When news broke that Seattle was getting its very own Vij’s sibling, fans of the Vancouver restaurant reliably asked two questions. One: will they take reservations? Two: Will there be lamb popsicles?
Chef-owner Meeru Dhalwala relishes the inherent democracy of her restaurants’ no-reservation policy. But she did design her own version for her restaurant in South Lake Union.
You see, Dhalwala is a woman who likes vegetables. And nutritional balance. The famed lamb popsicles at Vij’s are a glorious spectacle of cream and potatoes and red meat. Dhalwala designed them with her husband, Vikram Vij, and while she appreciates their “sinfully delicious” nature, “to me it’s one big heart attack, constipating dish.”
“At Vij’s, I’m never allowed to take that dish off the menu,” says Dhalwala. “If I put anther lamb dish on the menu it never gets ordered; they’ve just taken on a life of their own.” Recreating that plate in her new space felt like a “creative and professional copout.”
The version at Shanik is seasoned with coriander, cayenne, coconut curry, sumac, and turmeric, the only spice it shares with the lamb at Vij’s. Dhalwala says this version isn’t “a spice bang in your mouth;" the flavors build slowly and gently. The "popsicles" are served on top of a split green pea and spinach mash. Dhalwala likes the added fiber and vegetable protein and says the specific combination is an ode to the book The China Study, though she's quick to point out she’s not a vegan. Just a lover of vegetables.
Finally, she concocted a coconut curry that she thought would complement both lamb and the mash. Dhalwala had made this recipe many times at home, and said they were a hit last year when she was cooking dinners around Seattle last year, in preparation for opening Shanik.
By the way, the restaurant is now open for sit-down lunch on weekdays.