Photograph by Jeremy Kramer
Mahabir Dhillon, former chef-owner of Dusmesh on Ludlow Avenue, is behind the stove once more. Back from travels in his native India, he continues to refine Punjabi cuisine at Swad in North College Hill. The new digs are an all-around upgrade, from the bar (they now have a liquor license, but guests can still BYO for the time being) to the more sumptuous dining rooms and covered courtyard. What hasn’t changed: aromas of coriander and onions sizzling on a platter or delicate wafts of chili and garlic from a steaming bowl of korma. The tikka masala (clay oven-cooked chicken) and saag paneer (cheese simmered in spinach and cream) are just as satisfying as before, but it’s not all old favorites at version 2.0. Traditional lean meats (lamb and goat are available in 13 different sauces) and fruits, such as caramelized pineapple and a mango vegetable curry, taste both comforting and exotic. In total, there’s a dizzying 127 appetizers and mains to mull over, with plenty of vegetarian and vegan options. Dhillon favors delicate flavors over tongue-ravaging heat, evident in his deft use of turmeric, cumin, and house-ground garam masala, and he’s always light-handed with the dairy. But what’s memorable about this family restaurant is the genuine warmth of the service from his son AJ and daughter Maya. Dear Dhillons, it’s good to have you back. Swad Indian Restaurant, 1810 W. Galbraith Rd., North College Hill, (513) 522-5900, swadtasty.com. Lunch and dinner Tues–Sun.