Indian cuisine and drinks are served with a dash of modernity at ROOH in Palo Alto.
Sonoma duck seekh kebab with herb emulsion and fennel
San Jose’s Anu and Vikram Bhambri should have enough on their plates, both with management careers spanning nearly 20 years in high tech. Somehow, they’ve managed to also find time to partner with Sujan Sarkar to create Good Times Restaurants LLC, which runs fine and casual dining restaurants across India, and a trio of restaurants called ROOH in San Francisco, Chicago and Columbus, Ohio. As of January, you can make that four, with the opening of ROOH in Palo Alto. As executive chef, Sarkar develops menus and oversees all kitchens.
ROOH, which translates to “soul,” is open for dinner only and offers progressive Indian food, some of it cooked over a wood-burning fire. The menu features dips and pickled vegetables, small plates, kebabs, large family-style roasts, regional curries and signature items. Dishes include tender chicken malai tikka with tahini, cinnamon, preserved lemon and pistachio dukkah; a seductive sweet potato chaat with crisp kale, tamarind, mint, cilantro and raspberries; and an intriguingly flavored goat berry pulao with caramelized onions, Iranian berries and mint. Desserts include a barely sweet doda barfi and chocolate tart with sunchoke ice cream.
At the handsome marble-topped bar, the drinks menu lists cocktails on a wheel-shaped chart that groups ingredients by ayurvedic principles of taste (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent and astringent) and flavors from nine regions in India. Head mixologist Chetan Gangan works in concert with the kitchen on libations such as whistle podu with vodka, honey and smoked rasam; kai po che with gin, green chickpeas, cucumber and egg white; and khub bhalo with bourbon, smoked pineapple and mango ginger. Beer, wine and nonalcoholic beverages are also offered. Anu Bhambri, who designed the inviting, 4,300-square-foot interiors that blend the modern with the traditional (and feature a mural by local artist Amandalynn), says she hopes that the look, feel and taste of ROOH’s offerings will allow guests “to take a gastronomical journey through the global flavors of contemporary Indian food and artisanal cocktails. Our guests will feel the spirit of India in a unique interpretation at each of our locations.”
473 University Ave., Palo Alto, 650.800.7090, roohpaloalto.com
Below: Modern interiors reflect the modern menu; an Indian take on quail; executive chef Sujan Sarkar with owners Anu and Vikram Bhambri; a whistle podu cocktail with vodka, honey and smoked rasam.
Photography by: Marc Fiorito (food and interiors); Kelly Puleio (portrait)