$7 at Chaat House

Where: Chaat House, 16338 Kensington Drive, Sugar Land, 281-565-0555

What $7 gets you: Puffed rice that would make Snap, Crackle and Pop weep and a fruity, sweet treat.

As Paul Galvani said previously, "chaat" is a Hindi word meaning "lick" or "taste". At Chaat House in Sugar Land, you get much more than a taste; I had a light, refreshing meal amid a vast wasteland of chains and expense-account restaurants.

Step up to the counter, and someone will be happy to assist you in ordering. I purchased the bhel-puri, which comes with the aforementioned puffed rice, noodles, fried samosa pastry pieces, potatoes, green chile, onions and cilantro, which are then tossed with tamarind and mint chutneys. I also asked for mango, tomato and chickpeas in mine (gotta get that protein in somehow), and asked for it to be hot, spice-wise. The cost, including tax, was $3.50. Right in front of my eyes, all of the ingredients were tossed in a steel bowl, mixed together, and heaped onto a plate. I grabbed a fork and dug in.

The first thing that hit me was the crispiness of the rice and noodles. As I ate more, a nice heat started to build in my mouth, which was counteracted by the cilantro, mango and tomatoes. The chickpeas added protein, a mild taste and a creamy texture to the dish, especially compared to the crispy rice. The rice loses its crunch as it absorbs the chutneys, though the noodles remain crispy. I was able to hear the rice crackling as I ate; it reminded me of a grown-up bowl of Rice Krispies. It was filling, but not stuff-your-stomach filling.

The mango lassi ($3.50) was also blended on-site with yogurt and mango, and was creamy without being cloyingly sweet - a perfect ending to the meal. After the meal, I was able to work all afternoon without needing a nap.

I did purchase potato samosas to go ($1 each) for later snacking and for dinner. As they sat, the pastry became greasy, but retained most of its crispness. In their defense, samosas are meant to be eaten immediately. The potato and pea filling was nicely spiced and had a great golden color from the turmeric.

Chaat House also serves tawa, vegetables and, in some dishes, paneer cooked together on a large, flat cast-iron skillet of the same name. These dishes come with a choice of naan or paratha and run anywhere from $3.50 to $7.50. They also have combo meals that run from $8.95 to $10.99.

Recommended?: An enthusiastic yes. It's a shame more people haven't discovered this place, because it's a great meal for a great price. (Case in point: There were four other diners in there, and one person came in for a take-out order during the time I was there.)

Good to know: All prices on the menu boards include tax, unless otherwise stated. (Thanks for not taxing my already addled mind!) All items are a la carte. And if you're not planning on spending at least $10, bring cash; they won't accept plastic for orders less than $10.

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