Written by Kashish Nizami
Located in the corner of a mini mall on the quiet western end of Ventura Boulevard, Shalimar may look like a modest restaurant from the outside, but with even the slightest closer look it’s clear that the eatery is modeled to make its patrons feel like royalty. Stepping foot on the green carpet pathway to the inviting doors, one of the Southeast Asian men who run the establishment will lead the way under archways and columns designed alike to the Taj Mahal to one of the brown-marble colored leather couches.
On the pink table-cover sits a rack boasting three types of curry and a candle in a small glass sheath, and just above are brass lighting fixtures with intricate swirls of designs, keeping the lighting dim. One wall is simply a long mirror, while the others are embellished with red and gold, the rich colors of India. All around the restaurant are ornate decorative pieces. There are small speakers connected to the corner ceilings, but the quiet restaurant begs for some cultural music to match the décor.
Every patron is greeted by a metal tray full of free paapar, a crunchy appetizer similar to potato chips. Although they’re alike to tasteless crunchy leaves of the fall season, a touch of salt and pepper spice the entree up—but to truly enjoy it, the abiding curry tray comes in handy.
Immediately, the menu delivers a few dishes that pop out since they don’t belong to the Indian subcontinent, like French fries and the “Hor D’ourves.” However, the latter does include a combination of boneless chicken tikka, vegetable samosas, sheekh kabob and pakoras that are a heavenly mix of tastes for the palate. The boneless chicken tikka is not overtly spicy and actually requires a bit more marinating . However, the bone-in chicken tikka, which was rolled out to the table in a pan sizzling and billowing smoke to the air, was very spicy, although the waiters will cater the level of spiciness to patron’s liking—and was not as tasteless as the small bite-sized ones in the appetizers.
The samosas are a bit too oily, but that does not take away from the taste of sweet potatoes and vegetables tucked inside the crispy flour patty delicately housing them. And though pakoras from other Indian restaurants are spicy, Shalimar’s are surprisingly sweet and rich with flavor. Just a hint of tang, and a slight burnt after-taste, and they’re so crunchy that two hands might be necessary to keep pieces from falling after just one bite.
From the wide assortment of breads, naan is the essential food item; the only problem is choosing which kind. The regular naan is a large oven-baked piece of bread, and the garlic naan is the same, simply with garlic, just as the garlic and onion naan consists of what its name boasts. For the latter two, the garlic made the naan a little tangy and interesting, while the onion made it sweet enough that it’ll probably be the first one finished on the table. The garlic and onion naan is a good choice, but the regular naan is safe. A poori, or puffed out bread, is another option but it gleams with oil.
As for the mango lassi— the orange yogurt-like drink— well, that must be an acquired taste.
For dessert the gulab jaamun, or fried honey cheese balls, are so sweet that eating more than one is a little difficult—yet they are delicious none-the-less.
For $25 dollars per person, the restaurant proves to be a great place to bring a date or even the entire family. On the way out, three brass regal looking bowls offer breath mints or baked fennel seeds to freshen the Indian-food-breath that will loom around for the hours after.
Phone: (818) 225-7794
Hours: Monday – Thursday @ 11: 30 a.m. – 2 p.m., 5 – 10 p.m.
Friday – Saturday @ 11:30 a.m. – 11 p.m.
Sunday 11:30 a.m. – 11 p.m.