100 Favorite Dishes: No. 7, Texas Shrimp Chaat at Pondicheri

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Photos by Troy Fields
The shrimp in its "before" state...
​This year leading up to our annual Best of Houston issue, we're counting down our 100 favorite dishes in Houston. This list comprises our favorite dishes from the last year, dishes that are essential to Houston's cultural landscape and/or dishes that any visitor (or resident) should try at least once.

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...and "after."
More than a few readers thought that we were hasty in naming Pondicheri the best new restaurant of the year back in June, but subsequent reviews and raves over Anita Jaisinghani's new restaurant seem to have borne out that judgment so far.

The Texas shrimp chaat was one of the first menu items that caught my eye here, a dish that beguiles by eagerly and effortlessly combining Texan ingredients into a staple Indian snack. The triangles of buttery avocado called to mind guacamoles past, while the fat Gulf shrimp was rubbed down with cumin -- among a blend of other spices -- to tie the two cuisines' flavor profiles neatly together, both Indian and Tex-Mex at once. On a bed of puffy sev, it's a trademark dish that perfectly encapsulates what Jaisinghani had hoped to achieve with her new "fusion" restaurant.

I put "fusion" in quotes, however, because to simply categorize the food here with such an overused, ambiguous term is hardly fair. Fusion implies a certain overexertion, a certain forced marriage between normally incompatible cuisines or flavors. At Pondicheri, the blend of Texan and Indian is entirely innate -- owing to Jaisinghani's deep roots in both cultures -- and seems to come as naturally as breathing.

Breathing is a good way to describe the restaurant, too, which hums with life and vibrancy in its way. That vibrancy can get a little loud at dinner, but it's hard to be annoyed when you look around Pondicheri's full dining room to see an army's worth of people from every walk of life fixing this Indian-Texan restaurant with an easy embrace that would have seemed impossible a decade ago.

The list so far:

No. 100: Dumplings at Heights Asian Cafe
No. 99: Mixta Pizza at Friends Pizzeria
No. 98: Veggie tacos from Radical Eats
No. 97: Bean pie from Conscious Cafe
No. 96: Swiss chard crepes from Giacomo's Cibo e Vino
No. 95: Eggs Mia Bella at Mia Bella
No. 94: Mulligatawny soup at the Queen Vic
No. 93: Helado de Lúcuma from Pollo Bravo
No. 92: Black bean burger from Natachee's
No. 91: Chupacabra pizza from ERA
No. 90: Roast chicken from El Norteño
No. 89: Eggs El Salvador from Brasil
No. 88: Frank the Pretzel from Eatsie Boys
No. 87: Caldo Tlalpeño from Tacos del Julio
No. 86: English pea soup at Brasserie 19
No. 85: Falafel from Zabak's
No. 84: Buttermilk-fried pork loin with fried eggs at Canopy
No. 83: Grillades and grits from BB's Cajun Cafe
No. 82: Haemul dolsot from Seoul House
No. 81: Pandan waffles at Parisian Bakery III
No. 80: Pita bread and hummus at Phoenicia
No. 79: Goat pepper soup at Peppersoup Cafe
No. 78: Melon and Texas feta salad from Beaver's
No. 77: Hot Italian beef from BB's Beef & Hot Dog
No. 76: Bacon-avocado burger from Facundo Cafe
No. 75: Pancakes from Fountain View Cafe
No. 74: Hobnobs from Fluff Bake Bar
No. 73: Chu chee eggplant from Nidda Thai
No. 72: Sausage sampler from King's Biergarten
No. 71: Shawarma from Abdallah's
No. 70: Moules-frite at the Broken Spoke
No. 69: Hong Kong-style French toast at House of Bowls
No. 68: Sashimi sampler at Sushi Miyagi
No. 67: Baleadas from Honduras Mayan
No. 66: Snow ice from Star Snow Ice & Teriyaki
No. 65: Boudin balls from MerCheri's
No. 64: Miso ramen at Umai
No. 63: Grim burger at Lankford Grocery
No. 62: Dabeli at Bansuri Indian Food Corner
No. 61: Wine and cupcakes at 13 Celsius
No. 60: Pâté de France from Spec's
No. 59: Steak and eggs from Ninfa's on Navigation
No. 58: Breakfast pita at Niko Niko's
No. 57: Vegan curry at Cafe TH
No. 56: Samosas at Shiv Sagar
No. 55: Ceviche at Latin Bites Cafe
No. 54: Wicked Philly at Pappa Geno's
No. 53: Pork chop at Perry's Steakhouse
No. 52: Soft-shell crab at Pico's Mex-Mex
No. 51: Sno-balls at MAM's House of Ice
No. 50: Whole catfish at Saigon Pagolac
No. 49: Nova fish box at New York Bagel & Coffee Shop
No. 48: Sojok mana'eesh at Cedars Bakery
No. 47: Pho ga at Pho Ga Dakao
No. 46: Sicilia salad at Trevisio
No. 45: Dahi puri at Sweet 'n' Namkin
No. 44: Hot dogs at Moon Tower Inn
No. 43: Real guacamole at Yelapa Playa Mexicana
No. 42: Akaushi short ribs at Soma Sushi
No. 41: Country-fried chicken livers at Haven
No. 40: Seafood gumbo at Cajun Town Cafe
No. 39: Tacos at Karanchos
No. 38: Crepes at Melange Creperie
No. 37: Gua bao at Yummy Kitchen
No. 36: Guanciale burger at Plonk
No. 35: Snapper al cilantro at Teotihuacan
No. 34: The Houstonian at James Coney Island
No. 33: The Montrose at Amy's Ice Cream
No. 32: Lobster bisque at Philippe
No. 31: Tacos de cabeza y orejas at El Ultimo
No. 30: Oyster stew at Danton's
No. 29: Fried oysters at TQLA
No. 28: Banh mi at Cali Sandwich
No. 27: Captin's fried chicken at Zelko Bistro
No. 26: The Brisket House Special at The Brisket House
No. 25: Menudo at La Mexicana
No. 24: Chargrilled oysters at Wild Cajun
No. 23: Breakfast tacos at Revival Market
No. 22: Sticky toffee pudding at Branch Water Tavern
No. 21: Tex-Mex burger at El Real Tex-Mex Cafe
No. 20: Lasagna at Capri Pasta Pizza & More
No. 19: Pork rillette at Feast
No. 18: Chicken fried steak at Triple A
No. 17: Crème brûlée bread pudding at Killen's
No. 16: Migas at La Guadalupana
No. 15: Snapper with grapefruit at Kata Robata
No. 14: Venison carpaccio at Thanh Phuong
No. 13: Mesquite-grilled shrimp poboy at Goode Co. Seafood
No. 12: Tamarind-glazed salmon at Samba Grille
No. 11: Bone marrow service at Stella Sola
No. 10: Ribs at Gatlin's
No. 9: Shrimp and grits at Brennan's
No. 8: Barbacoa at Hugo's



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Location Info

Pondicheri

2800 Kirby Drive, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

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