Our food critic’s name may be false, but the credentials are not. This gastronome has studied the history, cultivation, preparation, science and technology of food for more than 30 years.
Swagat Indian Cuisine is a prime example of not judging a book by its cover. Located in an old Pizza Hut building fronting George O’Neal Road, some may drive by without a second look. Big mistake.
From personal experience, I can firmly say I’ve had some of the best meals in old, former chain-restaurant buildings. This adventure was no different, and obviously the word is out: On a regular Tuesday night, the parking lot was jam packed.
Our starter of Vegetable Samosa came two to an order. A crispy fried dough was stuffed to the brim with potatoes and peas. It was a hearty and satisfying start. My only regret was that I hadn’t gotten an additional order, as they were gone far too quickly.
Next up was a cup of Mulgatwany Soup, with tender chunks of chicken adding heft to pureed dal. It had an appetizing pale yellow color with speckles of black pepper. A touch of butter and tons of chicken broth flavor made for a cool-weather soup to (almost) rival gumbo. I could have eaten a full pot, as I’m a sucker for this kind of soup.
All entrees come with rice and naan. The included basmati rice had perfectly separated grains and a nice floral flavor. The naan had a garlicky oil brushing, crisp puff-charred exterior and super tender crumb. Both were perfect for sopping up the sauces in each entree.
Shrimp Gongura featured a thickish brick-red curry sauce with a building heat. Abundant shrimp did nothing to quell that spice but added fresh, briny flavor to the dish. It felt like something additional was needed, like potatoes or cauliflower. But the rice was a welcome barrier to dissipate some of the pepper.
Navaratna Koorma consisted of vegetables, dried fruit and cheese. The combination was a creamy and almost sweet treat. Chunks of soft yet firm cheese created interesting textural contrast to the very rich and creamy sauce. It was difficult to discern what the vegetables were, but that didn’t matter: We gobbled it all up greedily.
After our feast and with the touch of sweetness in the koorma, we were stuffed and felt dessert was unnecessary. Though if you’re still feeling hungry, none of the available desserts sounded too heavy and all looked incredibly interesting, with lots of honey syrups and pistachio sauces catching our eye.
Good Indian food is worth getting out of your neighborhood for serious noshing. Really good Indian food is worth the time and effort to drive the distance, no matter where in Baton Rouge you live. And Swagat wholeheartedly qualifies.
THE BASICS: While its exterior may remind you of its former pizza-chain life, this spot has been a mainstay of Indian cuisine for many years—previously as Al Noor and now as Swagat Indian Cuisine. The name means “welcome,” and its buffet-style lunches, warming and filling dinner entrees, and beautiful presentations have made visitors feel right at home.
WHAT’S A MUST: Fill up on the crispy fried Vegetable Samosas. If you can handle the spice, go the seafood route with Shrimp Gongura and its red curry. Round it out with the creamy and almost-sweet Navaratna Koorma. And you can’t go wrong with the Tandoori Chicken—or with the wide variety of curries, vindaloos and other options featuring lamb, goat or veggies.
Lunch: Tuesday-Sunday, 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m.
Dinner: Tuesday-Sunday, 5-9:30 p.m.
This article was originally published in the March 2022 issue of 225 magazine.