An important Montrose restaurant has served its last meal. Indika has permanently closed, owner Mickey Kapoor tells CultureMap.
Kapoor minces no words about his decision to shutter the restaurant that he purchased in 2018 after founding chef-owner Anita Jaisinghani sold it in 2017 to a different buyer. Looking back, he realizes the restaurant needed Jaisinghani to maintain its status as one of Houston's most well-regarded restaurants.
"In hindsight, it was not a good decision on my part to buy the restaurant," he writes. "It was akin to buying a cult, without its leader."
Over the course of the last year, Kapoor, who has a 40-year career operating restaurants in Houston and still owns Upper Kirby favorite Khyber North Indian Grill, had tried a number of different strategies to change or rebrand the restaurant. Initially, he intended to relaunch it as Bukhara, a "meat-lover's paradise" devoted to the cuisines of the Silk Road. When that plan ran afoul of city of Houston permitting guidelines, he kept Indika's name and attempted to move forward with a hybrid menu that included some of the restaurant's signature dishes while adding some of the items that Bukhara would have served.
Ultimately, the new concept never quite connected with diners. In his email, Kapoor writes about "naked corruption" at the permitting office that prevented him from securing the approvals he needed to rebrand the restaurant and fully realize his original vision.
"They [the permit office] deal only with permit services and attorneys who somehow magically make it happen for you for a substantial 'Fee,'" he writes. "Till this day I wonder how Indika got its permits to operate at that location with such inadequate parking. And how did they get a variance on the parking ordinance which was applied so strictly in my case?"
Those questions will likely never be answered directly, but figuring out a way to secure adequate parking will be an issue for the next restaurant to occupy the space. Indika's former home at 516 Westheimer Rd. is currently for lease (first reported by Eater Houston).
While purchasing Indika may not have worked out well for Kapoor, selling the restaurant has proven beneficial for Jaisinghani, as it allowed her to devote her full attention to Pondicheri, her more casual, Upper Kirby cafe. She is currently a James Beard Award finalist in the Best Chef: Texas category for her work there.