From the road, the new Kirby Collection mixed-use complicated rises sleek and glassy and inscrutable. It’s hard to inform what’s within the office tower and swoopy atrium that curves off toward retail and restaurant space. But down closer to the northern give up fronting Kirby, at the back of greenery and too-discreet signage lies Verandah — the new restaurant home of the very talented chef Sunil Srivastava.
The posh Inner Loop vicinity is some thing of a dream for Srivastava and his wife and front-of-the-residence partner, Anupama. At Great W’Kana Cafe and then W’Kana Express, they labored in the wilderness of Stafford Meadows and the Energy Corridor without ever quite garnering the excessive-profile the chef’s deep, resonant flavors and finely etched textures deserved.
Now, they’re ensconced in a handsome, excessive-ceilinged glass box close to row restaurant crossroads of Kirby at Richmond. Pale settees and sculptural armchairs beckon. Ranks of bottles and glassware glint at the back of a pretty little bar. Colorful art work through Anu’s mother — the green thumb who grows chiles, herbs and subtropical culmination and veggies for the restaurant — lead returned toward a display kitchen with its tandoor, the Indian clay oven, front and middle.
Like the restaurant’s name, which alludes to the included porches which can be hospitality hubs in classic Indian houses, the art work draws on the Subcontinent’s rich visible motifs. And Srivastava’s menu, always rife with marvel, now delves even further into dishes outside the properly-worn canon of Indian food abroad.
Not handiest does he serve a biryani wherein young jackfruit assumes the position commonly assigned to meat within the aromatic rice dish, he sends forth platters of Badal Jam, in which triangles of tandoor-roasted jackfruit meet slices of eggplant encased inside the laciest, deep-brown batter, all added to interest through squiggly shreds of clean coconut and a colorful tomato chutney spiced with wild onion seeds. There is not anything like it in Houston.
Maybe you’d like a nice glass of Barbera to go along — yeah, significantly — and Verandah’s captivating manager, Naveen Kumar, has just the aspect for you, chosen from a nonetheless-sketchy wine list that he’s beefing up. He and chef Srivastava have collaborated on a cocktail listing that walks at the wild side, from an Imli “Martini” that jumps tequila up with tamarind and lime, to a brunch Shirabi lassi in which white rum, yogurt, and rose syrup add up to an otherworldly species of milk punch. (I’m running my manner up to the betelnut-infused gin, and to the rye punch with mango, black pepper, and mint.)
That Barbera fits a brace of venison chops grilled with panchporan, the “Indian 5 spice” combo of whole cumin, mustard, fenugreek, nigella, and fennel seeds. Sometimes meats arrive a touch too cooked for my (admittedly) Western palate, however, the deer chops on a current evening were best, with a rose tint down the middle and an energetic crust. The rogan-josh-kind sauce at the aspect matched well with its warm spices, and the folded ceramic plate that cradled venison and exactly became veggies made it all appear to be a special event.
Srivastava is a native of Rajasthan, that hilly northwestern desert province in which looking the whole thing from deer and rabbits to small game birds is ingrained. Thus the deer, the quail and the rabbit korma on Verandah’s menu — this remaining a lush swoon of smooth, smoky meat and yogurt-smoothed gravy. It’s as mild as the chef’s Kohlapuri bird is fierce. (That menu description of “fiery coconut gravy” isn’t kidding. Even my “nothing is ever warm enough for me” friends had been impressed.)
I confess that a number of the prices made me gulp. My vintage preferred vegetable dishes now hover just underneath the $20 mark, because of this I sense much less liable to order 3 of them at a swoop. But the actual property, the china, the posh furnishings cost, and for visitors who would like to consume ambitious and uncommon Indian food in the grand environment, the monetary alternate-off will no question be worth it. For the ones on a price range, though, Verandah will be a special occasion — or lunch, whilst the expenses are gentler and there’s a three-path prix fixe for $21. There’s a glad hour coming, too, any other point of entry.
Fortunately, the dishes I discovered to love in more modest surroundings still deliver thrills at an excessive degree. The lotus-root dumplings called Nargi’s kofta flow like downy clouds of their gingery, hottish, tomato-laced yogurt bathtub; with impeccably cooked rice, they’re heaven. Melting, glazed hunks of child eggplant (Kalonji Baigan) come alive in a tart, tamarind-spiked tomato-and-onion sauce punctuated with the wild onion seeds known as kalonji. I’d come right here simply to consume this dish.
Same goes for the putting okra, cut into lengthwise shreds and tossed with caramelized fennel strips, with a tart increase from the mango powder known as amchoor. I experience assured that even folks who hate okra might fall under its spell.
Srivastava’s finely wrought flatbreads are present in all their glory. My favorites are the thin, crisp naan scattered with kalonji seeds; the fairly mild-footed potato kulcha layered with sparks of dried purple chile; and the pesto naan, of all things. This final is one of the modern touches that lend Verandah its portentous subtitle: “Progressive Indian Cuisine.”
I worried, to begin with, that meant there would be lots of dishes together with the Ajwaini paneer tikkas, the farmer’s style cheese puréed to disconcerting smoothness (what can I say? I crave the country texture of the original) and layered with skinny ribbons of chutney. At W’Kana Express, they got here with clear ampoules of green chutney-water, like the molecular-style birthday party tricks famous five or six years ago. I changed into relieved to look the ampoules are lacking in the movement now and that the “revolutionary” part of the equation generally way mild creativity and some refined presentation touches.
I’ve seen enough extraneous orchid blossoms on plates to closing a life-time, however I enjoyed the dramatic skewer stand from which dangles the various tandoori platter. Off the stack, the charcoaled objects come immaculately cooked garlic-and-lemon shrimp; herbal mini-sausages of lamb seekh kebab; scrumptious lamb chops I wished had been a color or less well-performed; and chunks of Peshawari bird tikka so succulent they absolutely wobbled as they were coaxed off the blade. When the menu says Peshawari fowl — seasoned with “frontier spices” from the Pakistani borderlands —is the chef’s specialty, it isn’t kidding. I can’t take into account the closing time chook truly blew my thoughts.