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Review: Shiva Shakti

By: Charley Bolding-Smith Posted: February-06-2011 in
Shiva Skakti on Sihanouk Boulevard - click for more photos
Charley Bolding-Smith

A stone’s throw eastward from the Independence Monument, at #70 Sihanouk, Shiva Shakti offers a North Indian fine dining experience to Phnom Penh. The restaurant wears its Mughlai and Kashmiri influence not just in the food, but on its sleeve in the lovely dining room with carvings, statues of Hindu gods, and reproductions of Mughlai art lining the walls. The iced water swiftly served in a heavy copper cup helps set the expectation of an enjoyable evening’s gustation. My taste buds were tingling.

I started the meal with the Tandoori Chicken ($9.80 half/$15.80 whole). Traditionally this dish is moderately hot, but as is now common the heat was reduced for Western tastes. It was a good start, with the kitchen achieving the correct balance of succulent inside and crispy outside.

From the accessible carte, I chose two main performers. The Lamb Rogan Josh ($15.80) had a distinctive, yogurty tomato flavour, with tender good quality meat (although I would have liked a bit more of it). The sauce was a bit thin for my complete enjoyment possibly as a result of the chef using the traditional Kashmiri Pandit, which strictly excludes onions. A Lamb Keema Mutter was nicely spiced and perfectly satisfactory. At a price tag of $14.80 it needed to be – when stripped of its culinary heritage, it’s just a bit of mince really isn’t it? Neither dish was especially hot, which pleased me because I can no longer enjoy the scorching curries of my youth.

The supporting cast was satisfactory too. Chhole (Chickpea) Daal ($5.50) gave an unexpected star turn, with its coriander constituent pleasantly emphasized. The Palak Paneer (Spinach and Paneer cheese in a curry sauce - $6) was okay too. It was accurately made, the sauce being more watery in consistency than that of its cousin Saag Paneer. If I am allowed to carp, the cubes of soft cheese had not been fried sufficiently and were a bit rubbery. The fluffy Ginger Pilaf Rice ($3.80) and Butter Naan ($3.20) were lovely.

Indian desserts. It’s rare for me to have one – what about you? Reader, for your benefit, I tried two. Gulab Jamon (the Indian version of warm donuts floating in sweet syrup - $3.80) was a treat. The syrup held a delightful floral note of Rose water. Kulfi (traditional Indian ice cream) oozed creaminess.

My glass of house red wine ($5) was quite satisfactory. As well as beer and soft drinks, the beverage list contains a variety of Indian cocktails including ‘Goa Bacardi’ (Bacardi Rum and Coconut Milk $5), and a ‘Shocker’ (Vodka and Lassi $4.80) which produced the opposite in enjoyment to the white knuckle ride its name suggests.

The cooking is good. If I have a criticism of Shiva Shakti that’s precisely it. Is good cooking – rather than true fine dining - worth those price tags? I kept balancing the value of each dish against its price rather than relaxing and enjoying the ride. It’s a bit unnerving if you’re not expecting it, like suddenly noticing the meter reading in a London taxi cab. If money is no object you’ll have a very pleasant evening at Shiva Shakti. But it’s certainly not the kind of place you’d want to take a first date to without knowing that first.

Shiva Shakti


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