So aside from doing a number on my knee, after gracefully descending some concrete steps... this past weekend was a good one. If you've been following my blog, you will remember my friends and I recently formed a foodie group in an effort to organize ourselves into trying several restaurants around town. And as previously mentioned, since the co-founder and I each have a blog, we thought reviews would be a nice touch. After all, if you've never been to a restaurant before, it's nice to have an idea of what you're getting yourself into. Just keep in mind, we're no Karl Wells, so we don't claim to know techniques and pairings on a food critic level, we just know what we like and hope our review can give you an idea of what to expect.
Similar to the last post, we will be breaking our review into what we consider to be the key points of a restaurant outing:
- Quality of Food & Drink
- Overall Experience
In addition to a quick note on each category, we've also included our individual rankings out of 10. You can find mine below, and Terri's (foodie group co-founder) on her blog Pop Culture, With Sarcasm.
So without further ado, I present to you the results of our second group outing:
The Touton Mountaineers visit Shalimar Restaurant
Shalimar Restaurant is located at 272 Duckworth Street. It's conveniently located right across from the steps leading down past 'The Ship' bar, so if you're having trouble finding parking on Duckworth, you might luck out on Water Street near 'Home on Water'. With that said, if there's a hockey game or concert happening at Mile One, your odds of finding parking on either of these streets are slim to none, an unfortunate reality for any downtown dining experience. Cabbing or busing may be your best option.
A bright yellow awning makes Shalimar easy to spot in the daytime and a bright 'open' sign flashes to grab your attention at night. Online, they've listed their complete menu with food descriptions and pricing so you can make up your mind ahead of time. I found this great, especially since I'm unfamiliar with the majority of food they offer, so I had time to google some of the dishes to see what they were about.
Shalimar welcomes reservations. I would also like to mention, we ended up cancelling our original reservation the night before due to a terrible snowstorm headed our way. They were perfectly okay with the whole thing and when I called back to reserve for our party again (several days later), they remembered who the booking was for. Maybe they don't get a lot of big bookings (8 to be exact), but I thought that was nice.
I will also mention they stop taking orders at 8pm, which I personally feel is a bit early on a weekend.
Overall Logistics Score: (8/10)
I loved that I could pre-plan my meal online using their menu, not to mention, they did have some food shots, so I could get an idea of what to expect specifically from their restaurant. I also appreciated their overall friendliness and accommodating nature with regards to our cancellation. In particular, I enjoyed that the lady booking us remembered our name! With all of that said, I love a good downtown restaurant and I feel it's ideally located. My only qualms are the parking, which is to be expected for something along Water or Duckworth, and the fact they close so early in the evening.
ServiceOur entire group had arrived by 7:05, and since menus were already on the table (and since most of us had preplanned online), we were ready to order shortly after. Our orders were taken at 7:15 and our starters began to arrive at 7:30.
I found the service to be very friendly. As a group we had several questions about the menu and our server was happy to answer them. A lot of the dishes on the menu provided the option of beef, chicken or lamb, with lamb typically a few dollars more than the other items. Despite the price difference being listed on the menu, our server made sure we were aware of this (in a nice way) when lamb was ordered. Something I thought was keeping the customer in mind vs. the restaurant.
As for speed of service, I found this to be very good as well, with the exception of our dessert course. From the time we ordered, we were quickly brought our drinks, our apps and our meals; our apps and meal dishes were cleared swiftly as well. However, just as the restaurant was about to close and just as our meals were cleared, 2 new groups entered. Rather than turn them away, they were seated and served. Unfortunately for us, I think in their haste to serve the newcomers quickly (as it was closing time after all), they forgot about our table.
Overall Service Score (7/10)
Overall I think it was good. Our server took our orders in a timely manner, was helpful with the menu, pointed out price differences (again, in a nice way), and served our food swiftly as well. I did however take away points for the lack of attention paid to our table at the end of the meal. The rest of our meal had moved so quickly, and they had been so nice to us that I wasn't as bothered over the delay as I might have been otherwise. I definitely feel it was a circumstantial thing that we would not likely encounter again.
AtmosphereI must say, I really enjoyed the atmosphere of the restaurant from our little corner. The music was great (full-on Indian), and Terri and I were bopping along absentmindedly from the moment we sat down. It's a small place of about 8 or 9 tables, each decorated with flowers. The chairs were comfy and the decor was simple. Overall a great place for a relaxing meal with friends.
Towards the back of the restaurant where you pay, there is also a pantry of sorts where you can purchase Indian spices and mixes. Good to know for anyone interested in experimenting with Indian cooking at home.
|View from my spot|
|view from the entrance as I was leaving|
Overall Atmosphere Rank: (8/10)
I liked the vibe of the restaurant, it served its purpose, and by that I mean it's definitely not the type of place you would dress up for a fancy meal out, but perfect for a relaxed dining experience with friends. I enjoyed the background music and the decor was good.
Quality of Food & DrinkAlright, let's see if I can make it through this section without drooling... the food here was really good! So good in fact, I want to go there right now and eat some more! Just to give you an idea of how Terri and I feel about their food, here is a quick snippet from an actual conversation that took place earlier today:
Food Diva: Oh Goddddd I want to go there right now and eat my face off!
Terri: Oh Godddd I want to eat 600 of their samosas!
As for the rest of the group, I'm not sure if similar conversations occurred amongst them today, but I at least know that everyone enjoyed their meals Saturday Night. Between all of us we ordered a nice variety from the menu including Samosas, Lentil Soup, Fish Curry, Lamb Lahori Karahi, the Vegetarian Shalimar Plate, Chicken and Beef Biryani, and Butter Chicken. The only minor complaints were regarding the spice level, for some it was too much, while others not enough. I guess it's a personal preference thing. One of my friends is a spice fan but even after asking for it to be spiced up it still wasn't as hot as she likes it, so if you like heat, maybe request extra, extra spicy? I found mine to be just right and the menu does state that food is prepared with a medium spice level. With that said, I was drinking a lassi, which is a yogurt-based Indian drink, so that likely helped me combat the spice.
|Best samosas I've ever had!|
|Vegetarian Shalimar Plate|
|Dessert - Zahar, which was a saffron infused rice with raisins and pistachios - in retrospect, not wise to order a rice dessert after a rice-heavy meal. It was okay, but next time I would probably opt for baklawa.|
|Nick and Terri each had Gulab Jamon which was served cold and without any additional sauce. I've had very little experience with this, but the only time I've had it has been with the India Gate Buffet and they've been warmed, not sure if that's how they're to be served or not. Either way, Nick preferred them warm.|
Overall, I feel the food was well priced. We spent roughly $82 with tip included for 3 ppl, which worked out to about $28 each for an absolutely delicious meal.
Between the 3 of us we had:
- Shared app of 3 samosas
- Dinner for Two Non Vegetarian (2 drinks which we upgraded to 2 Lassi, 2 beef/chicken dishes and 1 veggie dish, 2 desserts)
- 1 extra Lassi
- 1 extra dessert
Overall Food & Drink Score (9/10)
The food was sooo good. Again, for me personally, the best samosas I've ever had, some of the best butter chicken I've had, and I really enjoyed the two new dishes I tried (Beef Biryani and Veggie Malai Koftay). I was finally able to try out Lassi for the first time, and can say without a doubt I will eat here again. I can't attest to authenticity as I'm not overly experienced in Indian cuisine, all I can say is that, aside from the gulab jamon, everything tasted delicious. Everyone around me enjoyed their meal as well.
Overall ExperienceAs I've stated throughout this review, I really enjoyed this restaurant. The service was friendly and for the most part quick. There was the issue of the dessert round, which lost them some points, but I would definitely recommend this place to anyone who enjoys Indian food. Prices were reasonable and the atmosphere was relaxed. I've only ever been to the India Gate buffet, but will be trying this buffet the next time I'm in the area. Definitely interested in trying out their Shalimar plate as well!
Overall Experience Score: 8/10
Total Restaurant Score: 40/50 or 80/100... that's an A ya'll! That means get out and try this place!