First Bite: Verandah Brings Progressive Indian Fare to Upper Kirby
Verandah, a “progressive Indian” restaurant in the Kirby Collection development at 3300 Kirby, is now open. The ground-floor restaurant is an ultra-luxe setting with an intimate dining room. Husband and wife owners Sunil and Anupama Srivastava aim to bring centuries of Indian history and cuisine to Houstonians via a contemporary presentation.
Until recently, the Srivastavas owned two other Indian cafes in Houston called Great W’Kana Café and W’Kana Xpress. In preparation for opening Verandah, they closed Great W’Kana Café and transferred its name to the location that housed W’Kana Xpress. Though the W’Kana concept is much more casual than the fine dining that Verandah offers, the Srivastavas penchant for ancient Indian recipes is the focal point of both kitchens. Coming from a country with centuries of culinary history, influenced both by neighbors and colonizers alike, the couple has taken their vast knowledge of that history and quite literally baked it into their new menu.
The Srivastavas are both trained chefs who studied at the Indian Institute of Hotel Management. At the new restaurant, Sunil heads the kitchen and Anupama handles operations. Houston Food Finder was invited to sample some of the Srivastavas’ approach to modern Indian cuisine and take in the unique ambiance of the immaculately decorated Upper Kirby concept.
Take for example the biryani rice dishes cooked in the traditional dum pukht method. “Dum cooking” as it is often called in English, is the process of cooking rice, meat, sauce and spices in a heavy-bottomed pot sealed with a dough lid. The one-pot method takes hours, often cooking overnight, and traces its history back centuries to the Mughal empire. At Verandah, both chicken and lamb biryani platters are served in individual dum pots that are sealed tightly with a baked-on bread lid. When the dish arrives at the table, a server cuts through the dough and releases a cloud of steam to reveal the heavenly scent of biryani rice, heavily marinated meats and an assortment of rich spices. The dish presents an appealing revival of ancient cooking techniques that is not easily mastered without years of training: since the pots are left untouched to finish baking while covered by a dough lid, the chef must have full confidence that his platter will arrive perfectly cooked without having looked inside or tasted it for himself.
While some aspects of the Verandah menu boast ancient roots, other elements reflect a modern, molecular approach to Indian cooking. For example, the Tandoori appetizer platter is at once a visual, aromatic and gustatory delight. The modern take on Tandoori cooking is a shareable plate of lamb kebab (seekh kebab), chicken tikka (peshawari tikka) and garlic shrimp (lasooni jhinga) all sealed in a smoke-filled glass dome. The smoke, along with the dish’s Tandoori barbecue aroma, is revealed when a server lifts the lid. Srivastava implements this crowd-pleasing smoke trick on several other dishes throughout his menu.
Additional highlights include mouthwatering butter chicken — a house specialty cooked in a rich and chunky tomato sauce — as well as the unique and visually stunning chutney sampler. The creative appetizer consists of six different kinds of housemade chutney served in small tasting bowls alongside a bowl of chickpea crackers. The two dishes again represent the dichotomy of the Verandah concept: a resurrection of ancient recipes against the backdrop of modern presentation.
Chef Srivastava is an accomplished chef and one of Houston’s recognized culinary talents; his W’Kana Xpress cafe earned a spot on Alison Cook’s Top 100 Houston Restaurants in 2018. His passion for the food of his homeland is surpassed only by his knowledge of its history. From the southernmost subcontinental tip of India to the northern border so heavily influenced by African and Middle Eastern flavors, Srivasta’s menus are a tasting tour of his country.
Although the restaurant does not have a dedicated parking lot, guests are encouraged to use the Kirby Collection’s multi-level garage and Verandah will validate parking tickets.
Verandah is located in the Kirby Collection at 3300 Kirby. It is open daily from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5 to 11 p.m.