Anita Jaisinghani’s leap into casual Indian “diner”-style fare is both daring and distinctive, qualities all too unusual in restaurant openings from Houston’s high-profile chefs. Thanks to Jaisinghani’s sophisticated eye, the space looks splendid with its unfinished concrete greys, nickel tones and bright textile splashes. And the food, while it may not be rock steady yet, is vivid and exciting stuff that demolishes the boundaries of cookie-cutter Indian menus. That’s never more apparent than at breakfast, when the semi-serve menu offers a dazzling thali platter featuring silvery little bowls of beef keema, steel-cut oats with cardamom, fingerling potatoes in a racy curry, and a frizzly fried egg on a triangle of roti. That same thin flatbread comes wrapped around soft-scrambled masala eggs gigged with green chutney for the so-called “breakfast frankie,” a small miracle of portability. Evenings bring more thali magic: an array of beautifully seasoned and textured local vegetables and unusual grains on one; or a range of seafood, including spectacular grilled Gulf fish (black drum, if you’re lucky) marinated with pungent ajwain and fennel seeds. Add enticing baked goods and a brilliant beverage program, and it’s clear that a restaurant based on make-ahead and quick-prep foods can hold its own with far grander establishments. In fact, for pure excitement, I prefer Pondicheri to its 10-year-old fine-dining sibling, Indika.
Entree price range: $-$$
Where: 2800 Kirby Dr.