[Christopher Testani for The Wall Street Journal, Food Styling by Heather Meldrom, Prop Styling by Stephanie Hanes]
I was looking through the Saturday “Off Duty” section of the WSJ on my iPad Friday night when I came upon a “Slow Food Fast” feature with the title “Chef Meeru Dhalwala’s Chili-Rubbed Halibut With Cauliflower Curry.” I don’t know if I would have paid attention otherwise, but the subtitle “A quick, creative curry from the Pacific Northwest chef” caught my eye.
Earlier in the evening, a Facebook friend had posted that his family was at Shanik, an Indian restaurant that opened to great fanfare a little over a year ago in the bustling South Lake Union neighborhood just north of downtown, near Amazon headquarters and adjacent to a concentration of Tom Douglas restaurants. (I wrote about one, Cuoco, around the time Shanik was opening.)
We have yet to go to Shanik, scared off by articles previewing it before the opening that mentioned the long wait to get a table at Vij’s, the Vancouver restaurant that spawned it. The text of the WSJ article doesn’t identify Dhalwala, but I had a feeling she was the genius behind the two restaurants, which a quick check confirmed (sharing credit with her husband, the eponymous Vikram Vij). … And now I see that the caption under a drawing of her does list her restaurants as Vij’s and Rangoli in Vancouver and Shanik in Seattle.
Here’s a description of Shanik, taken from its website:
Shanik is a modern Indian restaurant that serves Meeru’s personal Indian cuisine which is creative and daring, yet comforting. We invite our customers into a version of India that is not intimidating, cliché, or a rehashing of what is traditionally marketed as Indian. Our restaurant is the same version of Indian that Meeru is: North American in lifestyle and attitude, while rooted in Indian heritage and cuisine. We take pride in making our own yogurt, paneer and ghee, as well as; sifting, grinding, and roasting our spices in-house. Our open kitchen is designed specifically so our diners can experience the warmth of our cooks, and signifies a sharing of heats.
And here’s an excerpt from the WSJ article.
“I’m very careful about buying fish,” said Meeru Dhalwala. “I don’t want my karma affected by the fact that we have messed up the oceans.” For her first Slow Food Fast contribution, Ms. Dhalwala has selected halibut, which is sustainably caught in the Pacific Northwest, where she has three restaurants. Rubbed with ancho chili and cayenne, the flaky white fish is steamed and topped with a cauliflower curry enriched with yogurt.
Like many of Ms. Dhalwala’s recipes, this one is rooted in the culinary traditions of India, where she was born, but it does not reference any particular region. “I’m not afraid to blur boundaries and break rules,” the chef said. “My mother would never have mixed fish and dairy, for example. But I find that a little a bit of yogurt adds a nice tartness.”
I sent the article on to Gail, suggesting—since halibut is one of our standard fish dishes and cauliflower has become a favorite of hers—that maybe we should try the dish.
Now we have. Gail picked up halibut on the way home from the theater this afternoon. Cauliflower was already in the frig. With only a week in our kitchen (following ten months of remodeling), this would be a perfect test of the new cooktop. The result below.
[Photo by me, food styling by Gail]
The WSJ staff may be a little better with their styling and props. They’re certainly better at photography. But I doubt their version tasted any better. Gail, Joel, and I had a wonderful meal. And Gail recalled as we ate that she has one of Dhalwala’s books, Vij’s At Home: Relax, Honey, written with Vij.
A visit to Shanik is in order. Though with book in hand and kitchen done, we could work through the recipes first.