Shalimar - 2115 Broad St., San Luis Obispo
To kick off the New Year, I decided to treat myself to one of my favorite cuisines and visit Shalimar, a family owned restaurant serving up authentic Pakistani and Indian food in San Luis Obispo.
Located at the far end of Broad Street, Shalimar shares a building complex with Chilie Peppers, another local restaurant. Without a car, getting to Shalimar was quite a long journey, but worth every effort. After the usual bus ride downtown, I spent another thirty minutes walking out of the downtown neighborhood towards the restaurant.
I was excited to try Indian food in San Luis Obispo for the first time and see how it compared to the excellent food available in the Bay Area. By pure chance, we happened to visit Shalimar during their $10.99 Monday night buffet specials, where fellow food lovers can eat to their hearts content with naan, curry and rice.
As if I was not hungry enough, the savory smells from the buffet made me even more eager to have dinner. With its colorful cloth napkins, collection of decorations and glistening silverware, Shalimar provided an intimate and modest setting for a quiet dinner.
As soon as we settled into our seats near the back of the restaurant, our waitress greeted us with a basket of fresh naan and glass goblets full of cold water. Afterwards, we made a beeline straight for the buffet and piled a mountain of food onto our plates.
My plate had a little bit of everything from the buffet, including lentil daal, chicken biryani, basmati rice, chicken tikka masala and aloo gobi. My absolute favorite way of eating Indian food is flattening a scoop of basmati rice with the back of a spoon and covering it with a thick layer of curry. To no surprise, half of my meal consisted of just chicken tikka masala mixed with basmati rice, even though I should have tried something new.
The lentils were mildly spicy, and the mixture had a grainy texture that paired well with the soft and buttery naan. The naan by itself could have been a meal, but was an even better vessel for the various curries that I had pooled together on my plate. I especially liked folding small amounts of daal into the naan and eating it with my fingers.
Much to my dismay, I could not eat a lot of the aloo gobi because of how spicy it was. I have always tried to eat food regardless of its spiciness, but it was especially difficult this time due to how much I enjoyed the other savory and delicious curries.
Meanwhile, I nibbled on a samosa, a type of Indian pastry with a savory filling, a flaky exterior and soft interior. I loved biting into the samosa and feeling the crunchiness of its shell, combined with the soft texture of the potato filling. I could have easily polished off the entire tray of samosas, but I knew I had other food to eat.
Without adding anything else to it, I tackled the chicken biryani last. This dish by itself was good enough to eat plain, and I felt that I could enjoy it much better on its own because of the herbed rice and chunks of tender chicken.
If I had to note something outstanding about this meal, it would definitely be the attention to the preparation of the meat. Each piece of chicken I had in the biryani was cooked to perfection and extremely tender. Unfortunately, because of my strong affection for naan and basmati rice, I could only eat a couple pieces of it.
I also ordered a hot chai tea to go with my meal. I stirred in one sugar before grasping the glass with both hands and enjoying the warmth of the beverage. It was a nice drink to go with the otherwise intense flavors of my meal, and the light brown color of the drink reminded me of hot chocolate.
In addition to the delicious foods, the people on staff were very friendly and even offered me insightful advice for a picky palette. I have a very low tolerance for spicy food, so I was able to more or less safely navigate the meal without destroying my taste buds.
After this delicious and affordable visit, I am confident to say that Shalimar lives up to its claim as one of the best Indian restaurants in San Luis Obispo. Indeed, the high quality of food at Shalimar shows that “the magic of Indian cooking is in the blending of spices and other fresh ingredients.”