There’s something about Mirchi. It’s not like other restaurants. I noticed a difference before I’d even cracked a poppadum. The gentleman who confirmed my telephone booking asked, ‘Do you want to dine at Mirchi or Pizza Express?’ At first I wondered whether this new Indian restaurant, which has been threatening to fling open its doors since late August, had suddenly experienced a crisis of confidence and decided it couldn’t face the public just yet. But it transpired that Mirchi and Pizza Express are, how does one say, conjoined.
The Eng and Chang of the Dubai restaurant scene are attached by a smattering of tables at a modest terrace in a discreet corner of Uptown Mirdif. Housed in the same building, the restaurants also share a common reception desk and, so it would appear, booking system. But as befits the two varieties of cuisine on offer, you can either venture west of the partition wall for an Italian pizza or you can veer a few metres to the right and explore the exotic flavours of the east. So although these siblings are joined at the hip, they seem determined not to let this quirk of nature affect their everyday lives. The kitchens are most certainly separate. And the early signs are that Mirchi is keen on expressing its individuality.
The dips that accompanied the poppadums were certainly distinctive. Beside the tart mango chutney sat a salsa dip that wouldn’t have been out of place at a Tex-Mex joint, and an inexplicable sweetcorn purée, which resembled the kind of mush hunger strikers are tube-fed. Half an hour after ordering, our starters appeared. My friend was delighted to discover juicily tender sesame prawns with a sweet onion salad and chilli sauce. And my murgh chaat offered an abundance of spicy chicken pieces among a seething jungle of onion, shredded carrot and peppers, which was vitalised by shards of fresh ginger and lemon juice. After the dismal dips, things appeared to be looking up.
Across the well-lit restaurant, we could see people munching on pizzas through gaps in the dividing wall. But Mirchi wasn’t prepared to let its close relation’s offerings steal its thunder. The chicken tikka masala was nicely piqued by peppery accents that aptly complemented the creamy sauce and tender meat. And although my kadhai gosht kali mirch presented chewy lamb pieces, the sauce was a dark explosion of exciting spices. Since Mirchi’s ‘soft opening’ somehow prevented it from serving dessert, the sight of the reasonable bill provided a sweet ending. Which all helped me decide that, although this Indian’s Siamese twin is Italian, Mirchi – with its solid food and excellent value – should be judged on its own merit.
The bill (for two)
Murgh chaat Dhs18
Sesame prawns Dhs25
Lemon and saffron rice Dhs12
Steamed basmati rice Dhs10
Chicken tikka masala Dhs25
Kadhai gosht kali mirch Dhs30
Total (excluding service) Dhs120