- March 29, 2011
Keys to the Door: Chef and owner Anita Jaisinghani.
What’s on the Menu: After a decade of bringing her artful twist on Indian fare to lower Westheimer, Anita Jaisinghani, chef/owner of the acclaimed Indika restaurant, has headed uptown to open her second eatery, Pondicheri, at West Ave. Named for the city in India, Pondicheri is a sleek fast-casual concept at breakfast and lunch that transforms into a polished table-service experience at dinner. The industrial-inspired interior gleams with floor-to-ceiling windows and massive steel-and-glass doors created by Houston metal artist Spencer Elliott. Gauzy, tangerine-hued sheers divide the space, while bright Indian-made textiles cover the banquettes. Those artisan-crafted chili-colored octagonal tiles? Jaisinghani scoured her homeland to find them. As for the menu, she melds the street food of her country with the home cooking of her youth. Starters such as papdi chaat (a New Delhi classic layered with semolina crackers, lentil sprouts and chaat sauces, $8) and sindhi pakoras (chickpea flour-battered vegetable fritter envelopes, $8) stay close to each dish’s heritage. We recommend a cooling salad — kachumber with diced cucumber and mango ($6) or a healthful barley salad with pickled tumeric, walnuts, beets, jimaca and chiffonade of mint ($8). For dinner, feast on the goat biryani, which resembles a pot pie kept warm beneath a thin bread crust ($15), butter chicken stewed in a fenugreek-spiced tomato curry sauce ($14) or moist masala lamb chops ($16) — in portions intended for sharing. And don’t forget that Jaisinghani is a former pastry chef. We swooned over her milk and cookies (essentially a chocolate chip cookie laced with cinnamon and chilis, $5) and the bournvita ice cream sandwiches made with the Indian version of Ovaltine and layered between vanilla biscuits ($6). Expect even more selections at her walk-up bakery on site. 2800 Kirby Dr. in West Ave, 713.522.2022; pondichericafe.com.
Image by Jenny Antill