Shalimar Restaurant, Vienna

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The Shalimar, which has a sister restaurant in Budapest, is a twenty minute walk from the central Museum Quarter of Vienna in the direction of the West Bahnhof, and about five minutes from the station itself. It’s not a regular Indian restaurant, the sort you go to in order to dull your taste buds and drink a lot of beer, it’s more veering towards a fine dining experience borne out by the fact that it was full of quietly spoken locals by 7pm on a Sunday night and that the prices were slightly higher than you might expect in a regular restaurant in our home cities.

For instance, our  starters were relatively small, here’s one of them, a single samosa with a side of salad and chickpea…

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…and cost between €3.50 to €5 each which in Toronto would be unacceptable, considering their size. You can see, it’s well presented and not amazingly expensive, but it is middle bracket pricing and as we say, veering towards the fine dining end of things.

As for what sort of food it is, we’ll come at this from two angles. Lamia is from Bangladesh and she thought that the Shalimar food was good for Europe but falling short of what she’d expect everyday at home or at friends’ houses. But then home food is so often better than what we get in restaurants. From my point of view I’ve stayed with several Indian families whilst travelling around India and sometimes, among the very well travelled people, the food was brilliant as they’d really learned to make the most of Indian spices and ingredients when viewed through a world-wide experience. On the other hand whilst at other Indian family homes – generally people who hadn’t travelled – the food was often very bland and unimaginative. It’s clear to me that the Shalimar food had been created by somebody who’d travelled well, so it was very tasty, but it was also created to please the Viennese public, which meant the spicy heat level of my samosa was somewhere between korma and tikka, whilst my main dish was nearer to a korma. Brits who enjoy a vindaloo or a jalfrezi might do well to take note; it you want it spicy, it’s perhaps best to ask as you order.

This wasn’t the case in the Budapest Shalimar, where the spice levels were much nearer the British level, and this is probably down to the Hungarian people generally enjoying a higher heat level in their food.

Ok, we don’t want it to seem as though we didn’t enjoy our evening at Shalimar, as overall it was good. The decor was bright, mid to southern Indian decor, greens and reds with some Buddhist statues along with Hindu gods and goddess and some Bharatnatyam decor too.

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We were welcomed by a gentle, soft spoken Nepalese woman and then taken to our table by the head waiter, who spoke great English. The menus were all in German but as I say, the waiter spoke excellent English so this was no problem. I could see straight away that it was going to be easy to get a vegetarian meal here.

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For starters Lamia had the shami kebab.

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“It’s an interesting and new take on the shami for me,” said Lamia. “Basically it’s at the stage before it’s puréed and added into the lentils in order to be fried. It’s spiced plentifully and tastes lovely. I really like and it tastes like how my mom spices it. The chana chat tastes flavourful too. A bit too much lettuce garnish but otherwise a well made dish, true to it’s name and in it’s spiciness.”

I had the Samosa.

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It was a great samosa. The correct pastry was used, it wasn’t oily and it was crispy and just warm enough. The chickpeas on the side was dressed with fresh coriander and overall it was a mild, well made and tasty dish.

Lamia then moved onto a chicken biryani.

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“It’s a very good biryani,” said Lamia. “This is something that we’d eat at pretty much every family gathering so I know it well, and this is good. Quietly and well spiced and the cool raita helps the heat of the dish be just as it should and provides a nice freshness along with the cucumbers and herbs. Inside are chunks of boneless chicken and plenty of peas and cashews. It’s really tasty.”

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I had the paneer tikka.

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The four large pieces of paneer cheese had been coated in besan flour and fried. Along with the light, fluffy yellow rice and the sides of salad and chickpeas, the dish offered a range of textures. I enjoyed it a lot, although I’d say that it was much more a korma heat than a tikka. Great food though, very satisfying.

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As a side dish I had the dal tarkar.

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This was a thick, buttery, garlicky daal, well spiced and yet again not particularly spicy hot.

Lamia had a light puri instead of a naan.

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I had the garlic naan, which was enormous, light in taste and went very nicely with the dal tarkar.

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For drinks Lamia had the mango lassi.

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“It’s not as thick a lassi as I’m used to but it tastes very strongly of mango. It has it’s good points, and bad. It’s colour is odd, but that could mean it’s real mango, or that they’re slightly unripe, and it’s not too sweet, which I think is a good thing. It’s more like a mango milkshake, i mean, not thick like other lassis, but I prefer this thinness as it goes better with my food.”

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I had, at first, a Kingfisher, which in England would be the general choice of beer to have with Indian food, along with Cobra. It comes in a 33ml size as is brewed in England especially to go with Indian food. It’s ok. But then I moved onto a local brew, an Ottakringer.

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It was served with a substantial head, was cold and was, for me, a perfectly refreshing drink to compliment a medium spicy meal.

So, overall we enjoyed our evening at the Shalimar. It’s not rock bottom cheap and the spice level is calmer than you might expect but on the plus side the other clients are quiet and civilized (if you’ve been in an English Indian restaurant at night you’ll know why I value civilized behaviour) and the food is well cooked and presented. If you find yourself in Vienna and you’re  longing for a bit of Indian food, do check the Shalimar out.

To discover more, please visit http://www.shalimar-restaurant.at/

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