PaperCity Magazine

December 2014 - Houston

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DECEMBER | PAGE 77 | 2014 PONDERING PONDI PEACE, LOVE AND THE PLATE By Laurann Claridge. Photography Max Burkhalter. Produced by Michelle Aviña. Photography Assistant Giselle Yeung. COMFY BISTRO FARE S hepard Ross spreads harmony by the plate at his new restaurant, Pax Americana, which is named for the long peace that spread throughout the western world following World War II. Ross, who also owns Brooklyn Athletic Club and The Glass Wall in the Heights, offers an adventurous menu within simple bistro surrounds. He, chef Adam Dorris and GM Chris Fleischman have created an all-American wine list and spirits carte for Pax that reflect our stateside cocktail cultural heritage — not to mention fare that pulls inspiration from all corners of the globe. New SpotS J ust a flight of stairs above her modern Indian eatery Pondicheri at West Ave, chef/owner Anita Jaisinghani is blissfully toiling away in her new kitchen laboratory, Pondi Bake Lab. The Indian-born chef has gained an avid following since she opened her acclaimed Montrose-area restaurant Indika nearly a dozen years ago. Here in this bright orange perch flooded with sunlight, she's sharing a personal slice of her life, from her favorite Indian cooking accouterments (slender wooden rolling pins and a stainless Thali set, the same kind she uses downstairs) to diminutive copper cups like the ones she fills with water by her bedside — all of which you can now purchase in her bake lab. Jaisinghani also has us rethinking our spice shelves with her array of aromatic single spices and alluring mixes that can be purchased by the ounce. There are also the perfect go-withs: her own freshly prepared bottled simmer sauces, ghee, pickles and chutneys. Her printed recipe cards offer all the how-tos for creating dishes such as her piquant South Indian fish curry, carrot dal or chicken saffron soup over your own Viking stove. Too famished to cook? Jaisinghani and her team will do the cooking and baking for you, too, via prepared breakfasts, lunches and dinners. Too famished to drive home? Grab a bar stool by the window and nosh your purchase there. (And who can resist this former pastry chef's baked goodies, especially those exotic spiced chocolate chunk cookies that have taken on a life of their own.) Rise with breakfast treats such as homemade chai yogurt parfaits, warm chocolate-filled brioche and gulab jamun- inspired "rose ball" donuts with a bottle of house-made almond milk infused with ginger, cinnamon and black pepper. Whenever hunger strikes, wander in for a snack such as a chewy curry-laced trail mix bar, garbanzo bean and cashew mix, freshly pressed juice or masala lamb chops. Pondi Bake Lab, 2800 Kirby Dr. in West Ave (second floor), 713.522.2022, Pax Americana, 4319 Montrose Blvd., 713.239.0228, Like American GIs coming home after WWII, their eyes opened to the tastes of other cultures (especially European and Asian influences), Dorris combines unlikely sounding ingredients into commingled bites that come together brilliantly on the plate. The menu divides your choices into shareable plates - vegetable, sea, land and sugar. Our server coaxed us into ordering at least four or five plates for two diners. While the servings (even the shareable ones) aren't exactly tiny, here you're encouraged to split every plate you order, which suits me just fine. I'll be back soon for the kale, arugula and endive salad with tasty taleggio-laced panna cotta and chunks of fresh avocado tossed in a whey dressing — a dish that tips the notion of an ordinary salad on its salad spinner ($12). The beef tartare features smoked gooseneck of the beef round (a tougher cut apropos for roasting and braising, if not quite as succulent as tenderloin) sided by a mélange of pickled vegetables and mustard seeds mixed with horseradish and flavorsome tonnato, a mayonnaise-based caper/tuna/anchovy sauce ($14). Have a taste for tentacles? Try the grilled Portuguese octopus before the menu changes: With a base of skordalia spread (a Greek garlic, almond, olive oil and potato purée), Dorris grills the octopus with rapini and tops it with spheres of candied Meyer lemon for a sweet and sour tang on the tongue ($19). From the "land" category, consider Pax's signature nine-spice brisket, which arrives in a deep bowl with fresh herbs on top with tiny roasted potatoes and onions beneath ($17). CuliNary INDIAN TREATS for and Anita Jaisinghani and friend Sophia Malik Chef Mary Cuclis Shepard Ross Chef Adam Dorris

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