Oak Tree Rd
Salt 'n' Pepper Cherry Hill (NJ)
Salt 'n' Pepper
1888 RT 70 East
Cherry Hill, NJ 08003
Other New Jersey Indian Restaurants
Salt 'n' Pepper Cherry Hill: Spiceless Disappointment
Indian food without the right heat and spices is like Pamela Anderson or good ol' Dolly Parton without those magnificent, jiggling tatas.
A recent visit to Salt 'n' Pepper on Rt 70 East in Cherry Hill during lunch turned out to be a merciless assault on my spice and heat craving Indian tastebuds.
Imagine a manchester on Dolly or Pamela and you'll understand how I felt during my meal.
Upma, Onion Pakora
Whether it is the South Indian delicacy Upma or North Indian curries like Mutter Paneer, Bhindi Masala or Channa Peshawari, the story was the same. They were all badly lacking in the heat and spice that gives Indian food its deserved reputation as one of the great cuisines of the world.
Lamb Biryani, a great favorite of mine, had so little heat that I wondered if any chillies had gone into its preparation.
I quickly understood the crux of the problem at Salt 'n' Pepper. Like countless other Indian restaurants in the U.S., Salt 'n' Pepper too has toned down the heat and spices in the food believing that Americans will find it hard to take the heat.
It's a familiar but depressing story.
Most Indian restaurants are not cooking for Indians who can take the heat but for the Americans whose lament is Take the Heat Off Me, Baby. :)
Upma, Onion PakoraUpma was so low on salt making me wonder whether Salt 'n' Pepper ran out of it.
To add insult to injury, the texture of Upma was so pasty that it felt like I was eating boiled flour rather than the popular South Indian tiffin item.
Upma was also badly missing on ginger and green chilli, items that provide the yummy flavor to this dish.
Now any restaurant that serves soft, rubbery Onion Bhajia or Pakora is revealing its contempt for diners.
Pakoras are a crispy delightful appetizer. And to place soft, rubbery ones before paying customer is a felony in my dictionary.
Lamb Biryani and ChickenOne spoon of the Lamb Biryani in my mouth and tears rolled down my cheeks.
Lamb Biryani is a blessing bestowed upon South Asians when God was in his most benevolent mood.
And to play mischief with one of God's most wondrous creations is the most venal sin.
Sure the Lamb Biryani was prepared with Basmati rice and included lamb pieces.
But it failed at a fundamental level - spiciness. Biryani whether Lamb or Chicken is a spicy, aromatic rice dish prepared with Bay Leaves, Cloves, Cardamom, Marati Mogga, Cinnamon, Ginger, Mint Leaves, Garlic and other spices.
But Salt 'n' Pepper's Lamb Biryani was so low on the Biryani spices and packed only a faint flavor.
If any spices had gone into Lamb Biryani, it must be only in the imagination of the cook.
Although it did not have the smoky flavor that Tandoori Chicken usually has in North Indian restaurants, it was one of the better meat items of my meal.
With a marinated layer of masala paste, it was the only item that made me seek a second helping.
Should I return to Salt 'n' Pepper, it'll be for the Tandoori Chicken.
Butter Chicken was another pothole I fell into.
Although the Butter Chicken was on the creamy side, there was little flavor in the gravy.
In fairness to Salt 'n' Pepper, few Indian restaurants in NJ/NY seem to get Butter Chicken right.
Vegetable EntreesAs I wandered over to graze on the vegetarian side, I discovered the non-discriminatory nature of Salt 'n' Pepper's kitchen.
They are equally opportunity offenders and do not discriminate between vegetarian and non-vegetarian entrees where spice level is concerned.
All four main vegetarian entrees were bland and spiceless, reducing me to a sobbing fit of misery.
Mutter Paneer, Bhindi Masala, Dal
Channa Peshawari was a spiceless affront to Indian tastebuds.
Sure the Channa was well cooked and served with medium thick brown color gravy. It seemed like I was eating boiled Chickpeas floating in brown gravy.
Folks, in a long life of eating Bhindi Masala never did such a travesty make contact with my spice hardened Indian palate.
What about Mutter Paneer?
Again, nothing but finely boiled green peas with some fresh Paneer cubes thrown into it.
No spice, no flavor.
Dosa - ReliefSome relief came in the form of South Indian treats, Mysore Masala Dosa and Onion Masala Dosa.
Dosas were crisp as they should be and came smeared with spicy masala paste.
Mysore Masala & Onion Masala Dosa
While I had no real complaints with the Dosa, the accompanying Coconut Chutney was below par.
Coconut Chutney was low on green chillies and tasted like finely ground Coconut.
To its credit, the Chutney was not cold like at a lot of New Jersey Indian restaurants.
Sambar was medium thick, a little tangy and hot temperature wise. But it was low on Toor Dal, Sambar spices and vegetables. It just included a few pieces of Tomato.
Naan Bread and Plain RiceNaan bread daubed with butter came piping hot to the table.
I really liked it.
Ditto with plain white rice which packed a freshly cooked texture.
Gajar HalwaGajar Halwa looked better than it tasted, reminding me of the saying "All That Glitters is Not Gold".
Gajar Halwa with powdered Pistachio and Almond toppings looked pretty.
Alas, it was low on sweetness and sugar and a little dry.
Clean AmbianceWhen I walked in around 12PM, there were three diners digging into their Tandoori Chicken.
A waiter greeted me with a smile and quickly showed me to a table.
The restaurant floor was clean. Tables did not have any table cloth or table mats. Silver (Steel spoon and fork) was kept on a paper napkin. But, the drinking water glasses were placed upside down - Not a good hygiene practice.
Buffet counter had sumptuous quantity of food.
And vegetarian and non-vegetarian items were placed in separate areas, a good practice.
Water glasses were refilled and used plates removed without prompting.
Salt 'n' Pepper Rating - DisappointingGiven my craving for hot and spicy Indian food, I was crestfallen as I left the restaurant.
For much of the food I sampled at Salt 'n' Pepper, be it vegetarian or non-vegetarian, was low on heat and spices.
Bottom line, Salt 'n' Pepper lacked the magic I expect from Indian food. - © Sagar.com