KIRAN VERMA EXPECTS PERFECTION.
TWO WEEKS POST OPENING OF HER NEW, CUSTOM-BUILT NAMESAKE RESTAURANT, THE FINE-TUNING OF FINISHES AND SPACE CONTINUES. “EVERY DAY, YOU FEEL LIKE ‘ALMOST THERE, ALMOST THERE.’ THEN, THEN, I START WORKING AND I SEE WE NEED MORE LIGHTS, WE NEED MORE SEATS,” SAYS CHEF AND OWNER VERMA.
It took nine months from when Verma shut down her successful 11-year-old restaurant on Westheimer until she opened the doors on the Richmond location immediately in front of Levy Park. Nine long, tedious months, anxious months during which Verma and her staff stewed and brewed, creating a menu that honored the dishes of the past and forecasted pleasures and flavors of the future.
The whole time Verma kept the faith and her standards: always, always expecting and only accepting the best.
The general contractor, carpenter and designer are meeting, resolving the lighting issues and other minor punch list items. Nine plus months into the project and she still hugs them goodbye.
Verma is taking a break sipping chai. One sip of her custom blend Kiran’s Daughter chai (five different tea leaves, floral notes of green and black cardamom, the spice of cloves and cinnamon and a little punch of black pepper) and off she flies into the kitchen. Reemerging she explains, “The chai was not hot enough. Chai must be very hot – there is a method. And the method ensures hot chai. It is a step-by-step process. Boil, infuse, boil, steep. A process. Then serve. No shortcuts. I cannot tolerate shortcuts.”
One pot of chai. So much time and so much energy focused into one pot of chai. A definitive indication of the passion and demanding quality behind every plate of curry that Kiran’s kitchen produces.
Curry – y’know, it’s not just a yellow powder. Like mole in Mexico, curry is generic for sauce. “Curry is a sauce, a spice blend that changes, that matches what is being sauced,” explains Verma. For lamb I use a Rhogan Josh mix. But I would never use that on fish. It is too big, too rich for the fish. For fish I need a more delicate curry.”
In the kitchen, Kiran’s staff daily grinds and combines the spices for 16 different curry blends. “Everything is made here. We only use fresh – you won’t find any frozen spinach!” explains Verma. “Like we use fresh mustard greens for the Sarson Kaa Saag – they must be double washed.”
More time, more labor, most cost – better flavor.
“The naan? We make here – with King Arthur flour.”
Time and effort and quality – and an unbridled, unexpected attitude regarding flavor combinations make reading Kiran’s menu an adventure.
Traditional Indian – it’s all there: the rich, luxurious fork-tender Lamb Rhogan Josh and the classic Chicken Madras, or the plethora of vegetarian offerings, including the much-beloved pickled and sour winter melon, Karela Achari, and the ever-so-slightly spicy Bhindi Masala, okra with its hints of cumin and coconut.
Self-taught with years of practical experience, Kiran redefines fusion cuisine. The menu sports a tandoori section though not all the items are prepared in the traditional yogurt-marinated fashion.
Here tandoori refers to the oven – here fusion fuses in hot, intense, ovenprepared dishes such as NY bison strip loin with chaat masala truffle fries, blue cheese and garlic asparagus and Chilean sea bass with charred poblano-mango chutney and a wild mushroom biryani.
Verma acknowledges that menu development becomes a balancing act of staying current and stimulating as a chef and pleasing long-term customers.
“As a chef, I start to get bored if I don’t reinvent my food. I tried to cut the menu down to be shorter but long-time guests – I have guests that have been eating my food for 21 years – they want what they want. So I compromise – sometimes I make small changes like adding a little kumquat to the Scotch egg curry (lunch menu) – it adds a new depth and creates a new flavor memory, yet the dish remains familiar.”
And this concern for her customers’ pleasure fits nicely with another expectation Kiran Verma long ago set for herself.
“When I cook I always thought, I want to pamper people, not to just fill up their stomachs.”
2925 Richmond Ave. | Houston, TX 77098 | 713.960.8472 | www.kiranshouston.com
Lunch: Mon–Fri, 11am–2pm | Afternoon Tea: Fri–Sat, 3pm | Bar & Lounge Opens at 4pm | Dinner: Mon–Sat 5–10pm (until 11pm on Fri–Sat)