THE DISH: Service complements cuisine at new West Vancouver Indian restaurant

I took an instant liking to Swad Indian Kitchen, the newest addition to West Vancouver’s dining scene.

First of all, the interior is stunning, the sort of room that makes you take pause when you first enter. Or, at least, I took pause, perhaps because I didn’t expect it to look so elegant, with its thoughtful design elements, including an imposing, stylized, two-dimensional rendering of an old growth tree stump, its moody lighting, plush seating, high-end stemware and flatware, immaculately uniformed staff and glass ensconced entrance.

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My expectations of the restaurant were different, I suspect, because Swad occupies the space formerly inhabited by Maurya, another Indian restaurant I enjoyed as well, but one that had a more rustic esthetic. Maurya felt like an everyday casual diner; Swad feels like a special occasion hotspot.

At Swad, men in dark suits work the room like seasoned pros, keeping their practiced eyes on all aspects of the dining experience, greeting and engaging with guests, answering menu questions, flagging empty glasses to servers, and providing an overall sense of polish. Floor staff don crisp white aprons, white collared shirts and ties and move swiftly through the room; it is clear that the ownership here has a singular vision for Swad Indian Kitchen, one that is informed by very high standards.

That commitment to excellence was evidenced in every aspect of my recent meal there with my wife DJ. We left the restaurant feeling elated and spoke of our meal the whole way home. Since that meal, I have advised almost everyone I know who eats food to go check this place out.

If my descriptions have seemed unusually complimentary so far, it is with good reason; Swad is a special spot and I am excited to see it catch on. So if my summary of my meal is passionate, please rest assured it is not hyperbolic.

We primarily tend to encounter Punjabi fare in Vancouver’s Indian restaurants, a phenomenally flavourful, sauce-focused culinary tradition that makes use of certain spice combinations that have come to represent what the west usually means by “Indian food.”

Swad’s menu, however, is informed by numerous regional styles of India and includes Punjabi, Bengali, Kashmiri, Kerali, and Hyderabadi influences. The restaurant also boasts a solid wine and beverages list with food-oriented, by-the-glass pours, fruit-forward heavy-hitters from California to marry with the richer, meatier menu dishes, a creative cocktail list and a good selection of whiskies.

DJ and I forfeited appetizers in favour of a broader sampling of mains. First up was an incredible Bengali Curry, which featured sizeable chunks of pan-seared, flaky white fish in a succulent, velvety and vibrant orange sauce boasting flavours of mustard and cream. Bengali cuisine is known for its use of mustard seeds and mustard oil, along with a signature regional spice blend called Panch Phoran. At Swad, these ingredients were deftly handled, creating tremendous depth of flavour that had me mopping up all remaining sauce with rice, naan and, when these resources were inevitably depleted, a spoon.

Next up was Swad Palak Kofta, a complex and heady dish of puffed spinach dumplings with raisins and nuts in a thick and leafy spinach sauce. It has always been my contention that Indian cuisine creates the most flavourful vegetarian dishes of any culinary tradition and this Palak Kofta offered further support for that idea.

The final dish, Moogdum Kebab, featured three large, bone-in chicken thighs marinated in yogurt and fine cashew paste, cooked in the intense and even heat of the tandoor and served with a simple wedge of lemon and some grated raw cabbage. Some of you might be thinking: What, you ordered the chicken? I know, I know, it’s uncharacteristic of a foodie to order what is conventionally the safe dish on any menu, but it came recommended and let me tell you, it was absolutely spectacular. The marinade tenderized the meat to a perfect supple texture and infused it liberally with lush and aromatic notes of garlic; so very simple, yet so very delicious.

A private dining space is available for larger groups in the back of the restaurant.

Our meal of three entrees, rice, naan and chai tea was $67 before gratuity.

Swad Indian Kitchen, 1734 Marine Dr. swadindiankitchen.ca 604-281-4411

• • •

Thomas Haas is celebrating ten remarkable years of business. The legendary confectioner, who has sated our collective sweet tooth in the most creative ways possible for the last decade, is having some fun with this milestone, planting prize tickets in different neighbourhoods throughout Vancouver for 10 days. Once lucky ticket holder will win a trip to Brussels alongside Haas.

A total of 250 tickets (25 per day) will be hidden in different neighbourhoods for 10 consecutive days. Tickets range in value from $10 to $100, whether the ticket is for a Signature Pastry and Hot Chocolate, 10th Anniversary Chocolate Bar, Signature Gift Box or 10th Anniversary Gift Box.

Haas will reveal the neighbourhood each morning at 8:00 AM PST on the Thomas Haas Instagram Page: @thaaschocolates (https://instagram.com/thaaschocolates/). Additional information will be available on their Twitter and Facebook pages.

If you’re keen to unearth a ticket, you’d better act quickly as only a few days remain in the promotion.

Chris Dagenais served as a manager for several restaurants downtown and on the North Shore. A self-described wine fanatic, he earned his sommelier diploma in 2001. He can be reached via email at hungryontheshore@gmail.com. North Shore News dining reviews are conducted anonymously and all meals are paid for by the newspaper.

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