We like to sample. Give us a bunch of dishes to try and we’re in heaven. It’s easy to do at a buffet and tapas is made for sampling. But sampling with a $6.49 lunch plate? It can be done at Swagruha Indian restaurant, the creation of Vijay and Siva Pavuluri. These folks care about their food and apparently want to share it with the world.
We first got the idea from the couple in front of us. They’re pointing at dishes and Siva Pavuluri is dishing it up; just little portions, but in near ridiculous numbers. So, we step up and start pointing and soon she has piled the plate high, using little plastic cups for reinforcement. I’m here to tell you it got crazy. We walked away with small samples of 12 dishes on one tray and 8 dishes on another. Oh, and we had big smiles on our faces. We could tell immediately that this is food well worth sampling.
Pavuluri was assisted this Saturday by her charming children, Surya and Swathi. Swagruha has only been open since November in the Nashville Farmers’ Market, but they are acquiring a reputation as a great lunch spot. The food is Southern Indian, which may be a bit different for Nashville diners. Northern Indian cuisine has more dairy based dishes. Southern Indian is rice based, generally spicier and features more vegetarian recipes.
The lunch special starts with your choice of vegetable or chicken rice. They’re both full flavored dishes with a bit of heat. In fact it’s safe to say nearly everything on the menu has some degree of heat. Diners who don’t like spicy food will want to choose their selections carefully. The chili chicken is marinated to an orange glow and cubed into little bits. Like many of the spicy dishes it packs some serious heat, but not to the detriment of the flavor. The paneer cheese and pea curry has strong spice and yet maintains a savory flavor that made it one of our favorites. The chicken curry maintains a nice balance between heat and taste.
On the milder side the lamb curry comes in rich gravy. The butter chicken is marinated cubes cooked with butter and cream in a thick sauce. Chicken tikka masala is Tandoor oven roasted and combined with bell peppers, onions and tomatoes. The onion pakoda come with every plate. They’re lightly fried, crispy and with a nice bite of onion.
About the only dud we encountered is the naan, which came out chewy to the point of being rubbery. This is a problem many folks have had with Swagruha. We suspect a microwave as the culprit. It seems a shame to have such great food accompanied by lame bread.
Veggie Eater: As an aside, the Farmers Market is finally nearing the light at the end of the tunnel. The food court is showing signs of life. On this day, there was big band music playing with regular folks cutting a rug. Everyone at the Farmers Market has grins on their faces, pleased with getting the best deal on whatever prized item they were on a quest for. By the way, a pound of shelled whole pecans for $5.50? Sign me up…but I digress. Swagruha will certainly entice me back very soon. As always, Indian food is very veggie friendly. My main choice was the Vegetable Korma; it had a subtle heat to it and a wonderful silky sauce. Then there were the variety of curries; the veggie options on this day were mango (lively and tart), potato (comfort food at its best), paneer (fabulous), and chickpea (my favorite legume). The veggie rice was wonderfully seasoned, fluffy and light. You want more than your plate can hold? No problem, just keep pointing and the little cups will be filled. My tummy had a warm glow all afternoon and it fortified me for planting all the stuff we bought at the Farmers Market.
Meat Eater: Finish up with the Mango pudding. It’s light, silky and the perfect ending after all that spicy food. We paid just $14.14 for two lunch plates, which includes a drink. They pile on the food and we both took full to-go containers home. Three cheers to the Pavuluri family for bringing really good Indian food to the Farmers’ Market.