A Whole Lot Better than They Have to Be
One of the complaints I hear about dining out in Iceland is that Italian, Thai and Indian restaurants severely tone down the spices to suit the Icelandic palate. For many visitors to Iceland, it can be very confusing to see a dish labelled as “hot” only to discover that this means it’s been dusted with black pepper. Fortunately, you’ll never have that problem at Shalimar.
My hometown has an Indian restaurant on every block, and I’ve sampled quite a number of them. Many of these restaurants cater to a predominantly Indian clientele. It’s a testament to Shalimar’s cuisine that they’re not only fiercely loyal to recipes I’m pretty familiar with, but that they are without having to be – there are less than a hundred Indians living in Iceland, so few would be able to accuse them of inauthenticity if they ever cheated. And yet they don’t.
The restaurant itself has a warm, friendly atmosphere. You want to take your time there and enjoy your meal while a soundtrack of Indian pop numbers plays unobtrusively. The lower level is all one dining room, but at the top of a spiral staircase are secluded booths ideal for a romantic dinner.
Started by Sheikh Aamir Uz-Zaman in January 2001, Shalimar used to bear the slogan “Where hot means hot” and it still applies. If a dish on the menu is labelled as “hot,” even the most seasoned veterans of Indian food will discover that this is truth in advertising.
“I visited another Indian restaurant in town,” says Uz-Zaman. “And it was obvious they’d diluted the recipes to suit Icelandic tastes. It wasn’t very good. To me, it’s important to stay true to the original recipes.”
Shalimar also has milder dishes, vegetarian dishes, and the menu changes daily.
“Indian people get bored easily,” explains Uz-Zaman. “They don’t want to eat the same thing all the time. At an Indian wedding the food will sometimes take up most of the space at the wedding party, with lots of different dishes.”
Uz-Zaman, who grew up learning how to cook, carries the tradition of multiple dishes over. The daily special – four different entrées to choose from in combinations of two, three or four – changes daily but is always 1290 ISK for all four entrées. They also have a discount card where five visits gets you 50% off and after ten visits you eat for free. Plus, Uz-Zaman is open to group rates.
“When it comes to larger groups, we can always work something out,” says Uz-Zaman. “Weddings, birthdays, anything. We aim to please.”
Best of all, they have free delivery, albeit with a 3000 ISK minimum order, which is a heap of food, as their prices range from 750 to 1550 ISK. Orders for delivery and take-away can be made by phone or via their website, www.shalimar.is.
Shalimar Austurstræti 4 101 Reykjavík Tel. 551-0292
Mon. – Thurs. 11:30-22:00, Fri.-Sat. 11:30-23:00, Sun. 17:00-22:00