Some comments on the statistical properties of Indian Dives ...
Whether or not you have had, or heard about the good food
at Shalimar [or Nann and Curry, or Pakwan], these experience
at these cheepest places is dominated by variability, not
average performance. Take a simple item like the beef kabob ...
sometimes at NC, they are a great deal for $2, but other times,
the ground meat is over spiced and hard to eat at all.
By analogy, I've had some great slices of pizza at Fat Slice,
Blondies, Arninell etc, but the $2.50 pizza slices are highly
variable. I think it's a very personal decision are the highs
high enough to risk getting something in the lower end of the
tail ... on Sunday I walked over from Tartine to get an
Arinell slices based on the drool-inducing memory of of the
last slice, but the pep slice I got then I still remember
as a waste of $3.
Which is not to say different restaurants dont strive to
different ends with the same dish/item. For example, I like
the CTM at Roti more than at NC. I seem to remember the
Nihari was better at Shalimar [but inconsistent], also the
chutneys are really different at Naan and Chutnet vs Shalimar.
Those are very much matters of taste and I dont think you
can say one is objectively better ... you can probably compare
Blondies and Fat Slice and maybe LaVals pizza in Berkeley, but
you cant really talk about cheeseboard and Arinell or Zach's
[boo!] or Chez Panisse pizza in the same conversation.
I guess for Indian places I distinguish between these objective
factors, e.g. the food at X is super oily consistently across
time and space [every time i go there, and every menu item],
they dont give you enough meat in dish <x>, they dont give
you free chutneys when you get togo food [that's what pissed
me off at darbar, a place i otherwise rather liked].
Finally, I do think the different branches of shalimar/NC/etc
do produce different product ... but this is most dramatic
in the case of NC, where I think the tenderloin version is
ok [although i see no reason to ever go back there with
lahore karahi next door] but the other branches are non-good
[sunset] to really bad [telegraph ... i will never go there
again unless somebody i trust certifies it].
Just a quick update: I've been living in London for a year and have eaten at several dozen different Indian restaurants here and can say this: Shalimar in SF is very very similar to many of the low-end Indian restaurants in London, in the touristy areas; greasy, cheap, and gross. It doesn't come close to the better ones in LA and London (my two favs here are Atma and Eriki, funny enough located within 5 minutes of each other on Finchley Road).
I been to Shalimar on Polk three times this year, 2 times during lunch (weekend and 1 Saturday) and one time for dinner. It's about 2 blocks from work, and 1.5 mile from home.
I agree with the comments that the meat dishes I had was greasy. But, they do give you "more" meat. I usually only order a lamb and a beef dish. Not sure of other dishes. The sauces tasted the same during the three times I was there, but I feel you do get more meat (compared to Naan and Curry or Pakwan).
Is it better than those two? About the same in quality and price. I think it's slighty more clean that some of the joints on 16/17 Valencia and the TL. I remember in Valencia area, there were lots of flies flying around.
The garlic naan was very tasty, though I would not pay 2.5X the price or a regular $1.00 naan. But my gf's into it, so i made here pay, hahaha.