The existence of the all-you-can-eat buffet is a godsend for people like me – food-lovers with a ravenous appetite and a desire not to be tied down to just one offering. Combine this with my love of ethnic and hard-to-spell foods, and we arrive at the lunch buffet of Shalimar, home of fine Indian cuisine.
Shalimar is special to me, because it is where I first tasted Indian food. For some reason incomprehensible to me, I didn’t immediately like it – and yet I craved it again. Something must have been off that day, because from my second meal there, I was hooked for life. Over the years, it has become my official favorite Lunch Spot.
It had been a while since my last visit, however, so my wife and I headed over for lunch yesterday. For the low price of $7.99, we had the run of the place. The first step is to pile the plate with rice. This I smothered in an old favorite: chicken tikka masala. This classic dish features chicken cooked in a tomato-yogurt sauce. The spiciness levels can vary, but today it was on the hot side, which is fine with me. Not too hot, though – just enough to enhance the flavors of tomato and garlic, all of which complemented the creaminess supplied by the yogurt.
Along with rice, the other necessary staple is naan: Indian flatbread. Thin, yet dense, naan is essential for scooping up sauce-soaked rice.
I also sampled the dhal frye, a creamy dish featuring lentils cooked with garlic, ginger, turmeric, onion, and tomato. The sauce was spicy, but the combination with the lentils tempered it down to a satisfying dull roar.
Finally (alarmingly finding my belly approaching capacity earlier than usual), I tasted the punjabi bhaji: vegetable fritters in a tomato-yogurt sauce. I found myself wondering if it was the same sauce as the tikka masala – it had the same color and consistency, but with a slightly different flavor. This could merely have been a result of the vegetable flavors versus the chicken. This is not a fault, though – it was still delicious.
Stuffed though I was, I can never pass up Shalimar’s dessert selection. Normally I will get a little of everything (there are only three or four options), but today I passed up the rice pudding and the mango pudding and decided to have the ras malai: a cheesecake dessert in milk syrup. This, however, is not cheesecake as you know it. The “cake” part is a small disk remarkably similar to a sponge – and I mean this in a good way. The sweet syrup soaks in, and a bite down releases it all into your mouth with a gush of flavor. The resulting dryness of the cake can be a bit off-putting, but it’s an interesting textural experience, one I actually find enjoyable.
Lunch for two, with a 20% tip, comes out to exactly $20.00 – a paltry sum considering the quality and quantity of the food.
Shalimar is located at 1850 S. Hurstbourne Parkway.
Photo: Erin Day