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Sunday Mornings at Indika

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After a friend's passionate recommendation, we recently visited Indika (516 Westheimer) to sample its Sunday-morning bottomless brunch offerings. Though we absolutely adore dinner at Indika and often have naughty dreams about the candied cashew-topped rice pudding, we held a healthy amount of skepticism toward the idea of Indian food for breakfast. Keeping in mind that we've never had a bad meal here and that the creativity and freshness of the cuisine often pleases even our not-so-curry-friendly acquaintances, we set out to give this brunch a try.

We arrived around noon on a cloudy Sunday and were immediately greeted and seated, despite lacking a reservation. The dining room was as beautifully open and inviting as ever, with a good mix of customers -- busy, but not overly packed. Our knowledgeable waiter explained the somewhat unique brunching process to us. A chaat bar with its own chef is located in the dining area. You have the option of walking over and picking out your appetizers, much like an omelet bar, or you can simply ask for a sampler platter to be brought to your table. We decided to go explore for ourselves and were pleasantly surprised to find bowl after bowl of brightly colored chopped veggies ready to be combined in numerous ways. We went with a corn and mint salad topped with creamy yogurt and cilantro sauces, as well as sweet potato samosas and crisp potato cakes. We honestly could have been satisfied just with these delights. But that was just the beginning.

The next step was selecting dishes to be brought fresh from the kitchen, made to order and served tapas-style. They emerged several little plates at a time, and we shared them with the table. Though everything was ordered fresh, it was still included in the reasonable $25 price tag, which covered the chaat bar, entrees from the kitchen and the dessert bar. There were two of us dining that afternoon, so we ordered the dishes in pairs, greedily finishing each round before beginning the next.

Vegetarians, take heart - this place is perfect for meat abstainers. The chickpea crepes with chevre and pumpkin seeds were amazing, as were the mini pancakes topped with sautéed bananas and shredded coconut. More than half the dishes were meat free; there was also some great-looking ginger chicken, fish and lamb paratha. Not one dish was left uneaten.

Oftentimes with Indian food, you find that the dessert may be a bit lacking, especially if you're a chocoholic. Not here. From the moment we arrived, we began filling ourselves with hot, buttery, flaky, amazingly delicious pain au chocolates. When we raved to our waiter about them, he informed us that the chef is currently trying to perfect the recipe based on a memory of one she had in Paris. She promises they will continue to get better, but we don't see how this is even possible. There were also plump, decadent oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, a mixed berry tart, and this wonderfully original mixed seed brittle that was scented with rose water. Also on offer: bowls of almonds, dates and mixed berries, for just enough healthiness to seemingly offset the decadence. Needless to say, we left fat and happy and will be returning soon.

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