When Swagath opened its doors almost a decade ago, there were plenty of concessions to the local palate. Several branches later, the restaurant has perfected its recipe to cater to our collective palate. Today, there’s no need to go to Mumbai for Gomantak food – it has come to our city. There’s Goan, Malabari, Chettinad and Andhra food on offer, even though Gomantak – the coastal food of Karnataka – is the real draw. What Mahesh Lunch Home, Trishna and Only Fish are to Mumbai, Swagath is to Delhi. And because our palates have traveled a long way in the last decade, concessions are irrelevant.
Swagath is an incredible blend of down to earth prices and spot-on authentic seafood. Rawas, kane (lady fish), mussels, clams, oysters, shark and Bombay duck are some ingredients that you are not likely to find in any other restaurant in Delhi. And even if you hate seafood, visit Swagath for its way better than average Butter Chicken and its Chettinad Pepper Chicken (Rs 295) plus a couple of interesting sounding vegetarian options, which, I confess, I did not get down to trying!
The finest dish on the menu has to be the unique Oyster Stuffed (Rs 505 for 3 pieces). Oysters are taken off from their shells, added to a coarsely chopped mix of shrimps and other ingredients, put back into the shells and sealed. The outside of the shell is coated with a typically Gomantak mix consisting of flaming red spices, and the whole thing is stir-fried. Inside, the filling is subtle enough to be a western dish, while the outside is spicy: a winning combination.
Next in taste is Pomfret Patrani (Rs 550), whether a take-off on the Parsi favourite or not, I don’t know: after all, it is perfectly possible that other communities have their own variations. The Swagath version features a green chilli-coriander paste that has been whizzed in a blender and coated generously on pomfret that has been steamed. Lime juice gives it a tang. While Patrani has a sophisticated edge to it, Ladyfish (Rs 315) has the typical taste of a modest eatery in Mangalore – I could hardly believe I was in Delhi. Ladyfish is deep-fried as is Rawas Koliwada (Rs 655 for 10 pieces). Though both have their own spicing, what they have in common is that the masalas have penetrated the fish completely: all too often, spice mixes just form a coating on the outside.
Swagath is nothing if not flexible: after changing my mind several times about what I wanted for main course and what for appetizer, they allowed me to have Amboti with shark. Amboti appears to be the Gomantak version of the uber-Goan ambotik, which means hot and sour, and is always combined with shark, following the theory that sour will partially cancel out fatty. Maybe Swagath does Amboti as an appetizer – I know the dish as a curry. It is not the Goan version (neither does it have to be!) but it is perfectly tasty. That is what I noticed about the Chettinad Chicken: it may not be as authentic as the Gomantak food, but it’s tasty nevertheless.
Chicken Koshimbir (Rs 325) and by extension, all the other Koshimbir dishes with their uni-dimensional coriander leaf-green chilli-coriander seed flavour is the one disappointment in an otherwise exceptional meal.
Janpath Hotel, Janpath
Open from 11am -12 midnight
Credit cards accepted; alcohol served
Meal for two: Rs 1500