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“More than Stew”
by Roger J. Porter
Food historians concerned with such matters often rank Indian fare fourth among the world’s great cuisines; behind
French, Chinese and Italian, though the Japanese and the Spanish might dispute the standings. Portland’s seeking confirmation of the subcontinent’s gastronomic claims have increasingly serious choices available to them, and one of the better claimants has recently opened an “impost”, servicing the flight to the suburbs by joining its original Beaverton location with a city branch.
Swagat, whose name means, “Welcome,” has taken over the space formally occupied by Cajun Café. Swagat is the only Indian place around that offers several specialties from Madras and the Southeast. These dishes have become the restaurant’s signature dishes; they are basically crêpes made from various lentil flours, such as moong bean, urad and cream of wheat occasionally mixed with soaked rice and in some cases spiked with onions and chilies. Crisp and flaky, tawny brown and full a foot long, they cantilever over the plate in a display of exuberant excess. Dosas are gigantic and filling, since most of them are lavishly stuffed with vegetable curry-including potatoes laced with ginger, mustard seeds, aromatic asafetida, turmeir, onions and green chilies-and come with a cup of spectaculaty coconut-rich, tamarind-laced lentil soup, known as sambar. In addition to the creeps there are several more versions of what is essentially street food: sethu vada, a rather bland, deep fried pastry-thick disks of crunchy beans that are all texture, no taste-and utappu. a marvelously spicy and buttery grilled pancake that resembles a great individual designer pizza.
In south Indian, dosas are often accompanied by a buttermilk drink; to approximate this taste (but even better), ask for a Iassi, a cold yogurt drink available salty or sweet, often with a pinch of cumin ore rosewater. Then move up to creamy Kingfisher beer. Accompanying the dosas you’ll find a trio of deep-fried dipping sauces: a mild coconut and roasted chick pea, a tangy mint and cilantro, and a blazing hot tomato and jalapenho- ketchup’s desire for apotheosis. As you graduate from ivory to jade to ruby, you’ll experience a full range of flavors that marry beautifully with the pancakes, and you’ll see that Indian food is hardly a series of monochromatic stews.
Swagat Indian meals can be overwhelming in terms of sheer volume, and Swagat is no exception. All entrees are available à la carte or as the Thali dinner, which includes heavenly naan, vegetable curry du jour, thick lentil soup, raita, dal, and dessert. Go for the dinner, even if you’re not ravenous. The enchanting variety of textures and flavors defines Indian cuisine, and at three bucks extra, you can hardly afford to miss out. Of course, you could always opt for the lunch buffet, when you can try it all. Indian
2074 NW Lovejoy St., 227-4300; 4325 SW 109th Ave., Beaverton, 626-3000.
There are few restaurants included in this guide where a couple can get a complete dinner for under $30. Swagat is one of them, and it’s anything but chintzy. Sure, the interior looks like it’s straight out of the Bombay Company (only shabbier), but at a joint like this, you really don’t care about the ticky-tackiness. Your mind is on other things, like crimson tandoori delights and the cheap all-you-can-eat lunch. Indian meals can be overwhelming in terms of sheer volume, and Swagat is no exception, but the presentation here saves an eater from feeling flattened by a mountain of glistening chick peas. All entrees are available à la carte or as the thali dinner, which includes heavenly naan, vegetable curry du jour, thick lentil soup, raita, dal and dessert (choose the gulab jamun, which is as good as a New Orleans beignet). Go for the dinner, even if you’re not ravenous. The enchanting variety of textures and flavors defines Indian cuisine, and at three bucks extra, you can hardly afford to miss out. The tough part is deciding on an entree: Should you pick a curry dish, and if so, do you want standard chicken or hot lamb vindaloo? What about those curious homemade cheese cubes with spinach, the biriyani plates (pilafs made from basmati rice) and the shockingly red tandoori specialties? See what we mean? As a general rule, bypass the chicken curry in favor of the superior tandoori chicken. If you want shrimp, the biriyani will make you sing. Of course, you could always opt for the lunch buffet, when you can try it all.
2074 NW Lovejoy St., 227-4300; 4325 SW 109th Ave., Beaverton, 626-3000. Lunch and dinner daily. Moderate.
Portland, October 8th, 1992 – “Indian Fare at a Fair Price” by Serena Lesley
The Oregonian, Friday, December 11, 1992 – “Oh, you beautiful dhal ‘True Indian food believers travel to Beaverton'” by Karen Brooks
Pacific Northwest, April 1993 – “Fresh Starts” Edited by John Doerper by Kim Carlson
Willamette Week, July 1-7, 1993 – “Guests of the House” by Roger J. Porter
The Oregonian, October 24th, 1993 – New Arrivals – Fab 5 by Brooks/Sarasohn
The Oregonian, May 11th, 1994 – “House Favorites” recaps and updates of restaurant reviews by Karen Brooks and David Sarasohn
The Oregonian, October 23rd, 1994 – Meatless Menus – Fab 5 by Karen Brooks
Masala, November, 1994 – “What’s Cooking in the Pacific Northwest” by Lakshmi Gopalkrishnan
Things To Do Places To Go, November 7th, 1996 – “Sample another culture in the middle of Beaverton” by Kari Jensen
Swagat 2010 review – citysearch