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Everything You Need to Know About Ulsan

Shalomar: Indian/Pakistani Cuisine in Dong-Gu

Until recently, anyone looking for Indian and Pakistani food in Ulsan has been limited to the excellent Namaskar’s locations in Samsandong and Shinae. But earlier this year, Ulsan was lucky enough to receive a new option in the decidedly different Shalomar, near Ilsan Beach in Dong-gu. As someone with a sincere interest in binge-eating Indian food, I’ve humbly accepted the burden of shoving it into my mouth until I pass out, merely in order to pass the experience on to you.

If you’ve been to Namaskar or other Indian or Pakistani restaurants, you’ll be familiar with most menu choices at Shalomar, but the two are far from similar. Shalomar is less Westernized, for one. While I like to think of Namaskar as the “Chipotle’” of Indian restaurants (not an insult, as anyone who’s found themselves eating their sixth burrito of the week at that superclean, gut-busting, sorta-Mexican wonderland will know), Shalomar is a little more “authentic,” at least so far as someone from the United States sees it.

Its location can be a little difficult to spot. On the 2nd floor in a strip of bland storefronts between Hyundai Department Store and Ilsan Beach, it blends in a little too much with the array of signs for foreigner bars and bad restaurants surrounding it, all of them aiming mainly for business from the waygookin engineers working near Hyundai’s ginormous factory just up the street. The décor is a little shmoozy. A few pictures, some religious figurines, and red velvet curtains are the predominant features, aside from a big plasma screen on the wall playing a circulating loop of Indian television programming. In the back of the restaurant, a small grocery store has been set up. The owner imports just about every ingredient he uses straight from home, and he likes to attract customers by ordering too much of everything and offering it for sale here. If you pay a visit, be sure to check this out as, like me, you’re sure to find yourself carting home some goodies to cook up yourself. Everything from ready-to-eat curries to frozen vegetables and halal meats are available at very reasonable prices. All this is a side note, however, as the main attraction is of course the food on the menu.

Shalomar has everything you could want from an Indo-Pakistani menu. The naan is excellent, and if it isn’t cooked in a real tandoori oven, then the chef does an amazing job of faking it. Slightly crispy, fluffy but tough, it’s a perfect vehicle for the excellent curries here. On my last visit, I tried the Aloo Gobi. The curry was delicious, with plenty more potatoes than cauliflower, and just the right amount of spice coming from an array of diced peppers thrown into the mix. My dining companion had the Palak Paneer, one of her favorite dishes. The spinach curry had a nice spice to it and was thick and rich, perfect for dipping into with our garlic naan. On other visits I’ve had Chana Masala, a chickpea curry, and the more boring but still delicious Butter Chicken. Both were outstanding, with more of a traditional flavor and presentation than their counterparts at Namaskar (i.e., more pronounced use of both coriander and cumin, and bone-in chicken in the Butter Chicken Curry).

chana masala

To top it off, although I’ve never seen more than one person working at Shalomar, the service is relatively fast, as well as gracious and helpful. The owner’s English isn’t great, but he can help you out with describing ingredients, and often provides a free salad plate and small glass of lassi at the beginning and end of your meal, respectively.

If you have the time and enjoy Indian and Pakistani food, you’d be remiss not to make your way out to Dong-gu to sample some of Shalomar’s offerings. To get there, tell the cab driver to take you to the Dong-gu Hyundai Department Store. Once there, with HDS on your right, continue down the main street toward Ilsan Beach and Bangeojin. Look closely and you’ll see Shalomar on your right, second floor, near 7 Bar and Boo Restaurant and Bar. Tell ‘em Brian sent you, and they’ll greet you with a blank stare and absolutely no discount whatsoever. Enjoy your meal.