Apparently this restaurant has closed, or at least changed its name to protect the innocent.
millions of many thousands of loyal CU followers know I’m a big fan of Indian food. (The “big” is a figure of speech, naturally.) I found out, though, that I’d been missing a chance to dine Indian right in my neighborhood: Swagat Indian Restaurant. In my defense, I don’t go over near the Best Buy often on express orders of my spouse, as our pocketbook can’t stand all the bargains I find every time I shop there so I hadn’t seen the shop before.
So I went over there a few days ago for lunch. The short answer: It’s not a great experience, with some high spots. Here are the details…
Swagat bills itself as a vegetarian eatery. Vegetarian cuisine is quite a high art in India, and much more prized than anything similar in the States. I also heard they had a buffet for lunch. So I went in and was promptly greeted in a friendly way, one of the positives right out of the gate. I said I was interested in having their buffet, and I had my choice of tables. Maybe that should have been a clue; not 20% of the seating was occupied at lunch peak. Still, I persisted. The few people who were eating were all ethnically aligned with the Indian subcontinent’s population, as near as I could tell. Often that’s a sign that the food is authentic, so I relaxed a bit.
The store isn’t fancy, though it’s clean and serviceable. The aromas were very inviting. There’s seating for maybe 50-60 diners, with 3-4 booths and an assortment of 2-person and 4-person tables that can be quickly reconfigures for larger parties. It’s a typical strip-mall eatery, the kind of place I frequent for lunch. The two ladies working the dining area were both cordial and attentive, though one of them seemed to have little English. Okay, given their target clientele, that’s a plus too.
I moseyed over to the buffet line. It’s a tiny area, which could easily fit on an eight-foot folding table. Six or seven flip-top warmers contained the dishes: A beautiful rice pilaf; vada; palak paneer and paneer tikka; channa masala; chicken tikka masala; chilli chicken.
Come again? A vegetarian place serving chicken tikka masala and chilli chicken? I looked closer, and found that Swagat also houses Shan, billed as a fast-food, halal meat market. That explains it.
If you want vegetarian, they’ve got it: An extensive menu that includes starters (dal vada, pakoras, corn bhel and more); South Indian specialties (idly, various dosas, uthappam and upma); chaat, which translates loosely as “snacks” or street food (samosas, puris, aloo chhole and aloo tikki); specialties (palak paneer, malai kofta, channa masala, veggie burgers, bhaji and thali); a nice selection of breads (several naan selections, parathas, batura); rice dishes, including biryani and pongal; desserts; beverages, including a personal favorite, the mango lassi. There’s even a section of Jain-specific dishes, made without onions or garlic.
The Shan portion of the restaurant offers starters, kabobs, curries, rice and noodles. I was pleased to see a selection of biryanis available, as well as curries like kheema aloo and kadai chicken. I think there’s a good chance this menu, combined with the Swagat vegetarian offerings, makes a unique list in Austin. (I’m hedging my bets here, as I’ve not sampled every Indian place in the area.) Shan is also a halal meat market, and they have uncooked meat for take-home use, if you desire.
With this great list of dishes I expected a lot more from the buffet. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be…
The dishes, what of them I got to eat, were tasty and seemed to be authentically prepared. The chicken tikka masala was all gone when I started, and that state didn’t change the whole time I was there. The chili chicken was almost out, but it was replenished with a small portion at one point. The paneer dishes were among the best I’ve had. The vada were a bit overdone and dry, but had fair flavor. As an overall buffet experience, it was the worst I’ve had in Indian-style restaurants in the region.
A nice basket of warm, buttery naan showed up on my table before I could get back from the buffet line. That stuff was awesome! I had seconds.
In all, I think Swagat’s got some nice things going for it, but also has issues. As near as I could tell, the kitchen is undersized; sharing the space with another “restaurant” is odd; there wasn’t a lot of traffic; the value wasn’t that great for the buffet meal offered (I had nothing left from a tenner after leaving a few coins as tip). Their location’s not great either, as they’re one the dead end of the strip mall complex they’re in, away from general street (or even parking lot) traffic. I hope they find a way to make it, as their food (what I tasted) is flavorful and authentic. Having halal offerings is also a plus in the area. I’m worried, though…
As an aside, the small Indian food store next door, Ambica Foods (same owners), is a nice little shop. About the same size as any convenience store, they have lots of novel items for the area. Plenty of specialty sauces (imported from India, mostly), plenty of stock in basics (dal, rice, flour and so on), and snacks, candy and drinks I haven’t seen since my last tour of India. As a combined enterprise they may have a chance to succeed, and I’d be glad for that, a nice addition to our cultural and culinary diversity in the area. If they find a way to fix their issues, they’ll do fine…
Swagat Indian Restaurant, 3203 S IH-35, Ste 560, Round Rock, TX 78664. Phone 512.782.2616. Casual Indian vegetarian food, with a separate offering of halal meat dishes (through the Shan kitchen). Open for lunch and dinner, seven days a week.
Enjoy the (Indian Lunch Buffet Fizzle) Heat!
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