In a tiny strip mall on 118 Avenue, nestled between the traffic circle on 101 Street and 97 Street, sits Swagat India Bar & Bistro. Orienting yourself to drive in the right direction in order to park in their small parking lot takes some effort, but the reward is worth it.
Once inside, the restaurant is divided into two. One side is a large dining room with bright orange booths that feels more like a diner than an Indian restaurant. The other side is a dimly lit dance floor set up with a PA (public address) system and flashing disco lights. One wall along the dance floor has mirrors and art deco lights, rather like an old discotheque.
But don’t let slight difficulty getting into their parking lot or the odd division of the room deter you in any way. The smell alone of the Indian cuisine from outside the building causes the stomach to grumble.
Two of us went to Swagat, but once the food arrived, I could feel my inner selfishness arise—I did not wish to share. The smell was intriguing, and like Pavlov’s dog, I began to salivate.
We ordered vegetable korma, butter chicken, mango chicken, and saffron rice. Each main dish came with a side of naan.
The butter chicken ($13.99) was thick and creamy and spiced in such a way that it was both exactly what you’d expect, and much better. It was thick enough to stay on the naan when scooped without too much sloughing off.
The mango chicken ($12.99) was also thick and creamy and had a brilliant combination of sweet and spicy, with a subtle taste of ginger.
The chicken in both the butter chicken and the mango chicken was cut into perfect mouth-size pieces and absorbed the flavours of the sauces brilliantly.
For parents of picky eaters who refuse to eat their vegetables, take note of the vegetable korma ($10.99). The creamy dish had a variety of vegetables and was filled with aromatic spices. It was sweet and enticing and complemented the saffron rice beautifully. With the flavours found in the korma, everyone at the table will certainly be eating their daily recommended portions of vegetables.
The saffron rice ($4.99) was a brilliant yellow and buttery. It was flavourful without being overbearing and was moist enough that I didn’t have to reach for a drink every few bites.
The naan bread arrived hot and crispy on one side while soft and fluffy on the other, cooked to perfection. And when we pulled the naan bread apart, the steamy aroma shot its way into our olfactory receptors. Who knew naan could smell so good? The naan was served on checkerboard parchment paper in a red plastic pub basket, which added to the diner feel.
Our server was friendly and asked if we enjoyed the Nepalese music they were playing, which we did. And when we asked about the dance floor, the server explained they host dance nights on Fridays and Saturdays, which could make for a great evening of overeating and then dancing the night away.
With Swagat being open 11 am to 11 pm Sunday through Thursday, and 11 am to 1 am on Friday and Saturday, there is no excuse to not eat good food. They even offer delivery to those who live nearby.
Five forks out of five.
SWAGAT INDIA BAR & BISTRO
9737 118 Ave
Sun–Thurs: 11am to 11pm
Fri–Sat: 11am to 1am
Featured Image: From left to right: Mango chicken, vegetable korma, and butter chicken. | Stephen Strand