Anyone been to Shanik yet?
I was in the area and stopped in (after lunch) to pick up a take-away menu. The manager said they are doing take-away only for lunch, but have started sit-down dinner menu. They hope to have sit-down lunch within a month or so. Anyone been for dinner or done the lunch take-away? Details? I've been to Vij's Rangoli in Vancouver and found it delish. Eagerly awaiting responses ...
I was very underwhelmed by my first meal at Shanik. This was also the unanimous opinion of the other three people at my table, including a friend who is extremely knowledgeable about Indian food, which I confess I am not. It’s been a long time since I ate at Vij’s in Vancouver, BC, so I don’t remember a lot of specifics about my experiences there. But in general I remember being blown away by the food at Vij’s, so was very excited to check out Shanik. I’ll start with some general comments. First, I thought the food lacked complexity without the layered, spiky, offsetting and contrasting flavors I look for in Indian cuisine. The flavor of the sauces, in particular, seemed too “integrated” without distinct edges or overlaps, a characteristic I associate with long-simmering, as opposed to food that is cooked up fresh with lots of contrasting notes. Second, in most dishes, there was too much sauce in relation to the main ingredients. And third, unlike some, I thought the service was fine. Now to the details. Our table of four had the following dishes:
Complimentary pakora served as an amuse-bouche: It was perfectly okay, although not anything terribly special. Nice crisp, non-greasy crust and a nice amount of heat, although a little heavy on the cumin.
Sautéed onions and tomatoes on paneer: I liked this dish more than my dining companions. For me, it was comfort food – very sweet (in a nice way from the caramelized onions) and easy on the palate.
Spicy Indian crepe (“pura”) with bacon, onion, and tomatoes: The owner, Meeru Dhalwaya, told us that this was one of the customers’ favorite dishes on the menu. Neither I nor my dining companions found it either very spicy or very interesting.
Brussels sprouts with bell peppers, cashews, and paneer: All of us at the table thought this was a nice dish. Not amazing, but nicely prepared with a nice combination of flavors and textures.
Portobello mushroom and rapini with mustard green curry: This was, by consensus, one of the least favorite of the dishes we had. The sauce was much blander than I had expected from the menu description and lacked complexity.
Marinated and seared pork medallions with ricotta, fenugreek, and garlic: The pork was tough and chewy. The sauce was okay, but not very complex.
Oven-braised goat meat with fennel and kalonji: The goat meat had been taken off the bone and was very tasty and meltingly tender. However, the amount of meat on the plate was pretty scanty in relation to the large amount of sauce, and the sauce wasn’t very interesting.
Spice-encrusted lamb popsicles (ribs) with split pea and spinach mash and coconut curry: The split pea and spinach mash and the curry sauce were pretty tasty, and my friend who knows much more about Indian food than I do, liked it a lot more than I did. But the lamb, which we had been told would be medium rare, was medium well at best. When we pointed this out to our server and showed her the meat, she told us that the cooks that had been hired were “home cooks” who were “in training” and that most of them didn’t have experience cooking meat. Hmmmm. The one thing that I do remember from Vij’s is the lamb popsicles with a fenugreek cream curry sauce on turmeric and spinach potatoes, one of the signature dishes at Vij’s which I prefer to the very different preparation at Shanik.
I didn’t like the naan, which was dense and lacked the crispness, lightness, and smoky char of a tandoor.
The price point of the food seemed a little high for the portion size, but no one at my table would have minded this if the food had been significantly better. And $6.25 for a medium-size glass of Interurban IPA from Fremont Brewing???
Admittedly, my expectations were pretty exalted given the memories of meals I’d had a Vij’s. And, also admittedly, the restaurant is still new and young, and I’m sure it will improve with time.
Meeru Dhalwala came to our table at the end of our meal and we gave her our honest assessment, as set forth above. She acknowledged that there appeared to be a problem with the grilling of the meat items, and took the lamb popsicles off our bill. She was very open to criticism, for which I give her credit. But I’m wondering if the problems at Shanik lie just in execution, or whether there’s a deeper problem in the recipes. It will be quite a while before I’ll be up for a return visit, so in the meantime I’ll be interested in following what other Chowhounds think.
re: Tom Armitage
Our first visit was promising, if not excellent. I have one experience last year at Vij's to compare against.
We waited for about 30 minutes in the lounge area. Shanik was still a few days from receipt of a liquor license, so only 2 beers and a few wines were poured, plus one soft drink, a lemon/ginger soda that was too heavy on the ginger. I saw one plate of yucca fries being passed, which was tasty, while at Vij's there were probably 4-5 passed snack items that went around during a similar wait.
The only dish we had in common with Tom Armitage was the goat, which I actually thought was the best dish. I did not find the gravy too simplistic; fennel was the predominant flavor, which may be a departure from the polyglot spice mixtures that typify many Indian braised meat dishes. We also had the grilled lamb/beef kebab with Bengali curry, which was a touch charred, but otherwise tasty. The curry needed a little salt. Samosas were vegetarian (unlike Vij's superlative meat version), crisp yet forgiving, the chickpeas that accompanied them was very good, and the mint chutney they served was delicious. We also had the saag paneer with dal and chappati--I am not a fan of this dish generally and don't usually order it. My wife said the cheese was good but the spinach was unremarkable.
The menu as a whole appears a bit more simple than Vij's, with more vegetarian-friendly options. However, Shanik is perfumed in spice and everything we tasted did not shy away from chile heat and robust flavor--especially compared with Seattle's typically insipid curry houses. For a lover of good Indian food, perhaps this is a reason alone to visit, and not to question why, unlike, other options, Shanik is not "cheap." While there are definitely some areas for improvement, I still think it probably the best Indian option in the city limits so far.
have been to rangoli twice and thoroughly enjoyed it both times. we went to vij's last summer and it was quite good but did not meet the hype. i am totally comfortable throwing down bank for food but found vij's expense:quality out of line. the dishes and presentation we very nice but not impressive; service quite attentive; amuse bouche tasty but felt like cheap bait for the service-oriented. i have incredible indian food throughout india and the uk and gauge other restaurants accodingly. can someone please give me a reason to be excited about shanik? i really want to love it but fear that it will experience the same hyperbolic rep given its provenance.
I found Shanik's quality in line with expectations and cost. What you're paying for (beyond the SLU rent) is the unusual staffing. Their cooks are mostly women recruited from the Indian expat community - home cooks taught by their mothers, not seasoned restaurant hands.
I am not sure that it's really comparable to what you'd get in India - never been - but am quite sure it's not like what you get in London or even NYC, say, where the one wouldn't even necessarily refer to "Indian food" but go to different restaurants for Gujarati, Bengali, Telugu, Goan, etc. specialties. Seattle is not that spoiled for choice - but Shanik does manage to be cheaper than travel.
I went for dinner recently, was holding off on posting about it before I got a chance to go again as it's busy enough already.
It's closer to Vij's than Rangoli in style, food was up to Vij's standards when we went. 2 small plates (samosas, brussels sprouts,) 2 large plates (short ribs, saag paneer) and 2 glasses of a nice rose set us back $97 before tip. Good value for money, and by far the best Indian food I've had in the area.
There's a line at the door before they open, just like at Vij's, but when we went (Saturday before Christmas) the restaurant was big enough to take the entire lineup in the first seating. A large bar area (about 40% the size of the dining room) makes for ample indoor waiting space. Just as at Vij's, staff come around with pakora and other tidbits while you wait, should you have to wait.
I stopped in last week and it smelled great, but I wasn't into the 30-45 minute wait I was quoted, so I moved on. I was disappointed to hear that they do not serve food in the bar, it seems to be really only a waiting area. They may serve snacks to those waiting for tables, but it sounded like a la carte dining at the bar was not an option. Oh well.