Shalimar is famous for serving what many consider the best Pakistani/Indian food in the city while being located in a marginal neighborhood and being the diviest of dives. I mean, I’m pretty sure it’s famous. I’d heard of it before I moved here, but that could be just because my dad was obsessed with the Zagat’s Guides. Regardless, Shalimar is extremely popular. The Jones Street location is the OG; it preceded the slightly nicer location on Polk and was, you could say, the founder of what is now known to some as the Tandoorloin, having opened about 15 years ago. I’ve been to both Shalimar locations in SF several times, with experiences that range from good to fair, but this trip would fall just on the inside of the unpleasant category.
It wasn’t terribly busy when we got there, there weren’t many open tables, but we were able to sit without a wait. Steve grabbed a couple menus, which are one of the more charming things about Shalimar; they’re laid out sort of like a newspaper on large sheets of newsprint paper.
And for some reason they call beverages “mind blowers.”
So we picked three dishes, Steve went to order and when he came back the four top next to the two top we were sitting at opened up. I said let’s move over there, because when you’re eating family style, a small table can be a real annoyance. So we switched tables and Steve started freaking out. “I told the guy we were sitting at that other table. I think he’s going to give our food to someone else.” I told him to relax, but he was watching the food running dude like a hawk until our first dish came out.
Of course it was wrong. This was chicken boti, Steve had ordered lamb boti. We flagged down the food runner and gave him the sitch, and he said there was no lamb boti. So chicken boti it was, and we were going to have to like it. Which we did, actually, it was the best thing we ate that night. Very juicy chicken, with a nice smoky flavor. Though, it must be noted, it was the skimpiest portion I’ve received at an Indian restaurant in, well, probably forever. Not that we left hungry, we certainly ordered enough dishes to make sure that wouldn’t happen, and not that I am against small portions, provided the price correlates, which in this instance I don’t think it did. Sorry for the run on sentence! The point is, normal prices, less food than normal. Our next dish was something we had ordered
Mattar Paneer, cheese with peas. It was tasty enough, but probably should have been called “oily sauce with 4 chunks of cheese and a smattering of peas.” Again, this was a pretty chintzy serving. The worst was when this arrived at our table
and we didn’t know what it was. Steve had ordered a chicken curry, and we were pretty sure this wasn’t chicken, the meat was pretty dark. I figured it was lamb, because of the appearance of the bones, but it didn’t have a distinct lamb flavor. Steve supposed it was beef, but I guess we’ll never know. At this point we didn’t bother to flag the dude down again, we’d already had to grab him a second time to ask for the raita we’d ordered, so we just said “fuck it,” and ate the whatever it was. It tasted ok.
We also ordered a regular naan for Steve and an onion naan for me. I have been onion obsessed lately, but this was a bad call. The naan was undercooked and extremely floury. The regular naan was better, but still nothing to write home about.
We didn’t have any trouble wolfing every morsel down though.
All in all, a pretty disappointing trip to Shalimar. Beyond the food, there was also an awkward situation with a woman who came in with a rather large group of women and children. I don’t know exactly what went down, but shortly after they came in she was yelling at a man to get the hell out, then she chased him out the door and didn’t come back for a good long while. I was relieved when she came back because I was a little worried the guy was going to attack her or something, but I also kind of wish she hadn’t come back because she was acting very strangely. Not that that will happen if you decide to eat there. The chances are better that you will get some mediocre food though.
532 Jones St