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.
There are only two really hot dishes on the menu, according to waitstaff. One is a chicken tandoori dish, Murgh Ka Soolah – or fiery chicken – marinated in ground red chili paste and crushed cinnamon. The masala rub on the kebab is a specialty of India’s Rajasthan province. The other is Chicken Xacuti, a Goan-style curry cooked in a spicy coconut base and “exotic” masala spices like bay leaves, black pepper, cumin seeds and coriander. The kick comes from a red chili and tomato blend.
Both are delicious, with a delicate balance of flavors, but neither will make you run for the fire extinguisher.
Bishnu Singh, Peppermill’s head chef, uses one main chili pepper for these two dishes: a red variety of Kashmiri bird’s eye chili peppers. The aged red chilies, called Degchi Mirch in India, are fairly mild on the Scoville scale of spiciness. More often than not, Degchi Mirch are used for coloring – making curries blood red – rather than for adding serious pep to the dish.
Plus, Peppermill’s customers don’t really like spicy food, says Singh. Singh and the restaurant’s servers have devised a system to notify the kitchen of each customer’s probable nationality, which they use as a loose reference for level of spice tolerance. Peppermill staff assumes that Arab and Western guests prefer food a little milder, so the cooks use fewer peppers for them.
But even without asking, Indian customers get the full power of multiple long red chilies, the chef explains. “That’s how I understand how hot to make it,” says Singh.
It may be a tall order to award Peppermill the title of “Abu Dhabi’s best Indian food.” But it’s certainly delicious, clean, and very affordable. Although it’s in a shopping mall, Peppermill is no food court.
Still, if you’re hunting for a really spicy curry, look elsewhere. Or make sure to wink and tell the waiter you’re Indian.
Peppermill: see the menu
Address: Hazza bin Zayed (11th) Street, Al Wahda Mall, 2nd floor Extension, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Telephone: +971 2 622 5586