You may recall that my wife and I swore off eating out, having tried a great deal in the area and mostly been disappointed, but needless to say our resolution didn't last a month.
We made a second visit to Sitar India Palace, this time sticking to their Southern specialties. We had strange rice-flour crepes filled with who knows what and served with coconut chutney, as well as a strange rice-flour pancake, served with the same chutney. These were very interesting, but with each bite the novelty dwindled and a sense of eating something just a bit too heavy set in. We also had a cheese kofta dish and minced lamb naan -- the former very heavy, the latter a bit rubbery. By the time we were done -- as with our last visit to Sitar -- we felt like we had bowling balls in our stomachs. We followed the meal with the obligatory ras malai. This is one of my all-time favorite desserts, but the version served at Sitar is probably the very worst I've ever had. Even my mom -- a NY Jew with no particular kitchen skill -- makes better ras malai! In short, I don't think we will be paying Sitar a third visit, though I concede that the management is making an effort, and that it may be possible to cobble together a pretty good meal choosing carefully and knowingly from the menu.
We paid our second visit to the Q Shack, this time honing in on the brisket. Allen and Sons excepted, this may be the best cheap food in Durham or Chapel Hill. Everything is tender and flavorful, and the side dishes are no mere afterthoughts. The beans and hushpuppies are especially toothsome. I will add this to my very short list of regular haunts. I wonder whether anyone has tried the "fried pies" -- they sound yummy if mortally caloric.
We paid a first visit to La Villita, which I know has its partisans, but I have to say we were thoroughly -- and I mean thoroughly -- disappointed. We tried the chile relleno, beef tongue taco, mole enchilada, and shrimp and onion, all of which were glum in the extreme, and the flour tortillas that came with the shrimp were a downright disgrace: stuck together, stale, gluey, as if they'd been popped in the microwave one or two or three too many times. What's more, I can't stand the fact that every Mexican restaurant in town has televisions perched in three or four corners of the room. Is this to distract from the quality of the food? Or do they assume that their patrons are incapable of making conversation? Either way, the enforced TV dinner has minimal appeal.
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