The best Vietnamese food is fresh, spicy and prepared by actual Vietnamese cooks. And believe it or not, there is good, authentic Vietnamese cuisine in the United Arab Emirates. Hanoi Cafe, which runs two locations in the capital and another in Dubai, is the region’s home for skewers of affordable Vietnamese coconut chicken curry or large bowls of freshly-made pho soup.
The restaurant’s Khalifa Street branch opened nearly seven years ago, in part to serve the growing community of Vietnamese expatriates living and working in the UAE, who now number around 20,000.
In the United Arab Emirates, fresh hot sauce can be hard to find. Unless, of course, you’re headed to Happy Yemen restaurant in Abu Dhabi, which proudly serves mouth-watering, Arabian-style spicy salsa.
Not that finding Happy Yemen itself is easy (see map below).
Happy Yemen is no-nonsense and utilitarian, and at first glance it seems like a take-away joint. But squeeze past the refrigerator and the cash register, and the space opens into two small rooms, with additional family-style floor seating up a narrow flight of stairs.
You might assume that an Indian restaurant named “Peppermill” would serve fiery hot kebabs and spicy, sweat-inducing curries. Especially if the word “spice” is used no fewer than six times on the inside flap of the menu.
But the Indian colonial cuisine at Peppermill just isn’t all that spicy. One of the restaurant’s two Abu Dhabi outlets is located on the second floor of al Wahda Mall’s extension, near the capital’s bus depot on Hazza bin Zayed Street.
Peppermill is just a year old, and the furniture looks as if it could have been installed just yesterday. Velveteen purple, magenta, and turquoise chairs provide pops of color against the modern black tables and crisp white walls. During the lunchtime hour, the dining room is bright, with sunlight streaming through the tall bay windows accented with wrought iron spiral designs.
Like the space itself, Peppermill’s food is clean and rich in traditional spices and flavor. Perhaps that’s why some in Abu Dhabi have called this the best Indian food in the capital. Just don’t expect to be blown away by heat.