the Mango Lassi .
Mango Lassi ~ yogurt, water, and mango pulp. I also believe Cardamom.
Think smoothie minus the ice. I was also offered a sample of their limeade, nothing like the American version of limeade, fresh lime juice, mint and other ingredients. Bright and slightly tart.
My lunch…… I will list as many ingredients as I can, Curries made from scratch have a notoriously large amount of spices and the owner was rattling them off faster than my note taking could keep up.
From back to front.
1. Sweet Potatoes and Beets ~ Onion seed, brown mustard seed, Cardamum, fenugreek leaves, fennel seeds, and more.
2. Split Lentil Dal.
3. Forgot what it was called I was too busy eating. Onion, Tomato, cauliflower, black mustard seed, and again more spices. This was my favorite the cauliflower was to die for. You know how you see cauliflower at every gastropub cooked various ways? This made every Cauliflower dish I have had laughable. The exception would be the Privateer’s, it still holds up pretty well against this.
Even with the complexity and number of ingredients, you could taste all of them. Everything was rich, spicy, with just the right amount of back heat. The best thing I could say is, I felt like I was in someone’s home and they cooked me a traditional Indian lunch like it would be served in their homeland. The food is obviously prepared by someone who loves and understands the cuisine.
A few additional things.
First, if you like authentic Indian food, Sitaram is a must. This place is head and shoulders above the more Uk style Indian fast casual food places we have around serving Butter Chicken, Lamb Vindaloo, and the like.
Second, I read a few Yelp comments about small portions. BS, the portions are fine, especially with such rich food. My lunch was $15 and came to $20 with drink and tax. A deal for the quality of the food. This is the kind of place Chefs love to eat at , and I plan on dragging some here.
If not having a menu and trusting the Chef bothers you, suck it up. Do you want great food prepared by someone who understands and knows the cuisine? Then trust them.
120 West I Street, Encinitas
Closed Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday.
Open 11:30 to 8:30 Wednesday thru Friday, Saturday 5 to 8:30