When Swad in Raleigh changed over to Godavari last year, I bookmarked it in my mind to try the new South Indian restaurant off Strickland Road. Months later, when a sudden unshakeable craving for palak paneer hit and the lack of a desire to travel to Morrisville for good Indian food, I finally got around to it.
Not much has transformed inside since Godavari, the mini-South Indian national chain, has taken over from Swad; the same modern furniture remains and the spartan walls are still largely unadorned minus a peculiarly-constructed barricade of wine bottles stacked above the bar by the setup of the daily lunch buffet, which is rumored to be quite popular.
On a rainy Friday evening before Hurricane Hermine blows through, it’s far less raucous inside the confines of Godavari at dinner time as my husband and I are seated. The bright, colorful menu is extensive and chock full of South Indian eats, split into vegetarian and non-vegetarian options, tandoori and biryani items, and a selection of Indo-Chinese dishes. A server plops down several delicate discs of crispy papadam and cooling chutneys as we decide.
We settle on a starter of gobi manchurian, a sizeable serving of cauliflower florets, thickly-battered, deep-fried until golden brown and dusted with a layer of Indian spices. At $8.99, it’s a bit pricey, but incredibly satisfying and better tasting than the version at Cary’s Himalayan Range that we sampled months earlier (although at more than twice the cost).
The palak paneer is disappointingly lukewarm when it arrives to the table in a porcelain platter (I much prefer the stainless-steel tub to keep it warm). Still, the spinach, in its thick green, garlicky gravy bath lashed with Indian spices and herbs (cumin, coriander, fenugreek) mixed with a mound of fluffy basmati rice satisfies my aforementioned craving.
The towering mass of Hyderabadi chicken biryani is almost laughable as it’s placed onto the table. As the heaping mound of saffron-tinted basmati soon spills over like a rice avalanche, you might find yourself harriedly spooning the tumbled remnants onto your plate before it goes to waste. Under the mound is the hidden treasure, the Hyderabadi chicken, several marinated chicken thighs and drumettes coated and perfumed with a myriad of aromatic Indian herbs and spices. The biryani can be ordered spicy with the option to drizzle as much spiced curry sauce over the rice as you wish. If it’s too spicy, you can temper the taste buds with Godavari’s garlic naan–warm buttery, lightly-charred bread flecked with bits of chopped garlic.
Service at Godvari is serviceable, though slightly brusque in intervals. Although dinner is perfectly fine at the Raleigh location, its lunch buffet may be a better time to let Godavari fully shine.
GODAVARI |9650 Strickland Road Raleigh NC 27615 | 919.847.1984