Just a year ago, Rooh San Francisco made diners sit up by presenting traditional Indian cuisine made with modern cooking techniques in an international arena – a combination that almost at once made it the go-to place for Indian cuisine in the trendy West Coast city.
Well, Rooh has recently opened its outlet in Delhi. Located right next to famous Qutub Minar — my table had a clear view of UNESCO World Heritage Site in the fading Delhi dusk – the restaurant is part of an old haveli or mansion, which also houses a number of luxe brands. Just the location itself – Mehrauli, which was once a historic suburb of Delhi often frequented by erstwhile royals, seers, poets and indeed pleasure-seekers – whets the appetite.
Located on the first floor with its entrance facing another Delhi favourite landmark Lavaash, Rooh interiors are playful. A bright blue almost industrial looking door ushers the guest to a concierge with deep red floral wallpaper reminiscent of another era. The colour palette in pastels and copper tones complements the underlying theme of the restaurant – a perfect balance and blend of new age and traditional sensibilities.
Before tucking in, do take a quick round of the space. The veiled woman adorning a wall of Rooh, SF has a counterpart – a wall map where woman’s head occupies the entire (what would be) peninsular India (or is it a fan) with a with branches extending upwards (northwards?). The seating doffs its head Frisco words – the same combination of rattan chairs, lending a colonial India look, and leather backed chairs, only instead of electric blue, here they are a shade of soft pink. Lighting, especially by the central dazzling chandelier, makes for interesting texture, but the Qutub Minar and moon blend is unbeatable. For best effects, sit in one the smaller cubicle-ish spaces, most of which have just one table, effectively rendering them private dining spaces. Arches, niches and window frames only add to the charm and ‘insta-value’.
Rooh Delhi is the brainchild of Chef Sujan Sarkar, an Olive alum who has since worked in some of the top culinary capitals of world including London, New York and Dubai, says Indian tastes are evolving. “Be it fashion, music or food – everything is changing. So, even in terms of location for ROOH, we chose a refurbished century old haveli that is intrinsically Indian with a contemporary feel.”
As for the menu, he says the concept behind the menu was to bridge the gap between Indian and international cuisine. “It’s an amalgamation of all my work and travels through the culinary capitals of the world. The backbone of the menu remains Indian culinary heritage, ingredients and techniques. But we are showcasing it in an international avatar. The dishes have been thoughtfully created to retain familiar Indian flavours with a play around the textures and presentation. Rooh Delhi is very much a part of the global food movement – minimal yet classy, understated and yet, exciting.”
The menu at ROOH has been curated to offer an eclectic choice of vegetarian and non-vegetarian options with each dish being a piece of culinary art in both taste and presentation. Rooh offers a la carte for lunch, and has recently started it for dinner as well.
For the first time visitor, the recommended choice is the eleven-course tasting menu, which includes some of chef’s favourites. The only criteria for it – keep at least a couple of hours to really savour the dishes. Sarkar scotches the suggestion that most Indians are still unfamiliar and unwilling to make time for a tasting menu meal. “Indians are not unknown to this concept- for example, we have Gujarati and Rajasthani thalis that follow a similar pattern of serving multiple dishes – but there’s often no limit on the quantity and it is presented in a simple form, all at once.
In terms of awareness, I believe the urban restaurant goers are definitely familiar with the western concept of tasting menus. People are well travelled and crave new experiences. Take a look closer home, whether its Bangkok or Dubai – several restaurants have embraced the tasting menu.”
The tasting menu comes in two versions – vegetarian (₹2,900) and non-vegetarian (₹3,200), with the option of pairing with wines (₹2,600). The stress is on local ingredients so expect the unexpected – amla, Mehrauli goat, duck, yogurt and more – only presented in combinations that you are unlikely to have tried before. Sea buckthorn rasam, peanut thetcha, bheja pâté with gougère, duck shami with dobs of compressed fruits, tofu pakoda and more. Each dish a sensory experience of look and taste – have the passion fruit explosion and see if I lie – the meal sets a new benchmark for modern Indian cuisine in the city.
Yes, there’s a bar, and a pretty one too. The restaurant’s cocktails are developed from ayurvedic principles, and needless to say, are unique too. Rooh Delhi’s nine alcoholic cocktails and six non-alcoholic cocktails are based on the six Ayurvedic rasas – sweet, salty, pungent, bitter, sour and astringent. Along with vodka and gin, other bases include gooseberry soda, Pechaud bitters and tequila.
Rooh’s international journey has just added another outpost – Chicago. With its quality of food, it looks to be another easy conquest for the soul aka rooh, wherever it goes.
Address: Ambawatta One complex, H-5/1, Kalka Dass Marg, Mehrauli, Near Qutub Minar, New Delhi – 110030.
Price for two: ₹6,000 with alcohol, Open for lunch and dinner