In Hindu mythology, the god Shiva, commonly known as “The Destroyer,” is considered one of three holy members of the supreme divine trinity. As his nickname suggests, Shiva is associated with war, rampage, and general demolition. This pugnacious deity also lends his name to one of my favorite Indian restaurants in Houston: a quiet establishment with creative and well-executed dishes that never fail to pacify my hungry stomach. Go figure.

Indeed, it’s a delicious irony at Shiva, which is unceremoniously wedged into a Rice Village shopping strip in desperate need for renovation. With its pepto-bismol painted dining rooms and tired wood fixtures, Shiva could also probably use a makeover. This is not to say there’s an absence of beauty in the restaurant; you just have to look down to your plate rather than around you to see it.

People will tell you there are more authentic (re: better) Indian restaurants outside the loop, and that might be true though authenticity should never be the sole arbiter of quality cuisine. Shiva does not have the gritty, bare-bones, this-is-your-(Indian) mother’s-kitchen feel offered by other establishments specializing in South Asian cuisine. Rather, it aspires, quite endearingly, to elegance with its eager waitstaff, schmoozing general manager, and artfully presented masalas and vindaloos.

These features are not accompanied, thank goodness, with tendency to take itself too seriously. Shiva strives and succeeds to be a “nicer” Indian restaurant but retains a certain casualness and laidback attitude toward its dishes that allows diners to enjoy fine food without pretension. Appetizers include the familiar (vegetable samosas) and the more foreign (at least for Houston) like aloo chaat, cubed potatoes dressed in a tamarind dressing and served cold. Entrees similarly range from the tame, rather Westernized staples such as saag paneer, lamb vindaloo, and chicken tikki masala to more complex regional specialties. Shiva is one of a handful of Indian restaurants in Houston that offers a terrific selection of biryanis, a mixed rice dish common to the southern part of the Subcontinent. Of special note is the jingha biryani, which combines large prawns, cashews, and tomatoes in basmati rice. Die-hard fans of chicken korma should also be persuaded to try the murgh akbari, a large chicken breast stuffed with cottage cheese, almonds, and raisins that rests in bath of decadent saffron cream sauce. These same fans should also be encouraged not to operate heavy machinery after consuming this entrée.

Shiva also has bragging rights to a more than respectable array of vegetarian dishes such as the sham-savera (masala-filled spinach balls in a light gravy) and the shabnam-e-bahar (paneer cheese, peas, and mushrooms in a cashew cream sauce). Classic accompaniments like basmati rice, plain and garlic naan, and roti are available to sop up all the delicious juices, but if you fancy more sophisticated carbohydrates, I highly recommend trying the paneer kulcha, puffy round white bread stuffed with seasoned cottage cheese.

Although dining in at Shiva means you get to watch staff prepare naan through a glass-walled viewing area, takeaway has its own advantages. Namely, licking your plate clean of saffron sauce in the comfort of your own home and eating an entire order of samosas (designed for splitting) by yourself.

Shiva Indian
2514 Times Blvd
Houston, TX 77005

Joanna O'Leary


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