From the street, Swagat doesn’t look like anything. Its location at an inconspicuous building on Rada Street doesn’t scream its presence and its small and dim dining room can hardly be classified as lavish. But its simplicity isn’t a testament to its reputation. The restaurant doesn’t advertise on social media (now the marketing weapon of many businesses) because it doesn’t need to; the fact that it’s been one of Makati’s best restaurants for around a decade now is considered too obvious to its core clientele of Indian expatriates and employees in nearby offices to be worth proclaiming loudly.
In a city filled with dining options representing cuisines around the world, Swagat is the standard-bearer of the delicacies of northern India, and it makes effort to educate the uninitiated. If you don’t know what a samosa or a palak paneer is, the knowledgeable and accommodating staff will ensure that you’re on an enjoyable field trip here.
The woman behind Swagat is Komal Khanchandani. The wife of Indian expat Sanjay, Komal started the restaurant in the early part of the last decade, long before social networks and instant online sharing made the world much, much smaller, to make up for what she thought was the dearth of quality Indian restaurants in the country. The resulting venture into food business sort of revolutionized the dining scene in the city.
It is best to start your excursion to northern India with mango lassi, a refreshing drink made from mango and yogurt that acts a great counter to the spiced-laden dishes. The intense sugariness of some fruit juices can be cloying even to Filipino palates. But here, the sweetness is tempered and the frothiness feels great.
The first to arrive on our table are the samosas. Each time, the triangular puffs are still golden and crispy after a swimming session in an oil-filled pan with a few staples from the Indian pantry (spiced potatoes, peas and lentils), the flavor not disguised by the dips but amplified. It’s almost always a mandatory order when I’m here.
A few more incursions to the subcontinent is merited. The palak paneer is a popular Indian dish cooked using spinach and fresh cottage cheese. Its sauciness makes for a good excuse to scoop it up with breads like naan.
Of course, having Filipino appetites means a meal with rice. The vegetable biryani confronts us with a mound of basmati rice with carrots and peas. We have it with chicken tikka masala, ten chunks of chicken meat with just the right amount of spice. The dish’s juice succeeds in pleasing our tongues, so much so that we find ourselves scooping up the shredded vegetables on the plate long after the meat is gone.
Our orders come from a long menu. Such is the wide array of Swagat’s dishes that, perhaps similar to the country where it takes its cuisine from, it takes multiple visits to savor everything. But it’s what makes it even more great – there are lots more of new tastes to try.
FCC Bldg., 119 Rada St.
Legazpi Village, Makati City