Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Le Shalimar in Augny, France

As much as I love cooking, I also love going out and I love trying out new kinds of cuisine. Thankfully, I married a man that is as open as I am. Maybe a little too open, as I think he would be more capable of eating exotic dishes than I would. Anyways, last Valentine's Day, I wanted to bring my love to Le Shalimar, a restaurant specializing in Indian and Pakistani cuisine, located in the ZAC d'Augny. Unfortunately, it was a horrible day weather-wise, so MR and I decided to watch a movie instead which was nearer to our house. It was a good decision as it was snowing heavily all throughout the night and I don't know how the hell we could have left the restaurant in that condition. I thought MR and I could try their lunch buffet today. Reviews online were quite mixed so I wasn't sure what to expect, I guess I was just hoping that this could open my taste buds to Indian and Pakistani spices and flavors and that I would like it.

Le Shalimar - restaurant specializing in Indian and Pakistani cuisine

Eat-All-You-Can Buffet
Lunch-9,50 Euros
Dinner-16,50 Euros
Children's Menu- 7,50 Euros
....for Starters, Main Dishes, and Desserts.

For newbies, ZAC d'Augny is a zone of twists and turns. It was how I felt in the beginning, but now I sorta know what is where. It's hard to pinpoint exactly where Le Shalimar is, but if you see Autour de Bebe, Jour de Fete, Passtime, then you are nearby. There is a big parking space in front, so parking is not a problem.

When we arrived, there was only 1 table occupied, but as time passed 4 other tables were occupied. The place was clean, but I found odd how the buffet table was displayed in the middle of the room. It made the dining room feel smaller and crowded. Getting food from one side of the buffet table was not convenient. I wonder why they couldn't transfer it against a wall, for example, or somewhere else convenient and aesthetically pleasing to the eye.

The man who accompanied us to our table and took our order was very pleasing, with a huge smile on his face all throughout the meal. I assumed that he was the owner, alongside his wife who managed the bar and payments, but I could be wrong.

He took our order, we told him that we'd both try the buffet and asked for water. He came back with a pitcher of free water. Keep in mind that in France, restaurateurs are obligated to give you free potable water when asked.

There was a small table of Starters, which had salads, raw vegetables, and dressings. It looked very international and nothing Indian / Pakistani popped out. On the second table, there were 12 main dishes in chafing plates. I ignored the starters and zoomed straight to the main dishes. Why waste my stomach space on entrees I could make any time at home?! Seeing that there were only 12 main dishes prepared, I vowed to try a little of each. Some of the dishes I had already heard of, while others were a total mystery.

First of all, I tasted right away the spices and flavors I was expecting Indian/Pakistani cuisine to bring in my mouth. Nothing was too spicy that we couldn't take. Of course, I assume they did this on purpose, to adapt to the clients. We love spicy food, so we wouldn't have minded it, but this was good.

Here's a little description I got from their take-out menu and my thoughts; 

Nan-pain simple et nature a pate levee a base de farine blanche de forment / simple bread and natural made of white flour
-----> nice!

Biryani de Poulet-poulet desosse avec du riz, des amandes, poivrons, oignons, poireaux, petit pois, noix de cajou, creme fraiche, et ananas / deboned chicken with rice, almonds, bell peppers, onions, leeks, green peas, cashew nut, creme fraiche, and pineapple
-----> Indian version of Chicken Rice - excellent! I'm not sure I found all the ingredients indicated in the menu, but I loved the taste.

Poulet Curry-curry de poulet et ses epices / chicken curry with its spices
-----> while the curry sauce was good, the chicken was hard, dry, and difficult to chew!

Poulet Pakora-beignets sans os moderement epices de poulet, assaisonnes aux oignons, a l'ail et au gingembre frais / fritters of deboned chicken mildy spiced, seasoned with onions, garlic, and fresh ginger
----->again, the chicken was a big let-down. It was very dry. Also the flavors weren't quite there. The menu described the dish to be seasoned with onion, garlic, and ginger - I tasted none of these. I tasted just the dry chicken and the fried batter around it.

Poulet Tandoori-delicatesse de poulet marine durant la nuit en epices et d'herbes aromatiques fraiches et tendrement cuit dans le four traditional d'argile / fine overnight marinated chicken with spices and fresh aromatic herbes and tender cooked in a traditional clay oven
---> THE WORST DISH OF THE MEAL!!! Ughhhh. This broke my heart because when I think of Indian food, I think Tandoori. For so long I've wanted to try one of India's most known dishes and it just wasn't good. I am going to assume that this was the establishment's fault, though. What was wrong with it?! I know I described the previous chicken dishes as dry and hard, but this was way beyond that. It was rock-hard! So hard that if I threw it across the room on someone's head, I could have done serious damage! It was way overcooked and had a foul taste. It's a shame really because I intentionally picked a piece of thigh, which is way more tender and moist than the breast. Even using a knife did not help in eating this - this was just not suitable to eat! So far, 3 chicken dishes, 3 failures.

Mixed Legumes-curry de pommes de terre, choux fleurs, petits pois et haricots verts / curry of potato, cauliflower, green peas, and green beans
----> good curry sauce, well-cooked, almost mushy, vegetables. Check.

My second plate consisted of dishes I didn't try the first round and dishes that I loved enough to get a second time.

Riz Basmati / Basmati Rice - riz simple / simple rice
-----> perfectly cooked simple white rice.

Pakora Vegetal-savoureux beignets d'aubergines, d'oignons et de pommes de terre / savory fritter of eggplant, onion, and potato
-----> matches with the Poulet Tandoori, this was also very hard. I know vegetables where there somewhere, but with its current state I could not identify what they were.

Machi Pakora-beignets de poisson frits et servis chauds / fried fish fritters served hot
----> the fish version of the chicken fritter I had earlier. Unlike the chicken, the fish was tender and moist and the breading very soft as well.

Samossa aux Legumes-beignets triangulaires fourres aux petit pois et aux pommes de terre / triangular fritters stuffed with green peas and potatoes
-----> another of India's well known dish. This did not disappoint. Every bite was an explosion of Indian flavors in my mouth.

Poulet Shai Korma-un plat exotique avec des fruits, des amandes, et de la creme fraiche / an exotic dish with fruits, almonds, and creme fraiche
-----> I think they have a serious problem with chicken. Once again, the chicken pieces were hard, dry, and difficult to chew and swallow. Which is a shame in this dish, because I absolutely loved the sauce. I'm not a big fan of the sweet and sour sauce type, but there was something to this sauce, that I absolutely loved! it was the perfect balance between yin and yang.

Kofta Curry- (description not in the menu) meatballs in curry sauce
-----> forget the dry chicken, forget the horrible Tandoori. The Kofta Curry makes coming to Le Shalimar all worth it!!! Easily the BEST DISH OF THE MEAL. I mentioned that I loved their curry sauce, so this was a check, but what set this dish to a totally different were the meatballs. They were moist and packed with delicious flavors and spices. Combined with the sauce was perfection. It was also slightly spicier than the rest of the dishes, which was just the cherry on top. Honestly, for the price of the lunch buffet and the friendliness of the service, I'd come back for these meatballs over and over again! I fell in love! <3 So did MR, by the way.

While eating, I noticed that there were no desserts on the buffet table. I read the flyer I grabbed at the entrance - 9,50 Euros starters, main dishes, and desserts. So there were desserts, after all. Once we were done, I asked the server and apparently, dessert was ice cream. No Indian / Pakistani specialty, which was slightly disappointing. I would have loved to experience an authentic Indian dessert. Anyways, I got 2 scoops of strawberry ice cream (one of my favorites). Not homemade, but a good end to our lunch.

Here's my over-all thoughts on our lunch today. I came in today telling myself I was about to discover Indian and Pakistani cuisine. While some of the dishes were disappointing because of the dry and hard chicken, the sauces showed authenticity with the spices and seasonings utilized. But ultimately, what I will remember about my first trip to India and Pakistan is the Kofta Curry, moist meatballs cooked in a spicy curry sauce. I don't regret our lunch. The price was reasonable, considering that other buffets nearby charge more than 10 Euros per person and not all give free water (which is compulsory according to French law). There might have been some disappointing dishes, but oddly enough I didn't feel disappointed when I left the place. Today's experience left me with the excitement of trying out more Indian and Pakistani food. I could even come back here to try their dinner buffet which is twice the price or even order a la Carte (I'd love to try a lamb or fish / seafood dish).

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