Su-Thu (11AM-9PM), F-Sa (11AM-9:30PM). Closed M. (Closed Fridays 1PM-2PM for prayer).
(609) 392-1836 Google Maps
Gravitas: Decor: Cost: Proximity:
Updated May 2015.
Drive past “Chester’s Fried Chicken” on the Lalor Street, and you might swell a whiff of curry in the air. What’s going on? This unassuming dive of a fried chicken joint turns out to be one of the better Pakistani restaurants in central New Jersey–and they serve some terrific Northern Indian and Bengali dishes as well.
Technically located on the Hamilton side of Lalor Street (next to Malaga’s), Shan is about as divey as a dive can be. The air permeates with grease, and the seats in the booths are repaired with gaff tape. At the front of the restaurant is a counter, where the proprietor (who is Pakistani) will take your order. As best as we can tell, the restaurant only has two copies of their menu (both laminated and slightly sticky), so if you’re coming with a group, expect to share the menu. On one side, you can find a variety of fried chicken and shrimp options (served in buckets and boxes)–but on the reverse side you’ll find the true hidden gems.
Here, you’ll find samosas and kabob, a variety of flatbreads, biryani, an array of mutton and goat dishes, some tandoori items, a chicken section, and a vegetarian section. Try the sarsoon saag (a fragrant curry of mustard greens), which is appallingly delicious, heavily salted, and utterly unforgettable. This is traditional Pakistani cooking at its best. Shaljum is a slightly sweet, slightly spicy curried turnip dish which will make you re-examine everything you thought you knew about these humble root vegetables. Sure, you can get traditional Northern Indian dishes here (we tried the palak paneer, which was terrific), but why would you when you can dine on moist chapli kabob (made with beef or chicken) or decadent Punjabi haleem (a meat-filled stew). We love their vegetable samosas, which have layers of flaky pastry (not thick or doughy as they sometimes can be). They’re made fresh to order. Shan’s also has terrific Indian breads, serving a naan (which you can order with or without butter), aloo paratha (a potato-filled flatbread), garlic naan (which is thick and rich) and onion kulcha. We love their chai as well.
Prices are incredibly reasonable. Most vegetarian curries go for $6, and the meat curries range from $6-$8. Naan is currently $1, and plain rice is $3. Unlike at most indian restaurants, the curries don’t come with any accompaniment, so be sure to order the rice or bread if you want some (though it’s not necessary).
Everything is made fresh by the proprietor, who is also the waiter, busboy, and cashier–which means service is both leisurely and highly personalized. You can specify how spicy you want your dishes. He doesn’t use ghee (Indian clarified butter) and instead cooks his vegetable dishes in canola oil and vegetable oil–so the vegetarian dishes are almost all vegan. the only exceptions is the the palak paneer (Indian cheese in a spinach sauce) but you can order it as palak aloo instead (which replaces the cheese with cooked potato). If you forgo the bread and the appetizers, most of the main dishes are gluten free.
This is a restaurant that rewards exploration. Though these cuisines will be unfamiliar to many of our readers, you should go in and ask questions and try something new. You won’t be disappointed.
Parking is in the rear. If you want to drink tap water with your meal, there’s usually a pitcher in the fridge by the sodas (and glasses next to it). Help yourself.
Oddly, this seem to be the only restaurant in the area that stocks cherry-flavored 7-Up. So if you don’t like South Asian cuisine, you can always go there for a bucket of wings and 7-Up. We won’t judge you.