If you’re looking for Indian food, Shanik is the real deal. And the real deal happens to be very vegan friendly.
As owner, Meeru Dhalwala candidly explains, you will never feel like a moron when you walk into her restaurant. Unless of course you’re acting like a moron (and dietary choices or restrictions certainly are not on her list of things that qualify someone as a moron). Having been vegetarian for seventeen years of her life, Dhawala understands how difficult it can be (and how rude people can act) when you try to order something that’s not listed on the menu, and she has gone to great lengths to ensure anyone who sits down to eat at one of her three restaurants will feel as comfortable as she does in her own home. She not only has a very accommodating philosophy, but she has hand crafted all the modifications of her dishes to ensure you aren’t just getting some thrown-together vegan, dairy-free or fill in the blank-free version, but you are getting a vegan, dairy-free or fill in the blank-free dish that tastes as good, if not better, than the original.
Many of the ingredients and traditions used at Shanik have been passed on to Dhalwala from her mother. For instance, the chai tea served before your meal is the same chai she learned to make for her mother as a ten-year-old girl. The myriad of spices you’ll taste in every dish are roasted and ground the same way her mother would, filling the entire house with the smell of cumin every Saturday as far back as she can remember. Are you starting to believe that this really is the real deal? Good.
Shanik is Dhawala’s third restaurant. Vij’s, her first endeavor located in Vancouver, has been written up in the New York Times as one of the finest Indian restaurants in the world. Did you hear that? In the WORLD. When asked about her decision to expand to Seattle, her answer was part impulse, part responsible mother. She knew she would want to be present as much as possible while her third baby grew up. And flying across the country wouldn’t make that very easy. So thanks to the geography gods, Seattle now gets to enjoy cooking from one of the best chefs in the WORLD.
Located in South Lake Union, Shanik’s exquisite design and complex flavors will keep your eyes and mouth happy as a clam. Well, a clam made of fire – the spice level at Shanik is anything but Americanized. So if you’re a pansy like me, don’t hesitate to ask for extra rice, extra water, extra chapati, and then some more extra rice. The spicy flavors are so good you’ll endure the pain far longer than you and your mouth agreed to. And every time it gets to be just too much, you’ll do a little one-two rice-water combo and get back on the wagon. It’s a dangerous and thrilling cycle. Actually, I don’t think it’s dangerous at all. Unless of course you are deathly allergic to rice and water.
Grilled Vegetables $20
The grilled vegetables are so much more than their name gives them credit for. Served over brown rice and green lentils and surrounded by a sauce for the ages, this delicious pool of naturally-vegan love is so rich, so hearty, you’ll forget you’re eating vegan food altogether and simply basque in its boldness. I wanted to dip everything on the table in this sauce. That was until I realized how much food we ordered. I only have so much love to give, and so much stomach to fill. I was forced to move on to another dish. Oh, but I’ll be back.
Kale and jackfruit curry $16
This lightly sweet curry features cauliflower, potatoes, kale, slivered almonds and jackfruit, a fibrous asian fruit said to have the flavor of an apple, banana, pinneapple and mango combined… and also said to be my favorite part of the dish. Its sweetness did not display itself in short, pungent punches like pineapple on pizza, but rather by spreading its love throughout the dish in a delicately balanced way, perfectly complementing the depth of spice in the curry.
Everything you will see, smell and taste at Shanik is thoughtfully crafted. From the handmade wheat crisps in the papri chaat, to the blue and gold color palette of the restaurant, to the menus, hand-written by Dhawala herself. It is by no accident that the restaurant bursts with the warmth and comfort she felt from her mother growing up. I’d say we are all lucky to be invited into such a delicious part of her life.
My ordering tip: Start with the papri chaat and end with the coconut-roohafza pudding. The middle is up to you. But if it weren’t up to you, I would order the roasted vegetables, the jackfruit curry and the chickpea samosas.
Shanik|500 Terry Avenue North, Seattle| 206.486.6884
Photography by: Jessica Aceti