Restaurant Review: Shamiana
Are you up for a big, fat, thali?
There are a few fundamentals of eating that one ain't supposed to mess up with. One can call it the Holy Grail for foodies, who wish to relish food the way it is meant to be. Say, you never eat a pizza with a fork or douse ketchup on Ramen. A section of these fundamentals is dedicated to how to select a restaurant, followed by how to place the perfect order — say go in for the chef’s recommendation, etc. With all this in mind, we selected Shamiana, Taj Jumeirah Lake Towers, Dubai, for a meal.
You may scan through the digital menu (via your phones, keeping Covid-19 protocols in mind), but we’d highly recommend (as the chef did) you simply go in for the Shamiana Signature Thali. It ticks off quite a few marks when it comes to consuming a thali. For the uninitiated, the Indian thali is not just another main course item on the menu — it is what we like to call a buffet, which arrives on our table; a complete meal, dessert included. Picture this. A single, large plate holding multiple tiny bowls, arranged in a circular pattern. What it asks of you in return — time, patience, and a huge appetite. Two more tick marks — first, here’s a North Indian meal to eat with hands for that’s the authentic way to enjoy this grand meal and second, the experience has what the hoteliers call with Tajness feels (read: nostalgia and traditions). A shoutout to the head chef, hailing from Kerala, balancing his root with North Indian spices.
Prawn Tawa Masala (in a thick tomato gravy), the Lamb Roghan Josh (tender in each bite), and Butter Chicken (rich, semi-sweet: score!) were exactly what any meat-eater would like to devour. Shamiana’s secret-recipe Dal Makhni bore the right acidic tomato-onion-ginger-garlic tone and is worth a second visit. Whilst, spinach doesn’t make it to a list of favourites with many, the Lasooni Palak stood out for its fragrance and rich texture. What was missing was the raita, which is usually a staple in such meals, but we didn’t mind, for there was the roasted-rolled papad. We barely ate the pieces of bread (barring half a naan) and concentrated on relishing the curries, followed by just tiny bites of the desserts Gajar ka Halwa (a tad dry) and Moti Gulab Jamun (too sweet). Everything aside, if it's a taste of North India you want on a certain evening, drop by, but on an empty stomach, for the food is rich and spicy.
Taste (3): Good quality ingredients and age-old home-style cooking techniques stand out, but get doused in spices, especially in a few dishes like the Kadai Sabzi and Paneer Lababdar.
Ambience (3): We choose to sit outdoors, for it is after all the winter season. Just chairs and tables, with no frills at the terrace, were disappointing, but the breeze and the Dubai Marina skyline made up for it. Indoors ambience is more contemporary furnishings, with subtle Indian touches.
Service (3): The larges-ish meal arrived pretty quickly, which was a plus point. The staff, however, seemed to be a team of apprentices, a little too nervous whilst serving or answering any questions you may have about the food.
Presentation (5): The meal is served in true blue king/queen style. The metal thali in a silver hue (platter) with the paisley engravings adorning the edges and intricate patterns on the tiny bowls adds the right traditional and royal touch.
Value for Money (5): A large meal with starters, mains, desserts, plus a delightful sweet glass of Lassi for Dh100 (Vegetarian Thali) and Dh125 (Non-Vegetarian Thali) is worth the salt.