It’s not often that you see someone from Texas out of all places opening a new Indian restaurant in New York City. It’s certainly more typical to expect a Southern place or Texas BBQ joint making their move in the Big Apple. Acclaimed Houston chef Anita Jaisinghani seems to think otherwise. She has already gained royal followings for her fine dining restaurant Indika and casual restaurant and bakery Pondicheri in Houston, and decided to transplant the formula for the latter recently. It was a novel concept that I liked at first sight; whenever I step into an Indian restaurant, I don’t expect to see a café-like atmosphere with bakery on the side that is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and that is precisely what Pondicheri is. More importantly, the food at Pondicheri is well thought out and I had a delicious meal with my girlfriend when we showed up the day after the shocking presidential election (enough said…) to vent our frustration with some Indian spices.
The menu at Pondicheri is somewhat concise, and I really liked how there are surprisingly twists in the seemingly traditional dishes that we ordered. Khandvi (savory chickpea pinwheels stuffed with coconut, cashews, sesame, herbs and spices), which apparently is one of the most popular dishes at the restaurant, had a nice spicy kick to it that made for a stimulating appetizer. Instead of lamb or chicken, I had quail in its tandoori form with pomegranate glaze and stuffed with pine nut and caramelized onion. I wished the quail was a bit softer in texture, but the potato cake and coriander yogurt that accompanied the quail made up for it with a surprisingly nice touch.
By this time, I’ve had countless chicken tikka masala dishes through Seamless orders or pick-ups, but the boneless chicken cooked in 25 spices and masalas (hence the name “Chicken 25” on the menu) was still a pleasure to eat with tender chicken that had really nice balance of flavor (although my girlfriend wished it had a bit more spice to it). Saag paneer, a classic Indian dish with fresh spinach and mustard greens, was also a delicious main dish (especially with pomegranate sprinkled throughout that I thought brought something new) that went well with the chicken. For dessert, saffron ice cream with chopped pistachios was a delightful end to the meal without too much sweetness.
Getting a reservation at Pondicheri isn’t too challenging although the dining space was still fairly full in the course of our meal. As noted above, I really liked the light café vibe that you don’t typically see at an Indian establishment. There is full bar with some creative cocktails on the list (although we were more inclined to just go with a bottle of red to complement the meal). Pondicheri brings something unique to the already rich Indian dining scene in NYC, and I would love to come back here for breakfast or lunch to see how the menu changes during those times.
- Creativity: 8.0/10
- Execution: 8.0/10
- Ingredients: 7.5/10
- Flavor: 8.5/10
- Texture: 7.5/10
Address: 15 West 27th Street, New York, NY 10001
Telephone: (646) 878-4375