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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Casual restaurant

Mon–Sat 6:00am–10:00pm

Features Date-friendly, veg-friendly
Bar Beer, wine
Credit cards Visa, MC, AmEx
Reservations Not accepted


Upper Kirby
2800 Kirby Dr.
(713) 522-2022
Pondicheri Café
East sort of meets West in this simple, chic little space

Pondicherry the city is a gorgeous seaside jewel in what used to be French India’s crown. The prospect of a namesake café is understandably thrilling, given that French-Indian fusion has had some beautiful cultural results, but Pondicheri the café (brought to you by the folks behind Indika) is actually pretty straight-ahead Indian. Its only telling French influence is, perhaps, that vegetables aren’t simmered to a stewy sameness, and flavors—which might seem, at first glance, too mild to some—are subtle and layered into a sometimes revelatory complexity.

The design of the small space has the charm of a reclaimed industrial space made chic with orange translucent curtains, artfully distressed light fixtures, and shimmering brocaded booths. There are responsibly raised meats and eggs (breakfast will be a big focus here soon), wild-yeasted homemade breads, and accessible prices. Assemble a tableful of plates from a list of mild pickled vegetables (turmeric root’s a standout), vegetable dishes (each with its unique flavor preserved), and tender, delicious meats. Proceed with caution to a fish in banana leaf that is undercooked in its thickest parts.

A decent beer selection also offers a few fun “cocktails” made with herbs and peppers; the wine list, however, is surprisingly uninformed (not at all a French attribute). There are none of the floral, residual-sugared whites that so ideally pair with this cuisine. But there are gooey oatmeal chocolate chip cookies with cardamom and fleur de sel. That’s a pairing we can live with.

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