Recently an Island-influenced Southern-style comfort food restaurant opened in a strip mall on Meridian Road. If you think that’s an odd combination, what would you say if I told you they share kitchen space with a conveyor belt sushi joint? If you’re intrigued, the little place with the big name is Shanaz Home Kitchen Cuisine and Catering.
This is the namesake restaurant of Shige Matsuzawa’s (the Boise area’s king of Japanese cuisine) sister-in-law, who owns and operates it with her husband.. My family eats at either Shige Teriyaki or Shige Express, both in Meridian, about once a week. At least. I found out about Shanaz’s place from the Shige Teriyaki hostess one evening and stopped by to grab a menu. The second I saw a chicken and waffles dish listed, I knew I’d be back.
When I returned, I had some people with me: my roommate, her four year-old daughter, my mother, my sister and her boyfriend. I already knew what I was going to order, but after a quick discussion with the roommate we decided to do a split-and-swap. I would order the Honey Stung Fried Chicken -n- Waffles, while she would order Shanaz’s Tasty Burger. Mom went for the Tasty Burger as well. My sister’s beau chose the Jerk Rubbed Salmon. We hit a snag with the preschooler as the restaurant has no kiddie menu, but in the end we figured the Nutty Chicken Slenders from the appetizer section would do nicely.
The second snag came when my sister, who is on something of a diet despite the fact that she doesn’t really need to be, realized that there was nothing particularly diet-friendly on the menu. We reminded her that the last time we had hit up Shige Express for sushi and had the kids with us, we had ordered their food from Shige Teriyaki next door and the waitress brought it over for them. After making sure it was okay with all concerned, she slipped over to order some teriyaki chicken.
|Very good cornbread|
A cast-iron cornbread skillet was brought out for the table to share, and our table of bread fiends were all impressed with it. It’s cornbread, it’s delicious, it came with decadent honey butter. Not much more to say…
|A bad picture of good salmon|
The Jerk-Rubbed Salmon arrived nicely blackened with roasted capsicum and rocket butter, atop a pile of jambalaya and with some kind of bean dish on the side. Sis’ guy let me try a few bites and while we were kind of indifferent on the beans, we both liked the jambalaya and really dug the salmon.
|Shanaz’s Tasty Burger|
Shanz’s Tasty Burger is indulgent, to say the least. It’s a half pound of ground chuck stuffed with white cheddar cheese, topped with tomato, mixed greens and a fried egg. Both Mom andthe roomie opted to pay the extra three bucks to spruce up their sandwiches (two bucks for bacon, one for avocado). The burger is served with fries and some kind of proprietary condiment for dipping, which is also on the burger itself and the constituents of which they were unwilling to divulge. It’s interesting and not bad, but I don’t expect it to replace fry sauce anytime soon. As a burger topping, it’s pretty tasty. The bacon was done completely crisp, which earned points with everyone at the table, but the thing that split our ranks was the doneness factor of the burger itself. We weren’t offered an option, but two of us only like well-done burgers, while the other three adults like theirs between medium-rare and medium-well. Speaking for myself, I considered this burger just shy of cremated. The patty was flavorful, but it was also dense, dry and and the cheese had more or less vaporized. The bun and the toppings were all terrific, but this isn’t something I would order in the future unless I could specify that it be a little less well-done.
|Nutty Chicken Slenders with Fried Mac N Cheese Balls|
Shanaz was nice enough to include a few of their Fried Mac N Cheese Balls along with the Nutty Chicken Slenders since they came out a little later than everything else. I’m sure it doesn’t hurt that this order was for a child (and what child doesn’t dig mac and cheese?). The chicken was a little overcooked as well but only the outside really suffered. The inside was tender and juicy, the nut coating gave some great texture and the thin but flavorful honey mustard sauce was a nice accompaniment. The Mac N Cheese Balls were as you’d expect: tasty and evil. I should also add that the breading was surprisingly thin and non-greasy. Oh, and I did let the child try my food since she let me try hers…
|Honey Stung Fried Chicken -n- Waffles|
The history of chicken and waffles as a combination is dubious at best, but considering its longevity it remains a relatively uncommon and controversial pairing. Personally I dig the extreme sweet/savory thing (baklava and Turkish coffee is another good example), but this version left me a little torn. The chicken was very, very good, with crispy skin, juicy meat and tons of flavor. The waffles may be the best ones I’ve ever had from a restaurant, especially since I prefer the light, thin type. The pure maple syrup awesome in the way that only pure maple syrup is. The thing that didn’t quite work for me was the strawberry butter. It’s delicious on the waffles, but one of the great things about this dish is that eating the components together creates an entirely different and unique taste than eating them separately, and to me the seasoning on the chicken and the strawberry flavor on the waffles just didn’t meld well. I definitely will order this dish again, but I’ll be sure to enjoy the two items separately, or perhaps ask if I can substitute some of the honey butter that comes with the cornbread for the strawberry variety.
It’s always good to see a great new restaurant pop up in Meridian, especially one with a new style of cuisine or a unique way of presenting old favorites, and Shanaz does both of these things. While not exactly classic Soul Food, fans of that style should find themselves on familiar enough ground to enjoy themselves. If they just back off a little on their cooking temperatures and open up some options for condiments and side dishes, I think this place could stick around for some time to come. Either way, I’ll definitely be returning to try the weekends-only seafood gumbo and some things from the brunch menu. And of course, more chicken and waffles.
Final Grade: B+