there’s not a tremendous amount of the latter, but it has
what it needs for a place that’s bargain-priced and fits the
strip-mall location well. The menu features nothing more than
what’s been established decades ago as the American standard
for Indian-Pakistani fare, a collection of Punjabi favorites
that place curries and other sauce-rich items alongside tandoor
oven-roasted meats and bread.
I’ve been preparing a lot of dinners with free-range or otherwise
politically correct meatstuffs, grilling or roasting them
in such a way as to bring out the most natural flavor. But
on the road, I’m a sucker for an Indian meal, where entrées
are as much about the herbs and spices as the meat or vegetables
buried within. Which is no disparagement. The most appealing
Indian cookery creates a balance of flavor that’s also kinetic,
dishes seasoned to allow a range of complementary sensations
to play across the palate. The snap of cloves or cinnamon
gives way to the earthier flavors of turmeric and cumin, with
garlic and cardamom rising in a great sensory swell behind.
It’s geared, when done right, to the particular item being
enhanced. Meaning a vegetable curry should have a different
bouquet than one built around lamb chunks. Nothing escapes
some manner of this treatment. Even the tandoori shrimp ($14)
or chicken ($11) gets a coating of a yogurt-based sauce before
hitting the hot clay oven.
and I visited early on a recent Friday evening, were warmly
greeted and efficiently served. There’s nothing fancy about
the tables and decor, although a large mural will inspire
are attractively priced, with potato-and-pea-filled samosa
for $3, pakora ditto and pappadum (lentil-flour wafers) for
$2.75 and a combo of all three for $5. A cold mix of chick
peas, potatoes and crushed but crunchy samosa in a yogurt
sauce is $5, and it’s an unusually spicy dish for what’s otherwise
tempered into Food for Nervous Americans. As such, it was
deflected me from my usual pursuit of a vindaloo dish, a preparation
that came to India’s Goa region by way of Portugal, and which
celebrates a high threshold of heat. Instead, I chose beef
biryani ($12), a rice-based preparation of Persian origin
in which the rice is cooked separately from its curried accompaniment.
An old test for the effectiveness of the preparation is to
drop a clump of it on the floor. It’s correct if none of the
rice sticks together.
prepared to do this test in the restaurant, but I was pleased
with the vibrancy of the dish’s flavor. This is a quality
that set our Shalimar meal apart from many other Indian dinners:
There was a sense of immediacy, of brightness about the seasonings.
list of chicken dishes includes chicken palak ($10), combining
the poultry with spinach and saucing it with a combo of aromatic
spices. It was mild enough to please my palate-wimpy wife,
aggressive enough to fill out the taste place in all other
respects. Other dishes in that list include chicken tikka
masala (cream sauce, peppers and onions, $11), chicken curry
($10), chicken do piazza (with onions and tomatoes, $10) and
chicken Karahi (onions, tomatoes and hot peppers, $10).
preparations inform the lamb dishes as well, with similar
prices. Look also for lamb Madras, a spicy dish ($10) and
lamb bhuna ($10) in which the marinated meat is cooked with
onions, ginger and garlic. Ginger figures strongly in the
lamb rogan josh ($11), which we sampled. Large slivers of
ginger decorated the top of the dish, which otherwise features
a blend of curry spices and a thick sauce.
similar shrimp or salmon preparations are available, and there’s
a long list of vegetable-based items. We added an order of
regular naan ($1.75) for the wimpy palates, and naan stuffed
with jalapenos and cheese ($3) for me.
way to enjoy the food is via the lunch buffet, which is served
daily from 11:30 to 2 (noon to 3 on weekends).
let’s straighten out who belongs to which of the various Shalimars
in the area. Qasim Bhatti opened Albany’s Shalimar in 1991,
kicking it all off, and soon thereafter opened the Shalimar
in Troy. Bhatti sold both businesses in 2004. Troy remains
independently owned; Albany went to Leo Ashiq, a family member.
Ashiq opened the Shalimars in Clifton Park and Delmar. But
he sold his interest in Albany back to Bhatti, who is continuing
to run the restaurant under the name LaZeez. Bhatti also owns
a just-opened Shalimar in Latham, which took over the space
occupied by the Afghan Grill in Peter Harris Plaza.
is also negotiating to open Shalimars in Schenectady and Guilderland,
which would make for an impressive area spread of Shalimars
alone, never mind the many other Indian restaurants now in
business here. And that’s not a bad thing at all.