Most of the challenge of finding good food in Abu Dhabi is in knowing where to look – and then literally finding the restaurant.
Even though it’s located just off of a busy street in the Khalidiyah neighborhood, one of the capital’s outstanding Indian restaurants is easy to overlook. Anjappar has an illuminated sign that one can see only when standing directly underneath it (the facade and sign are partially obstructed by a shed that appears to house a utility box). And its door is nestled between several shops, including an Afghani bakery, a barber shop and a separate store that sells merchandise for barber shops – like combs, scissors and swiveling chairs.
If you can find it, though, Anjappar is worth the hunt. It serves some of the spiciest South Indian Tamil food in the entire United Arab Emirates.
Anjappar serves ‘authentic Chettinad’, a region in the Tamil Nadu state in southern Indian. The Chettiars are knowns for their love and use of fresh spices – including ground masala made up of chili peppers, anise, bay leaves, and cilantro – in mostly vegetarian dishes, like paneer or vegetable curry.
Perhaps surprisingly, Anjappar’s Abu Dhabi branch also serves plenty of seafood and chicken, the best of which is the standard tandoor-cooked chicken tikka chunks, rubbed with yoghurt and chili paste marinade.
The ‘Special Anjappar’ is a curry of chicken pieces sautéed in onions and dark masala, most prominently featuring fresh cinnamon. This dish is spicy – maybe the spiciest in all of Abu Dhabi – and if you ask for extra chili peppers, the cooks at Anjappar will deliver without hesitation. South Indian food is, after all, some of the spiciest in the world.
A few slices of the kulcha or roti breads work well to absorb some of the heat.
Established in Chennai in 1964, Anjappar has four branches in the UAE and 25 locations worldwide – in California, New York, Canada, Singapore, and India.
It may be a chain restaurant, but don’t expect it to be less authentic for that reason. With four decades of experience in the kitchen, its cooks have “mastered the art of using spice to give one’s taste buds the best food experience,” according to Anjappar’s website.
Despite the fact that Anjappar’s location is pretty hidden from the street, it is very popular with South Indians living in Abu Dhabi. The restaurant is full on any given weeknight.
Anjappar: see the menu
Address: One block south of Sheikh Zayed the First (Electra or 7th) Street in the neighborhood in between cross-streets Mubarak Bin Mohammed Al Nahyan and Khalifa bin Shakhbout, near Domino’s Pizza
Telephone: +971 2 626 1112