Chicken kurai, vegetable biryani, rogan josh

As the metropolis grapples with the unfortunate circumstances brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, a popular restaurant in Makati City quietly marked its 17th year of offering authentic Indian dishes.

Swagat Indian Cuisine was unable to extend its warm hospitality to its diners, but continued to reach out to its patrons in the comfort of their homes via Grab Food, Honest Bee, Food Panda, and Lala Food delivery services.

The unassuming restaurant was opened by Indian migrant Komal Khanchandani in 2003 at its original spot along Rada St., Legazpi Village in Makati on a wing and prayer, at a fortuitous time of a Hindu religious feast.

Literally meaning “welcome” in the Hindi language, Swagat helped make Indian food a staple in the country’s financial district.

Sangam Biryani, house specialty

Now at its new home at The Columns at Amorsolo St. corner Arnaiz Ave., it continues to tickle the local palate with its healthy, homestyle dishes and Khanchandani’s personal touch which has made Swagat hold its own against its fancier competitors.

For appetizers, there is bhel puri and sev puff rice, or methi aloo matter potatoes with green peas. Main dishes worth trying are malai kofta, a North Indian dish of cheese and vegetable patties cooked in butter sauce; and Chicken tikka, tender, skinless and boneless chicken marinated in ginger and garlic.

An all-time favorite is sangam biryani or flavored spicy Indian rice with lean, tender pieces of chicken, lamb, cooked in herbs and spices. Lassi yoghurt drinks with milk and flavored with either strawberry, mango or rose petals is the standard refreshment.

Murgh (Chicken) Tikka

A resident of the Philippines for more than 20 years now, Khanchandani has captured the preferences of her regular guests, as well as the Filipino taste buds.

Swagat is a “halal” restaurant ideal for Muslim diners, and has a wide array of vegetable dishes for vegetarians, which include the metro’s Indian community. It also periodically brings in ingredients, implements and paraphernalia, and food concepts from Andra Pradesh state where the owner hails.

And with the gradual opening up of restaurants for dine-in customers, guests can have more menu options under certain health protocols.

Seventeen years and one pandemic later, Khanchandani still exudes with confidence and poses the same challenge to diners since day one: “Don’t pay if you are not satisfied with the food.”