The team behind Michelin-recognized Rooh will open Pippal, a new, casual Indian restaurant in the East Bay on Saturday, November 18. Debuting in Emeryville’s outdoor shopping center Bay Street, Pippal (pronounced “people”) aims to show diners the depth and range of India’s sprawling food scene, while blending in local California produce, says Pippal co-owner Anu Bhambri. “India is so diverse,” Bhambri says. “Every culture has its own flavor added to their cuisine, so we wanted to bring in some dishes which are not so popular [yet], that are from different regions of India.”
The Pippal team traveled through India to lock down a menu, Bhambri says, coming up with a hearty list of dishes that they hope to rotate on and off the menu seasonally. The menu highlights the region where each dish originated, such as litti chokha; the dish, which is from the Bihar region, comprises a rounded ball of lentils slow-cooked in a tandoor and served with a side of eggplant bharta, meant to be eaten with the chokha. Mutton laal maas is a popular dish from the Rajasthan part of India, Bhambri says, a meat curry served with sheermal paratha, a type of flatbread.
The menu also offers a number of dishes from India’s coastal regions, such as Goa. The Goan chorizo pulao is a rice dish, featuring chorizo, fried onions, and crispy bacon throughout, and highlights some of Goa’s Portuguese influences, Bhambri says. Dungeness crab masala, meanwhile, calls attention to seafood and the western coastal area of Kerala with notes of lemon grass and coconut. “There are smaller cities in Bihar or Assam, so many regions,” Pippal co-owner Rahul Bhambri says, “but not everybody is currently serving food of those smaller regions. The idea [behind Pippal] was to bring food from the smaller areas and still make it very authentic.”
The cocktail menu features 12 drinks, as well as an educational component — each mixed drink is named after a heritage property in India, and the menu explains details of each historical site. They are takes on classic cocktails, but done up with herbs and spices related to each monument or city. For example, the Red Fort cocktail takes its name from the largest monument in Delhi — which was built in the mid-17th century, the menu shares — and that Pippal translated as a gin-based drink made with Aperol, freeze-dried strawberries and pink peppercorns, lemon juice, and egg whites. The Howrah Bridge is a bridge in Kolkota, West Bengal; as a cocktail, the drink combines bourbon with a punch of flavor from the betel leaf liqueur, plus sweet vermouth and Angostura bitters. An extensive California-based wine list includes bubbles and young Cabernets meant to play well with dairy-based dishes. There will also be a selection of beer from India, the Pippal team promises, such as the Taj Mahal brand, plus a trio of specialty nonalcoholic drinks.
While diners throughout the Bay Area know Rooh’s penchant for upscale dishes, given its locations in San Francisco, Palo Alto, and further-flung locales including New Delhi and Columbus, Ohio, Pippal is meant to be more casual, with counter service and an outdoor dining area available day and night. At night, however, diners can have a proper sit-down meal inside the restaurant, featuring plates and glassware imported from India, and beautiful chandeliers. The restaurant is a tribute to the pippal tree, from which the restaurant gets its name, which also serves as a gathering place for the community, much like what the team is hoping to create in Emeryville. “Pippal is very popular in India,” Anu Bhambri says. “It’s where people get together and connect with each other, serving tea, chit-chatting, and eating food. That’s why we started Pippal.”