Spice Spreading Northward
World Plaza, 15 Park Ave., Clifton Park, 348-1494. Serving
a buffet lunch Mon-Fri 11:30-2, Sat noon-3; dinner Mon-Thu
11:30-10, Fri 11:30-11, Sat noon-11. AE, D, MC, V.
price range: $6.75 (aloo chana and many other dishes)
to $11 (salmon tikka and much more)
the inevitable strip-mall feel
it very spicy?” This was the question I heard posed 25 years
ago at a Schenectady restaurant called the Maharajah (later
to become Sitar), so when I heard it again last week at Shalimar,
I asked owner Liaquat Khan how persistent this issue remained.
food is very mild, and our customers in Albany and Troy know
what to expect. But here in Clifton Park, we’re attracting
customers from as far north as Glens Falls, people who don’t
have a lot of experience with Indian cuisine. And so we have
to reassure them.”
He owns downtown Albany’s Shalimar, and opened, but then sold,
the one in Troy. “But the Troy Shalimar was bought by a former
manager, so we still advertise together.” Khan has also worked
with food-service companies that provide the large-scale feeding
in corporations and on campuses, so his knowledge of food
and the business goes way beyond the niche in which he’s most
know American food,” he says, and he offers it when he caters
events, but he’s seeing more and more call for Indian fare.
“I have catered some large American weddings,” he says, “where
the food is what you’d find here in this restaurant!”
If you’re familiar with the other Shalimars, you know what
to expect here. It’s a formula he doesn’t mess with, and he
has chef Noor Islam, who created the first Shalimar menu,
overseeing the food at both of his places now.
dishes, the Tandoor cookery, that’s largely from Pakistan
and India’s Punjab region,” says Khan. “When you see cream
dishes, vegetarian dishes, you’re looking at food from southern
The ultra-hot, clay-lined Tandoor oven is the heart
of the meat portion of the menu, giving a quick and flavorful
finish to the kebabs and the red-colored chicken characteristic
of the restaurant.
When it comes to the spicing, heat is only one of many compelling
components. A core repertory of aromatic herbs and spices
goes into most of these dishes, chosen and combined in order
best to enhance the flavor of the base ingredient, be it cubes
of lamb, chunks of fish or a marriage of vegetables.
You can buy a commercial curry powder, but that’s just one
interpretation of the ratio and choice of spices. Better to
customize it—using coriander, fenugreek, cumin, turmeric,
cinnamon, cloves and, if you choose, much more (or even less)—and
then dry-roast the spices yourself.
And that’s the approach at Shalimar. A dish like palak
aloo (spinach and potatoes in curry sauce, $6.75) is sweeter
than you might expect, but you’re expecting the native bitterness
of spinach, which disappears in this recipe. Compare this
to palak paneer (spinach and homemade cheese, 6.75),
and you’ll note the subtle contrast, with the cheese reinforcing
spinach’s more aggressive flavor tendencies.
How hot-spicy does the Shalimar kitchen get? I ordered beef
vindaloo ($7.75), traditionally the warmest item on
an Indian menu, and I asked for it to be spicy, but even so
it was subdued. They’ll go out of their way not to hurt you.
Beef dishes abound. You can get it with spinach (beef palak);
in the Italianesque beef do piazza, which adds tomatoes,
onions and peppers; chopped up and served with potatoes (keema
aloo) or in a curry sauce, among other preparations (all
So it is with chicken and lamb. Enjoy them in combos with
vegetables, in cream sauces, in curry sauce, or literally
sizzling as they come to your table, fresh from the Tandoor
oven. Lamb boti kabob ($8.75) is the Tandoor
version of that meat, redolent with its marinade and surrounded
by a heap of equally hot onion slices.
A more intricate preparation is a biryani, a multi-ingredient
extravaganza cooked around rice; this can be ordered with
vegetables ($8) or with any of the fish or meatstuffs ($9
Chicken biryani sometimes appears on the lunch buffet, which
is served every day except Sunday. This is a popular feature
of Indian restaurants, offering a quick, inexpensive lunch
(the price at Shalimar is $6) that’s a boon for any worker
with a strict half-hour for the midday meal.
And it offers a good sampling of the menu. Other items we
saw in the chafing dishes included Tandoor chicken,
chicken do piazza, bund gobi aloo (cabbage and
potato stew), mushroom jalfrazi, and two cream-sauce-based
dishes: vegetable korma, with a mixture of distinct
ingredients, and malai kofta, in which the veggies
are mashed into balls, then fried and sauced.
One of Shalimar’s strengths has always been its low pricing,
so you’re easily able to experiment with the menu over the
course of repeated visits. And don’t forget the nan, a soft
flatbread cooked in the Tandoor oven, available plain
or with a combo of herbs and/or cheese.
Once again, it’s encouraging to see a non-chain restaurant
thrive in the midst of big-box-ville. Clifton Park needs this,
possibly more than any other community in our midst.
here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.
of Beekman Street activity, the Yawning Duck
Pasta Co. and Gotchya’s Trading Co.
are combining forces to open Gotchya’s Trattoria,
a fresh pasta market and espresso bar by day and
neighborhood Italian restaurant by night, which
means that the Yawning Duck will be moving to
the current location of Gotchya’s, 68 Beekman
St. The combined opening will be on March 31;
Got chya’s Trattoria will be open Tuesday through
Saturday at 11 AM for the fresh pasta market and
espresso and pastry bar, and dinner service will
begin at 5. They will begin to take dinner reservations
next week. 584-5772 or www.gotchyas.com. . . .
In Harper Lee’s novel To Kill a Mockingbird,
Scout Finch makes several mentions of Miss Maudie’s
Lane Cake. A version of this multilayer cake,
with coconut, pecans, candied cherries and raisins
in the filling, will be the centerpiece for a
“Mission Society Dessert Table” at a reception
on April 8 at 2 PM at Schenectady County Community
College. The reception follows a lecture by Claudia
Durst Johnson with the provocative title “Bela
Lugosi, Rosa Parks, and Harper Lee: Social and
Universal Issues Reflected in To Kill a Mockingbird.”
The program is free. . . . Remember to pass your
scraps to Metroland (email@example.com).
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very much enjoyed eating dinner at Daniel's
at Ogdens. You review described my dining
experience perfectly. This wasn't the case
with Pancho's. I much prefer Garcia's or
Lake View Tavern for Mexican fare. I agree
that a restaurant can have an off night
so I'll give the second unit on Central
Avenue a try.
yes I miss the star ratings, bring it back.
Second, I haven't had a chance to visit
Poncho's yet, but I especially like reading
would travel to Amsterdam to this restaurant
- it's not that far away. People traveled
from all over to eat at Ferrandi's in Amsterdam.
From his background, I'm sure the chef's
sauce is excellent and that is the most
important aspect of an Italian restaurant.
Sometimes your reviewer wastes words on
the negative aspects of a restaurant. I'm
looking forward to trying this restaurant
- I look forward to Metroland every Thursday
especially for the restaurant review. And
by the way Ferrandi's closed its Amsterdam
location and is opening a new bistro on
Saratoga Lake - Should be up and running
in May. It will be called Saratoga Lake
Bistro. It should be great!
comments about the Indian / Pakistani restaurants
being as "standardized as McDonald's"
shows either that you have eaten at only
a few Indian / Pakistani restaurants or
that you have some prejudices to work out.
That the physical appearances are not what
you would consider fancy dancy has no bearing
on the food. And after all, that is what
the main focus of the reviews should be.
Not the physical appearances, which is what
most of your reviews concentrate on.
A restaurant like The Shalimar, down on
Central Avenue, may not look the greatest,
but the food is excellent there. And the
menu has lots of variety - beef, lamb, vegetarian,
chicken, and more..