Unapologetically modern: Rooh brings Indian wood-fired cooking and serious cocktails to Palo Alto | Peninsula Foodist | Elena Kadvany | Palo Alto Online |

Local Blogs

Peninsula Foodist

By Elena Kadvany

E-mail Elena Kadvany

About this blog: Get the latest food news with the biweekly Peninsula Foodist newsletter.
I am a perpetually hungry twenty-something journalist, born and raised in Menlo Park and currently workin...  (More)

View all posts from Elena Kadvany

Unapologetically modern: Rooh brings Indian wood-fired cooking and serious cocktails to Palo Alto

Uploaded: Jan 9, 2020
Rooh, Palo Alto's newest Indian restaurant, purposefully straddles the line between traditional and modern.

The menu lists ingredients like truffles, goat cheese, miso and togarashi next to cumin and chutney. Butter chicken is cooked in a sous vide machine before being thrown on a custom wood-fired grill that pays homage to Indian open-fire cooking. Cocktails inspired by Ayurveda, the ancient Indian healing tradition, are mixed in a small centrifuge machine behind the sleek bar.

"We want to change the perception of Indian food," co-owner Anu Bhambri said in a previous interview.

Rooh will open for dinner this Friday, Jan. 10, at 473 University Ave.


From left, Rooh executive chef Sujan Sarkar and owners Anu and Vikram Bhambri. Photo courtesy Rooh.

It's the latest project from Anu and her husband Vikram, who run several Indian restaurants in U.S. and New Delhi, including a Rooh in San Francisco. Their executive chef and partner, Sujan Sarkar, is helming the kitchen in Palo Alto.

Rooh is distinct from the Bhambri's other restaurants, most notably due to the open-fire grill installed at the front of the kitchen. It stretches 13 feet long and includes a tandoori oven, rotisserie, smoker as well as the grill portion. Lamb shoulder, pineapples and whole cauliflowers hung over flames while chickens turned on a spit nearby during a media preview dinner on Wednesday. Anu claims Rooh Palo Alto is the first Indian restaurant in the world with a wood-fired grill of this kind.


Said grill. Photo by Marc Fiorito/courtesy Rooh.

About 60 percent of Rooh's menu comes from the grill, Anu said, including roasted eggplant, tahini-marinated chicken malai tikka, a Sonoma duck kebab and head-on prawns from Galveston Shrimp Company in Texas.

In many dishes, Rooh riffs on tradition. Kulcha, a stuffed bread, is topped with goat cheese and truffles. Their take on bhel puri, a typical Indian snack, is a bright salad of crunchy green chickpeas, puffed black rice, togarashi and slivers of radish.


Swordfish tikka with miso, mustard and black lime aioli cooked on a wood-fired grill at Rooh in Palo Alto. Photo by Elena Kadvany.

"These are all different dishes we've seen in India in different forms and we're trying to bring them in a more refined way," Anu said.

The restaurant takes libations as seriously as food. The cocktail menu is organized around the six tastes of Ayurveda -- salty, sour, pungent, bitter, sweet and astringent -- with ingredients such as turmeric, green chickpea, black lemon salt, those smoked pineapples and kappi, an Indian coffee. Drinks are named after regional Indian slang. The "Jugaad," (slang for "get it done," a bartender said), for example, is a bright mix of mezcal and pickled raspberry. The "Pathrao, a word for "friend" in Goa, features whiskey, smoked chorizo butter and orange bitters.

The wine list includes more than 120 labels and the owners plan to add more.

The space, formerly Italian restaurant Arte Ristorante, was designed to evoke an elaborate haveli, a historical Indian building with enormous courtyards and ornate archways. Two faux plants that frame the entrance are meant to mimic mango trees, Vikram said. One wall features framed photographs of 1900's India and copper plates the owners brought back from Indian markets. A 15-foot-tall hand-painted mural of an Indian woman anchors the back of the 100-seat dining room. 


The bar and dining room at Rooh Palo Alto. Photo by Marc Fiorito/courtesy Rooh.

Rooh Palo Alto will serve dinner from 5–10 p.m. on weekdays and until 11 p.m. on weekends. The restaurant will add a happy hour with "a special Indian-style street food menu" in about a month.

Rooh is not the only contemporary Indian restaurant that's opening in downtown Palo Alto. Just a few blocks away on Bryant Street, Ettan is gearing up to open at the end of the month with Srijith Gopinathan, executive chef at the Michelin-starred Campton Place Restaurant in the Taj hotel in San Francisco, developing the menu.

Vikram doesn't see Ettan as the competition -- their concepts are distinct enough, he thinks -- and besides, he said, there's plenty of room for more expansive Indian food in the area.
What is democracy worth to you?
Support local journalism.

Comments

 +  Like this comment
Posted by Jackie, a resident of Greenmeadow,
on Jan 10, 2020 at 10:09 am

Looking forward to trying it! "more expansive Indian food in the area." LOL, is it more *expensive* or expansive or both? :)


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Neal, a resident of Community Center,
on Jan 14, 2020 at 11:45 am

Neal is a registered user.

Can they burn wood on no burn days?


 +  Like this comment
Posted by SFBayIndian, a resident of Bailey Park,
on Jan 16, 2020 at 5:51 pm

Sorry their food is horrible in both SF and Chicago. Too Ammericanized. Frinks are good, food is horrible. If you are looking for "Indian food" this is going to disappoint.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Richard, a resident of Atherton,
on Jan 22, 2020 at 5:07 pm

We ate at Rooh in Palo Alto for the first time last night. It was excellent. Each of the seven dishes we ordered were fresh, imaginative and delicious. The presentation of the dishes was elegant but not self-conscious or over-the-top, and the service was friendly, informative and timely.

We identified only one drawback. The portions were a bit small, which led to a slightly unfavorable quantity-to-price ratio. This was particularly problematic with respect to the naan, which ran out well before the sensational sauces that accompanied the main dishes. While the prices at Rooh aren't crazy, they are high enough that the portions, and especially the naan, should be a bit more generous.

Still, in light of the uniformly high quality of the food, service and ambiance, this is a minor criticism. We really enjoyed Rooh and will look forward to dining there again.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Abe, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Jan 22, 2020 at 5:38 pm

We ate at Rooh in Palo Alto for the first time on Saturday Jan 18th.

Sorry, but the food & drinks in Palo Alto were disappointing. The food & drinks menu is far superior at Rooh in San Francisco.
But I agree that the service was friendly, informative and timely.

While the prices at Rooh aren't crazy, they are high enough that the portions should be a bit more generous.

We will probably not be going anytime soon.


Follow this blogger.
Sign up to be notified of new posts by this blogger.

Email:

SUBMIT

Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields


Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox.

Anne Le Ziblatt, formerly of Tamarine and Bong Su, is back with a Vietnamese noodle bar in Redwood City
By Elena Kadvany | 7 comments | 3,226 views

Local Pols Debate Climate
By Sherry Listgarten | 10 comments | 2,642 views

Letting Christmas Linger
By Cheryl Bac | 5 comments | 1,393 views

The E.R.A. – no real equality yet. Why not?
By Diana Diamond | 13 comments | 858 views

Truth Matters (and so does good beer)
By Laura Stec | 2 comments | 682 views