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Walnut Creek Magazine

Take a Delicious Culinary Journey Through India at Emeryville’s Pippal

Dec 18, 2023 11:33AM ● By Fran Miller


If you’ve not visited Emeryville’s Bay Street development lately, you’re in for a surprise. The Bay Area retail mall and home to stores such as H&M, Levi’s, and Nike is now also a culinary destination. While the area has featured a few dining spots since its inception, none created the buzz that currently whirls around the open air shopping center. In the midst of that buzz is Pippal, a self-described “fast-casual” restaurant serving regional Indian cuisine.

But the “fast-casual” descriptor is misleading. This is an elegant, destination-worthy dining spot with pedigree. Owners Anu and Vikram Bhambri are also the masterminds behind Michelin Guide-recognized, fine dining ROOH, with locations in San Francisco, Palo Alto, and New Delhi (Vikram’s brother Rahul Bhambri is also part of the ownership team.) Similarly to ROOH’s menu of progressive takes on traditional Indian recipes, Pippal (pronounced “people”) is a beyond curry extravaganza of unexpected dishes, the inspirations of which borrow from more traditional recipes from India’s various distinct regions. 

Mini Idli Pepper Fry

Anjir and Green Banana Sheek Kebab

From Goa, for instance, is the Goan Chorizo Pulao, a rice dish with chorizo, fried onions, and crispy bacon and garlic raita. From the Bihar region is Litti Chokha, slow-cooked lentil balls served with eggplant bharta. A popular dish originating from the Rajasthan region is Mutton Laal Aaas. The coastline of Kerala is represented via Dungeness crab masala with coconut and lemon grass. A staple of  southern Indian street food is Mini Idli Pepper Fries; Pippal’s version is seasoned with gunpowder podi and served with a curry leaf coconut chutney. These are flavors rarely encountered, and every dish offers a taste sensation. And if you’re unsure about menu items, you’re not alone. Just ask; the team at Pippal is more than happy to provide descriptions.

Same with the super creative cocktails. Not sure what to order? The full bar offers traditional tipples, but it’s the list of 12 Heritage Cocktails that are a draw. Named for heritage properties throughout India, each features unusual ingredients, for which imbibers might not presume the flavor profile. For a recommendation, simply tell Pippal’s talented bartenders your “usual.” My typical Old Fashioned translated to the The Howrah Bridge: bourbon, sweet vermouth, Angostura bitters, and a surprising floral kick from Jaan Paan liqueur. My husband’s desire for something mai tai-like translated to Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, with rum, Campari, caramelized pineapple, acid orange, and fizzy coconut water. And when I mentioned I’m not a gin drinker, our waiter, in an attempt to convert me, talked me into a Jim Corbett National Park: gin, green chartreuse, green apple, basil leaf, lemon juice, and egg whites. It worked. (Pippal also offers an extensive list of wines, both by glass and bottle.)

The delicious Jim Corbett National Park cocktail just might convert the gin averse.

Pippal beverage director Isler Thomas crafts a cocktail.

All of this deliciousness is enjoyed within Pippal’s ultra-urbane, subtly illuminated dining room featuring harmonious hues of gold, neutral, and navy. The Bhambris continue to claim Pippal as “more casual,” as compared to ROOH, but the sophisticated décor and top-notch service definitely hint at something a bit “extra.” The bar is a particular focal point, featuring a striking chevron tile pattern in a doubled formation. A covered terrace allows for semi al fresco dining, and if you select just the right table, you’ll enjoy a stellar Golden Gate Bridge view.

"The East Bay has a rich history of offering one of the most diverse culinary scenes in the region,” said Rahul Bhambri. “With Pippal, we aim to further support the local community while evoking connection and conversation over Indian cuisine in an approachable setting. We're thrilled to contribute to the East Bay's culinary landscape, adding to its reputation as a hub for innovative dining experiences." 

Pippal dining room

 Photos by Hardy Wilson, courtesy of Pippal

Main photo by Fran Miller

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