Masala Dabba at Kiran’s
Executive sous chef Dominick Lee and owner/executive chef Kiran Verma
Grab a drink at Kiran's bar. (Photo by Shannon O'Hara)
Kiran Verma, chef/owner of the North Indian eatery Kiran’s, has found a sparkling new home on the ground floor of the revamped Levy Park on Richmond Avenue, a stone’s throw from Kirby Drive. After 11 years at Kiran’s previous Westheimer enclave, Verma found herself with some time on her hands (nine months, to be exact) and seized the opportunity to rethink her menu and environment.
She brought in designer Lisa Pope Westerman of Gensler to bring a contemporary air to the traditional decor of her former stead, starting with hammered-brass doors with custom door pulls abstracted from the Hindi script of Kiran’s name.
Details include 18-foot ceilings, a gracious communal table that seats 20, a curvaceous glass wine capsule, leather-fronted bar, and dining tables crafted from warm afrormosia wood with smart brass trim. The Krishna statue and other relics of Kiran’s past remain. Employing a collaborative approach, the self-taught Verma brought on some young chefs eager to be schooled in fine Indian cuisine.
For dinner, start with a goat cheese and beet salad that’s far from pedestrian, with roasted beets of differing hues and quenelles of goat cheese rolled in crushed pistachios, with bits of poached pear and kumquats ($14). Move on to Kiran’s play on street fare: samosas brimming with crabmeat and corn ($14). And don’t miss the quirky pani poori, bite-sized puffs made with semolina and flour, then filled with potato, garbanzos, and pomegranate seeds.
Each has a tiny hole on top, into which the server pours mint-tamarind water; pop one into your mouth for a burst of flavor (order of four, $8). From Kiran’s tandoor comes an unforgettable dish: rack of lamb with shallot marmalade, napped with blackberry demi-glace.
Cooked to medium rare perfection, the lamb has a depth of flavor that needs no accompaniment but a garnish of fresh rosemary twig, which is set ablaze by the waiter — a touch that emits a smoky scent as it burns. Of course, no North Indian meal is complete without a paneer cheese side.
Try the paneer karahi, tossed with peppers, onions and tomatoes ($18). There are also three tasting menus (lobster, plantbased, and chef’s choice) that take you through seven to eight courses. Lunch and afternoon tea are a daily weekday occurrence. Kiran’s, 2925 Richmond Ave., 713.960.8472, kiranshouston.com.