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Created: Jun 2005.

Swati Snacks

Tardeo, near Bhatia Hospital. Most dishes between 50/- and 60/- [6/05].

Bombay once abounded in a class of eateries which had a well targeted niche market of immigrants nostalgic for the tastes of their regional food. This lay behind the astonishing variety of authentic regional cuisine available in the city, and also for the surprising gaps in the coverage. In the last decade they have been shutting down; slowly but definitely giving way to high end restaurants with innovative "Indian fusion" cuisine, and chains of something non-descript known as "Udipi joints".

Swati Snacks was once a member of this old-Bombay rank of authentic Gujarati restaurants. It has moved with the times, without losing track of what its dedicated clientele wants. The half hour wait for a table, the businesslike bustle inside, the staff who have been with it as long as many customers, are one side of this story. The other is the modern glass and steel decor, and the menu which testifies to the wonderfuly deep and inclusive culinary traditions of Gujarat. The two together make this restaurant into a case study of how to change without losing identity.

There are no reservations; you have arrive at the doors of the restaurant to put your name down in the queue. The chairs on the sidewalk are not empty even on a weekday. It seems to be a done thing to look through the menu as you wait, and be ready with your order as you settle down at one of the twenty four tables packed close together.

The panki is traditional fare that no other restaurant dares to try. The thin layers of besan steamed between banana leaves are exquisitely matched to the chatni and marinated chilis they come with. This seems to be a favourite with everyone. The dal dhokli is one of those sweet Gujarati dals, but thickened with dhoklas. Great, if you like dal the way it is made in Gujarat. I usually do not, but I liked this. The panoli and the satpadi roti are clearly Gujarati rotis, but are special. The latter comes with a very interesting gatta nu shak. If the malai malpura sounds like a bit of an indulgence after this, you can try out their special icecreams— coffee orange, thandai coconut, or even sugar free ginger.

Swati is unlikely to fade away soon. I know people who have been eating here since they were children, and now take the next generation of fans there every Sunday.