WAIPOULI — There’s something about Indian and Pakistani food that’s comforting at Shivalik Indian Cuisine in Waipouli Town Center. The biryani is beautiful, the tikka is terrific and the masala is marvelous.
Throughout the years, I’ve had the privilege of being invited into aunties’ homes many times for dinner, and it’s always been a special treat. Prepared with care and served with love it’s always expected that you’d “stay in my home for a very long time,“ which can be translated to love.
At Shivalik, owner Sam Sudhakaran of Wailua has created the same level of hospitality as my aunties, and it feels like home.
And for Sudhakaran, food isn’t just his job, it’s his way of life.
“I like cooking and people leaving satisfied. Cooking is fun,” he said.
A self-taught chef, Sudhakaran began cooking nearly 30-years ago. He said he enjoys all aspects of running a restaurant, but the cooking and interaction with his customers are his favorite parts of running a restaurant.
Sudhakaran doesn’t have a specialty, but there are signature meals on Wednesdays and Fridays, when guests can enjoy lamb curry, chicken tikka masala and tandoori chicken, and a spinach dish, among other delicacies at the restaurant’s buffet.
Some of the most popular items on his Kapaa menu are his gluten free and vegan dishes.
“Whatever I make, it’s good,” he said.
One of the challenges he faces as a chef on Kauai is acquiring spices and Sudhakaran said all of the spices he uses in his cooking are shipped onto the island every three months, even the basmati rice, which is the rice used in Indian dishes.
“That’s very difficult. You cannot get any spices here. That’s a big problem for me,” he said.
On many occasions, my husband and I have had the privilege of eating at Shivalik. My favorite dish is an appetizer called samosa chat. It’s a samosa, topped with garbanzo bean salad, yogurt with tamarind and mint chutney. This is one of the best dishes I’ve eaten since moving to Kauai in December.
The dish is bursting with flavor. It’s sweet, a little bit spicy, and a little bit tangy. The fresh onions and tomatoes add an extra depth of flavor and freshness to the dish. Though it’s on the appetizer menu, the serving size is enough for a meal.
On one visit, my husband ordered the fish tikka masala. Mahi mahi marinated in yogurt and spices, then sautéed with masala; every morsel was delectable. It was worth every bite.
Because I’ve been treated to amazing Pakistani and Indian food throughout my life, it’s been difficult to find a restaurant that compares to my auntie’s or mama’s cooking. The thing I enjoy most about Shivalik is that Sudhakaran’s cooking tastes like home. It’s as authentic as if I were sitting at my mama’s kitchen table.
Oh and let’s not forget the chai. At the end of any meal served in and Indian or Pakistani household, you’ll be certain to be served a cup of chai, no matter how late in the evening it is. Chai in an Indian home isn’t like chai served at coffee houses throughout the United States. Chai in an Indian home is something special — the perfect way to end a delicious meal and a long day. At Shivalik, Sudhakaran serves chai like my mama’s. It’s a special treat, wrapped in love.
In my travels, I’ve never come across an Indian or Pakistani food restaurant that serves chai like my mama and aunties make, until now. Sudhakaran’s chai is authentic.
If you’re in the mood for something healthy, something delicious, something made with love, Shivalik is well worth a visit.