Restaurants & Bars 45

Shahi Palace report

cherylmtl | Jul 16, 2008 07:14 AM

A small group of very hungry hounds (and lurker hounds) headed to Shahi Palace a few weeks back, based on bomobob's raves about their mutton palak. It bills itself as serving Pakistani and Indian cuisine, and while the menu is fairly typical of most Indian or Pakistani restaurants here – with a few very notable exceptions – the dishes themselves are far better than almost any other I've had in Montreal. Decor-wise, the restaurant is what you'd expect from an ordinary strip mall on Sources. It's small (I don't think it seats more than about 25 or so) and seems to be family-run. It's also BYOB.

We had beef nahari, chili fish, the aforementioned mutton palak, shahi paneer, haleem, chicken balti, vegetable biryani, palak paneer, aloo gobi, naan bread and raita. By far the best dish was the chicken balti, which we ordered on the waiter's recommendation. Its combination of deep/dark and high/bright flavours wowed us all. (It was so good we ordered a second one, actually). This isn't a dish we've ever seen in Montreal before, and you can be sure we'll be going back to try this again soon.

While all the dishes were very good, some were really outstanding – aside from the aforementioned chicken balti, we loved the beef nahari, chili fish, and the naan. The naan rated as the best any of us had tried in Montreal – great texture and flavour, perfect blistering. The chili fish was a bit of a suprise – I think everyone expected it to be a seasoned piece of fish, but instead it was very much a spicy curry with good-sized pieces of mild white fish mixed in – even the non-fish eater among us enjoyed it. The scrumptious beef nahari had a rich, dark, deeply spiced sauce. The vegetable dishes were good, especially the biryani, with its large chunks of seasoned potato mixed into the rice, the palak paneer, which some of us found to be far more complex in flavour than ones we've tried elsewhere, and the gobi aloo with its delicate and complex spicing – one of our group commented that this was a dish that usually bored them to tears in most restaurants, but felt that this one was a pleasure and a treat to eat. Surprisingly, although the mutton palak was indeed good, with its mixture of lamb, spinach and spices, it was not in the same league as the chicken balti...The only dish that was a bit disappointing was the haleem – and even then, not because it wasn't good (it was), but because according to our haleem experts, it wasn't at all like the one that Halal serves – the consistency was soupier, and more dal-like, with a less rich and complex taste than the one at Halal. But that chicken balti – how do I describe that mix of flavours? It was just really a standout.

All dishes had just the right balance of spice and flavour – not too much spice to overwhelm the delicate flavours, but just enough kick to leave us in need of the raita. It seems that someone in the kitchen is using very fresh spices and mixing up different curry blends. They don't just make a generic spice blend and use it for every dish. And the dishes had none of the excess oiliness often found at other Indian or Pakistani restaurants.

A dry Portuguese white wine and Dieu du Ciel beer were the libations of choice for the evening (and then there was that forgotten bottle in the freezer...). Portions look deceptively small, as they're served in small copper pots (are these also called balti?), but there was more than enough to go around, and we all left feeling quite sated. If however you were still hungry after a meal here, Pushap is right next door, where you could always pick up a few Indian sweets to go. You should count on at least 1 ½ dishes per person, plus naan and rice, to make up a decent meal. Our feast came to about $20 per person (not including the cost of the beer and wine), which might be a little high price-wise in comparison to other places, but certainly worth every penny, quality-wise.

Shahi Palace is located at 4773 Sources in the West Island, and is closed Tuesdays. Definitely highly recommended. Now the only difficult decision to make will be whether to head to Shahi Palace or Bombay Choupati next time we're in the area – although we would seriously consider doing both!

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