Terrific Indian food and ambience at Masala's in San Francisco! A take out from Shalimar, Pakhwan, or Naan N Curry makes you feel like you are bringing a bit of Bombay into your home. However, sometimes you want a sit down Indian meal in surroundings which are a modicum more uplifting and safer at night than these tenderloin dhabas (Indian word for restaurant). Masala's menu is considerably more varied and its food less oily, without sacrificing taste. In particular, the Kabuli Nan, which is stuffed with raisins and nuts (although it tasted like marachino cherries) was a new delight - sweet, but not too sweet. All the dishes were consistently good. The back of the restaurant is a separate area, suitable for a large group or party. Most of the main dishes range from $7-11. The address is 1220 9th Avenue, 415 566-6976. Dinner only - while the take out menu says they are open for lunch, they are not.
I went to Masala twice soon after it opened last year. I thought the food was satisfying, but not exceptional; some of the flavors were straightforward and tasty, but I longed for something a bit more complex and spicy and hot. Maybe it's matured now that it's been there for a while. Based on my (out-of-date and possibly irrelevant) experiences, I'd probably pick Indian Oven on Haight and Fillmore over Masala, although Indian Oven might be a bit pricier.
In my mind, none of these places compare well against Shalimar, because Shalimar reminds a lot of the simple dirt basic Indian places around Serangoon Road (Singapore's Little India) where I had many good bites once upon a time.
I actually have a soft spot for Golden Gate Pizza and Indian Food on Judah and 45th. The name sounds suspicious, but the Indian food is actually quite good - try the eggplant a.k.a. bengen bharta. They also do a good poori, hot and freshly inflated from the oven if you eat on the premises. Seekh kebab was merely OK. Good chicken tika masala. There's no atmosphere, just something good and cheap. The best part is that these guys deliver.
Last month I woke up from a much needed nap after an afternoon of fine Burgundy wines and some precious foods and tried to figure out what I was going to do for dinner. I was debating whether I should go back to the event to sample Charlie and Daniel's cooking but the idea just didn't excite me. I fired up Chowhound for inspiration and caught Anne H's new post mentioning Shalimar. In a capsicum diet mood, that became my craved thing for dinner.
I'd been to Shali before, mind you, but never on a Saturday night or at peak dinner hour. The scene was a mass of wet humanity (raining hard that night) milling around trying to squeeze into every available square inch, crowding toward a table or the ordering line. The cooks in the open kitchen area were in whirling dervish mode and I was mightily impressed watching the food arrive from distant cooking stations at the same instant to assemble each order. Have you ever noticed the tubs of cold congealed prepped food lined up on the kitchen floor that the staff are stepping over? One of my friends claims that his favorite places to eat in India are Punjabi truck stops, and I imagined that this was probably SF's closest version of that vibe.
I was in the line waiting to order for longer than it took for my to-go food to be ready. Lamb in butter, ground beef kebab, spicy eggplant, spinach, condiments, and a couple naan were packed up in short order and I hit the road for the hour's drive. My spur-of-the-moment plan was to show up at friends' house with my tote o' Indian food. I'd been invited to dinner earlier, declined, and figured they couldn't deny me their company if I brought my own meal with me and enough to share. At worst, I'd be banished to the kitchen table to eat alone.
This household has one of the finest wine cellars around and I always look forward to something very special vinousity-wise. Imagine my surprise to step inside to see beer bottles strewn around the kitchen and dining room! Shocking, but shockingly good for my intended meal. The husband's family hails from Minnesota and he was inspired to have a beer brat party. He had scoured the area in search of local brews, assembling 22 big bottles to sample and tastes of some were still available. I also got the last of the Vienna sausages (reheated in the can) that had been served as appetizers.
A few of the guests had never tried Indian food (naan, what's naan?), and went wild for these dishes from Shalimar. I'll also mention that Shali's packaging in take-out cartons, then wrapped in plastic wrap, and double-wrapped in brown paper bags kept everything warm for the trip. The lamb was as good as ever, and I loved the eggplant (new for me).
I have a brew maybe 4 times a year and don't know much about 'em. Most are too bitter for my tastes. But nothing tastes better with Indian take-out. Here are the ones I tried.
Bear Republic XP Pale Ale - not distinctive, less intense than the others, watery finish
Lagunitas "Eye of the Hairball" Ale (wheat style seasonal release) - super with the food counteracting the burn, but the slight sweetness got cloying when consumed alone, others said that its companion "Hair of the Eyeball" drained earlier in the evening was even better
Lost Coast Brewery Pale Ale - nice citrusy notes, very refreshing
North Coast Anniversary X Ale Limited Release - more than a year old, this was aged in bourbon barrels and tasted of smoky wood, chocolate, buttered toast and vanilla, supposedly tasted better when young, now the wood elements supress everything else
Anderson Valley Boonville Brewing Co. Poleeko Gold Pale Ale - this is one of the few brews that I know to order, honeyed and high-toned citrus flavors, full creamy mid-palate with crisp dry finish and tangy aftertaste
Kay's Homemade Ale - from a pitcher pulled by a neighbor from her home brew, thick creamy head, dark color, malty and carmelly but not bitter, round smooth finish